A Maine hunger relief organization that last year distributed nearly 30 million pounds of food has received a $50,000 grant to build a cold storage unit at its Hampden facility.
The grant, announced Wednesday and awarded by The Tramudo Foundation of Ogunquit, will push the The Good Shepherd Food Bank further toward its goal of raising $5 million to make the Hampden facility a fully functioning distribution center, said Kristen Maile, the organization’s president. Work is expected to wrap up next spring, and allow the organization to serve an additional 10 million meals annually, she said.
Maile declined to say how much money has so far been raised. A formal announcement is scheduled for next week.
With a shorter shelf life, fresh, nutritional food can be sparse among the food pantries and the small grocery stores that serve the rural counties in northern and eastern Maine, she said. And those regions suffer some of the highest rates of hunger in a state where 16.4 percent of people don’t have access to enough food, she said.
The cold storage unit will allow the pantry to store produce long term in three different temperatures and humidity-controlled coolers, as well as freezers, Maile said.
The Hampden facility is the nonprofit’s second distribution center, and part of Good Shepherd’s lofty goal of eliminating hunger in Maine by 2025. So far this year, the organization is on pace to distribute more food than it did last year — more than 30 million pounds, Maile said.
The organization currently stores all of its food in its Auburn warehouse. In October 2015, Good Shepherd purchased the 40,000-square-foot building at 11 Penobscot Meadow Drive in Hampden from the Bangor Daily News, which used it as its former printing plant. The move was an effort to expand its services to Maine’s rural, eastern counties.
The Hampden building went online January 2016, with limited capabilities. It has worked primarily as a “staging facility,” where partnering eastern and northern Maine organizations pick up food that is trucked in from Auburn.
“Right now we’re limited at how much we can hold at a time,” Maile said. The fresh food loses a day off its shelf life when in transit from Auburn.
Construction to retrofit the Hampden facility will begin May 24, Maile said.