Food pantries in County say need remains

Posted Jan. 15, 2010, at 7:22 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:36 a.m.

OAKFIELD, Maine — The Nature’s Bounty food pantry is making do in difficult times made worse by a rumor earlier this year that it had closed.

It hasn’t.

“We’re doing the best we can and giving out what we have,” Debbie Gray, who oversees the organization, said Friday. “We have some food on hand.”

But the food on the pantry’s cupboards is sparse.

Nature’s Bounty opened in 2004 and distributes food to residents around the Oakfield area. Donations had been coming into the pantry steadily until several months ago, when a rumor began spreading that the pantry had closed. Gray worked quickly to correct the error, but said it continues to have an impact on both the pantry and those who rely on it to help feed themselves and their families.

“We were able to put Christmas baskets out,” she said Friday. “And we have gotten some donations of goods like dairy, chicken and potatoes. But we still desperately need food.”

The nonprofit organization is a member of the Good Shepherd Food-Bank. Along with relying on donations from the community, the pantry purchases food from Good Shepherd at low prices to stock its shelves. With less cash coming in, it can’t purchase food, and without donations of canned goods and other items from the community, it lacks food to give out.

Right now, Gray said, the pantry is out of the items that people typically ask for. There are no hot dogs, boxes of macaroni and cheese, or canned vegetables. There is a bit of luncheon meat, but not nearly enough to meet the need.

“When people have children home on vacation, those are the things they are looking for,” she said. “We also are completely out of canned soup.”

In other parts of The County, pantries are still meeting the needs of their clients.

At Agape Food Pantry in Island Falls, Janette Parady said generous donors are helping keep the shelves stocked, though food is always needed.

“We do have more people coming to see us at this point,” she noted, speculating that the closure of National Starch and Chemical Co. in Island Falls in June contributed to the boost in need. Thirty-seven people were laid off when the company ceased production.

“Some of our clients also are shopping around at other food pantries in the area,” she said.

In Sinclair, Our Lady of the Valley Food Pantry continues to distribute food from St. Joseph Catholic Church.

“I think the … need for food has stabilized somewhat,” Beverly Thibodeau, who helps run the pantry, said Friday. “People have been generous and we really haven’t seen a big increase in people who need food.”

At the Caribou Goodwill Food Pantry, Betty Kierstead said Friday that “more people are coming, and we also are giving food to agencies who are helping people in the area. I think the economy has a lot to do with it.”

Back in Oakfield, Gray said the Nature’s Bounty pantry will continue doing what it can to help people and is always open to accepting donations.

For information on the Nature’s Bounty hours of operation or to donate, contact Gray at 521-4239 or e-mail tigger13_04780@yahoo.com. Contributions can be mailed to Nature’s Bounty Food Pantry, 299 Thompson Settlement Road, Oakfield 04763

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