BANGOR, Maine — Hollywood Casino played host Wednesday to the kickoff for the United Way’s fifth annual Pantry Project. The goal for United Way is to collect more than 6,000 pounds of food between February and the end of April, which will provide more than 5,000 meals.
For the fourth year in a row, Hollywood Casino kicked off the initiative by recruiting local artist Allison Strange to assemble a holiday-themed winter scene made entirely out of canned goods. This year, Strange made a snowbird out of cans of soup and packages of coffee. The roughly 1,500 cans of soup used in the project are being donated by Hollywood Casino to kick off the 2014 Pantry Project.
“We have enjoyed kick-starting this project each of the past four years in a fun and festive way,” said Michele Collins, director of marketing at Hollywood Casino, in a press release. “We encourage our employees to add to our initial donation, and hope that new businesses will follow the lead of the many other businesses that have participated in this project for years. It fills a great need in our area to ensure that pantry shelves are stocked during the coldest winter months.”
The United Way says that more than 20 percent of Maine households do not have reliable and consistent access to food. The organization says that as many as one in four children experience hunger in some areas of the United Way of Eastern Maine’s five-county service area. The Pantry Project aims to make food available to those who need it.
“Since the project’s inception in 2010 we have collected close to 30,000 pounds of food,” said United Way of Eastern Maine President John Kuropchak, in a press release. “Our goal this spring is to collect 6,000 pounds of food which will provide over 5,000 meals valued at $13,000. We’re doing this now because although the holiday season brings many donations of food, by spring, many pantries experience a food shortage. It also doesn’t help that over the past few years food pantries have lost much of their donated surplus food from grocery chains in favor of re-sale opportunities provided by salvage stores and that government food commodities have been reduced. The time to act is now.”
Businesses that get involved in the Pantry Project will receive shelving during one of the months February through April. The food collected each month on that shelving is distributed through Good Shepherd Food Bank to local food pantries at no cost. The United Way says 100 percent of the food and funds raised through the Pantry Project stay in Eastern Maine.
“The United Way Pantry Project is an important event because it comes at a critical time for our partner agencies,” said Melissa Huston of Good Shepherd Food Bank in a press release. “The holiday spirit evaporates very quickly after the first of the year and yet this is when we see the real needs. The winter months, especially this winter with record-breaking freezing temperatures, mean increased expenses for many families. Many will have to choose between paying for heat or paying for food. Participants of the Pantry Project will help us distribute much needed nutrition to many Mainers.”
Non-perishable foods like canned goods, pasta, powdered milk, and granola bars; as well as diapers, baby wipes, and personal hygiene items are the most needed goods for 2014. Cash donations are accepted at participating business locations.
For businesses that would like to participate in the 2014 Pantry Project, contact Janelle Wuoristo at the United Way of Eastern Maine by phone at 941-2800, ext. 254 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. An initial list of businesses and months of participation follows:
- United Way of Eastern Maine – February, March, and April;
- Zone Radio – February, March and April;
- Hollywood Casino – February;
- Peoples United Bank – February;
- GoodWill – Brewer – February;
- Bangor YMCA – March;
- Affiliated Healthcare Systems – March;
- CES – March;
- Rudman and Winchell – March;
- Bank of America – March;
- Eaton Peabody – April;
- Camden National Bank – April;
- Dead River – month TBA.