Bowdoin’s new mobile food pantry officially opened to the public Thursday, June 10, at Bowdoin Central School.
Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program launched the initiative in hopes of reaching isolated communities where people often don’t have reliable access to healthy food options.
“We recognize that one of the barriers to access to food for some people is transportation,” Karen Parker, executive director of MCHPP said. “Considering that there is no public transportation to this location, through our program we want to bring food closer to people where they are at.”
According to census data, 10.9% of Maine people were living in poverty in 2019. This is higher than the national poverty rate of 10.5%. Approximately 7.6% of Bowdoin residents were living below the poverty line the same year.
According to a 2021 report by Maine Equal Justice — a nonprofit legal aid provider working to increase economic security, opportunity and equity for Maine people — One out of every eight adults experience food insecurity each year.
The MCHPP currently operates a food pantry at the Bowdoin Central School. It also runs pantries at Lisbon High School and the Harpswell Town office.
“In 2020, operating our two mobile pantries cost about $64,000. We anticipate this cost to rise with the addition of this new site in Bowdoin and an increase in frequency from once to twice monthly at our site in Lisbon,” Parker said.
The organization has allocated $175,000 to grow their other food programs, which includes plans to expand their mobile pantry program in the future. MCHPP is funded by donations, grants and other sources.
The mobile food pantry is free and open to everyone. There are no restrictions or residency requirements and volunteers will not ask questions about income.
“We want to help as many families as we can. We are geographically identifying remote areas and expanding our services. We want people to take advantage of our program,” said Parker.
Parker said the nonprofit hoped to serve a minimum of 40 families on its first day of operating in Bowdoin.
Following COVID-19 safety practices, the mobile pantry is operating a drive-thru system, in which volunteers hand food off to people inside their cars.
“We are excited to see how many people access the service,” Parker said. The pantry will run from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month.
People can find more information about MCHPP and it’s other hunger relief programs via Facebook.