BAR HARBOR—Despite changes in operation and increased demand for services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bar Harbor Food Pantry is “still operating pretty normally,” according to Executive Director Jennifer Jones.
The nonprofit organization, located in the back of the YWCA building, has been feeding the hungry in Hancock County for over 25 years. The pantry currently serves approximately 450 households—over 900 individuals—each year.
One change in the food pantry’s operations is that patrons no longer visit the pantry to shop for their own items. Instead, pantry staff put together boxes for pickup.
“There is a general inventory list on the website that gives a general idea of what we always have in stock,” Jones said. Patrons call and order what they need over the phone. “We’re trying to customize boxes,” Jones said.
Pickups can be scheduled for any time between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday. Staff will leave the box outside for a “no-contact pickup.” Deliveries are possible as needed, thanks to staff and volunteers.
People in need of first-time help are welcome to contact the pantry by calling 288-3375, emailing [email protected], or by sending a Facebook message, Jones said. The food pantry is open to any Hancock County resident. No proof of income is required.
Anyone, not just registered patrons, can walk up or drive by to pick produce, deli items and other fresh foods on Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon. This is when the pantry gives away “anything that might expire,” Jones said. “It’s aimed at reducing food waste. No appointment is necessary.”
Stocking the pantry
Bar Harbor Food Pantry supplies produce, dairy, meats and other fresh foods, as well as canned and dried items. Food comes from several sources.
Dry goods come from community donations and also from the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn, Maine’s largest food bank, which supplies food pantries, meal programs, shelters and schools.
Using monetary donations, the pantry purchases bulk items from Associated Buyers, and produce from Performance. None of these food suppliers have been slowed or stalled by the COVID-19 crisis, Jones said. Good Shepherd Food Bank did announce last week in a press release that the organization anticipates needing an additional $6.3 million in resources to meet the increased need as a result of the crisis.
Donations from community members provide the bulk of what the food pantry has to offer. Monetary donations, used for ordering staples, can be made online or sent by check made out to Bar Harbor Food Pantry.
Produce can be donated in season. Jones said the food pantry encourages home gardeners to “grow a row” and bring extra crops to the pantry. Shoppers at the seasonal Eden Farmers Market are encouraged to buy extra produce from farmers and donate it at the food pantry’s “pop-up reverse market” each Sunday morning outside the YMCA.
According to Eden Farmers Market organizers, this year’s market is scheduled to begin on May 17. Vendors will spread out over the entire YMCA parking lot to allow for social distancing.
Finally, donations are accepted at Hannaford in a drop box near the entrance, and at the YWCA. In addition to nonperishable foods, the pantry also accepts donations of pet foods, coffee and tea, cooking oil, household cleaning products, toiletries and personal hygiene items such as soap, toothpaste, shampoo, menstrual products and toilet paper, and items of indulgence or “pampering” products.
“We say, ‘duplicate to donate,’” said Jones. If you like something, buy two, and drop one in the donation box. “Likely there’s somebody just like you with the same tastes.”
Jones continued, “I want to say thank you to the community.” Thanks to the many who have donated food, money, or time, people are making it through hard times.