February 1

Augusta Food Bank money dwindles as need escalates

Last year, the food bank served more people and families than it has since it opened in 1981.

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Donations to the Augusta Food Bank are in a downward spiral, at the same time the nonprofit organization is feeding more people than it ever has.

click image to enlarge

food pantry: Volunteers Elaine Brann, left, and Jeanne Rocque pack groceries for a client on Thursday at the Augusta Food Bank at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

Food pantry: Volunteers Elaine Brann, left, and Jeanne Rocque pack groceries for a client on Thursday at the Augusta Food Bank at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Additional Photos Below

Food bank hours, locations

• Augusta Food Bank: 9 Summer St., Augusta, open Monday to Thursday, 12:30 to 2 p.m., and Monday evenings, 5:30 to 7 p.m. Eligible residents of Augusta and Manchester can get about a week’s worth of food, once a month. Donations may be made, and more information is available, online at augustafoodbank.org

• Greater Waterville Area Food Bank, 61 Pleasant St., Waterville, Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to noon and, the second and fourth Mondays of the month, 5:30 to 7 p.m. Serves Waterville residents, who can get food once every 14 days. Online: www.watervilleareafoodbank.org

• Winthrop Food Pantry, 25 High St., Winthrop, open every Thursday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and, the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.. Online: winthropfoodpantry.org

• Hallowell Food Bank, Hallowell Fire Department, 124 Second St., Hallowell, open every Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. Serves Hallowell residents. Online: Information on food back available by clicking on “other links” on the city’s website at hallowell.govoffice.com.

Help the Augusta Food Bank with donations

The Augusta Food Bank is in high need of the following items:

 

• Canned soup

• Canned fruit

• Peanut butter

• Tomato and spaghetti sauce

• Canned tuna

• Granola bars for children

• Rice and rice mix

• Quart size freezer bags and sandwich bags

 

Source: www.augustafoodbank.org

For the first month of this year, the food bank operated at a net loss of almost $2,000. And its annual fundraising letter campaign, which 10 years ago pulled in some $20,000 to help run the food bank, brought in $7,500 this year, which is about $2,000 less than it brought in last year, and $6,000 less than it garnered in 2011.

“Our annual appeal letter didn’t get the response we’ve gotten before,” said Abigail Perry, the food bank’s director. “It’s very disconcerting to see that fall. It’s going to get harder and harder to do what we do. One of our big challenges is awareness, and getting the word out about this is a problem in this area.”

Meanwhile, in 2013 the food bank fed more people and families than it has since it opened in 1981.

It provided food for 208,000 meals last year, a 6.4 percent increase over the prior year, Perry said, noting that the organization has about 75 volunteers, some whom have been volunteering for 20 years or more. The food bank averages 365 visits a month. In 2013, it fed an estimated 10,000 people, almost 3,000 of them children.

In the first month of the new year, the food bank operated at a net loss of just under $2,000. While the food bank had enough reserve money left from the previous year to cover that loss, a trend of revenues not meeting expenses is not a sustainable long-term model for a business or nonprofit organization.

Perry said the organization, if revenues don’t increase, has enough money to continue paying its operating expenses for six to eight months. But that doesn’t include money to cover any emergencies that may arise, should something like the food bank’s heavily used van, or a commercial freezer, happen to break down and need a costly repair.

The food bank’s annual budget is about $100,000, which covers Perry’s salary, rental space, food and a van.

NEED UP IN WATERVILLE

Other central Maine food banks also report the need for the food they provide is up, though most officials of other area food banks aren’t reporting the same drop in revenues seen in Augusta.

“The need has gone up rather dramatically,” said Dave Dawson, president of the Greater Waterville Area Food Bank. “In 2012-2013, requests for food went up 25 percent, which is a large increase for us. Out of the past 20 years, last year was definitely our busiest. We’re not operating at a loss. Our donations are definitely down a little bit, but not to the point we’re in crisis. But it’s definitely a concern.”

The Waterville food bank, housed in donated space at the Pleasant Street United Methodist Church, received two “exceptional” donations last year, which Dawson doesn’t anticipate will be repeated. Other than those two donations, Waterville has seen a slight drop in donations in recent years, Dawson said.

He speculated the economy and high heating costs with the cold weather are likely major factors in the increased demand for the most basic of necessities — food.

Last year the Waterville organization received 5,300 requests for food, up from about 4,200 the year prior.

“We’ve seen a lot of new clients this year we haven’t seen before, so something is having an impact,” Dawson said. “I think people are making some tough choices.”

HARD TO ACCEPT HELP

Among the Augusta Food Bank’s at least occasional users is Amy Blasingim, who works at Target and recently picked up a second job at Walgreens, where she hasn’t started yet. She lives with her husband, who can’t work because of a disability.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Helping out: Volunteer Elaine Brann, packs groceries for a client on Thursday at the Augusta Food Bank at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

Donations: Dave Dawson, right, and Kerry Temple with the Waterville Area Food Bank unload cases of oranges at the United Methodist Church on Pleasant Street in Waterville on Friday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

Volunteering: Kerry Temple, a volunteer with the Waterville Area Food Bank delivers goods to the United Methodist Church on Pleasant Street in Waterville on Friday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

Delivery: Dave Dawson with the Waterville Area Food Bank delivers goods to the United Methodist Church on Pleasant Street in Waterville on Friday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

  


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