RICHMOND, Maine — A volunteer who had just picked up a load of food in Auburn for the Richmond Area Food Pantry lost some items off his truck as he rounded the entrance to the Maine Turnpike on Friday morning.
He pulled to the side of the road and as he tried to organize the remaining food that had shifted in his truck, what he thought were good Samaritans who stopped to pick up the dropped items for him instead made off with their findings.
RAFP chairperson Janette Sweem said Saturday that the volunteer had a pallet of food and some separate boxes in the truck that he’d picked up from the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn. When he went around the curve approaching the turnpike, the pallet shifted and pushed some of the loose boxes out of the truck.
“He thought they were going to help because he got out and started to work to clean up the back of his truck and get it back in shape, and he turns around and they’re all getting in their cars and leaving,” Sweem said. “It’s really too bad.”
Sweem said the truck was carrying spices, assorted fruits, cereal and baby wipes the donation-based RAFP had just paid for. People assume the food is free, she said, but it isn’t.
“We lost 35 percent of what we picked up” on Friday, Sweem said, which adds up to $50 or $60 worth of items. Typically, $1 can purchase about $8 worth of retail food at a salvage rate, according to the pantry’s Facebook page.
The food was to be distributed to residents from Richmond, Dresden and Bowdoinham on Saturday at the Dresden Richmond United Methodist Church located at 121 Pleasant St. in Richmond.
In a phone interview after the pantry closed on Saturday, Sweem said, “We were fortunate. We did have a lot of people today. We had about 45, 50 people that came in and that accounts for about 100 people if you add up their families, so fortunately we were able to switch around things and accommodate [the reduced stock], but that’s just too bad. These people we serve, a lot of them are elderly or young people with children. If those people [who picked items off the road] needed it more [than those our pantry serves], then so be it. They’ll put it to good use.”
The Richmond Area Food Pantry started in May 2011 and is based at the DRUM Church. Sweem said it operates through donations so “we always take donations.”
Sometimes the Good Shepherd Food Bank will pass along goods from grants to various pantries, but most of what the RAFP provides is through donations. The pantry is open twice a month: the third Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. and the first Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. Sweem said the pantry usually serves about 100 people a month, with about 50 people attending each pantry day.
Things are going well and the pantry is alive and well. In addition to donations, “we could always use more volunteers,” Sweem said.
While most people want to help out right at the food pantry, Sweem said there is only room for about a dozen volunteers there. They also can use help with everything from making phone calls to driving and “just lots of other different things. We’re always open for a helping hand.”
“We have a good group and we’re doing very well,” Sweem continued. “Financially, we really are OK, we have such a great group of Richmondites, and Dresdenites and Bowdoinhamites.”
The church members also collect a lot of food and support the pantry, as do local businesses, like Ye Olde English Fish and Chips on Main Street that donated 200 pounds of potatoes Friday. Additionally, “we try to get the farming community too to get on board with this,” and to donate excess produce if they have it. Last year, “they were spectacular,” Sweem said, as were people with extra vegetables in their own backyard.
“I never thought that I would be doing something like this and once people started talking about it at the church and saying there’s a need … This is a real passion, and I’ve met so many absolutely wonderful people,” Sweem said. “They are all in this together to help people with food insecurity.”
To find out how to help or get more information, call 607-2777, visit www.rafpinc.info or “like” Richmond Area Food Pantry Inc. on Facebook.
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