Pineland Farms Potato Company staff and volunteers lift boxes of food as part of Pineland's food giveaway in Presque Isle on Friday, May 8. Credit: David Marino Jr. | The Star-Herald

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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — It’s become a familiar sight in The County — Pineland Farms Potato Co. distributing hundreds of boxes of food to people who are struggling under the economic effects of COVID-19.

Plant Manager Shawn Lovley, Pineland staff and volunteers handed out boxes of food to hundreds of cars in the Aroostook Centre Mall parking lot in Presque Isle in the last installment of its second round of giveaways on Friday.

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The “Drive Thru Box of Food Giveaway” has now provided communities potatoes, eggs and cheese in 10 different giveaways since it began in Mars Hill on April 13, reaching people from Houlton to St. Agatha.

The company has handed out 9,500 boxes and about 300,000 pounds of food across The County, said Lovley. It is one of many companies owned by Post Holdings participating in a nationwide giveaway that has provided 3.5 million pounds of free food nationwide.

While Friday marked the end of the second round of handouts, Lovley said he’d be open to doing future giveaways if there is a strong need for food within individual communities.

But a lot has changed since the giveaway began in March. At that time, many of Pineland Farm Potato Co.’s operations were slowed down because of the financial effects of COVID-19 and services across the state of Maine at a standstill.

But as of Friday, the plant was operating at around 60-70 percent of its normal capacity and business was “picking up,” according to Lovley. And the state is beginning to return to normal, with limited dine-in restaurant service available in County restaurants beginning on May 18.

Lovley said he was thankful to the staff and volunteers who allowed the food handouts to become a reality. He said he would always be proud of his involvement in helping families across The County put food on the table.

“It’s what you want to do,” Lovley said. “You can go to work every day and get your paycheck, but when you can give back to the community, that’s what it is all about.”

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