The Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program in Brunswick is looking to replace 100,000 pounds of dairy products, meat and produce it received annually from the nearby Shaw’s after the supermarket chain recently told the food pantry and soup kitchen that it had stopped its donations program.

Karen Parker, director of Mid Coast Hunger Prevention, confirmed Wednesday evening that her nonprofit was informed last week that the Shaw’s at Merrymeeting Plaza in Brunswick would no longer be supplying the pantry with food.

“It’s a significant loss at a time of year when people and families are really struggling,” Parker said. Mid Coast Hunger Prevention will need to raise more than $50,000 in donations to cover the gap in its food supplies, she said.

The nonprofit has used food donated by Shaw’s and Hannaford supermarkets for years to feed families and individuals who either come to the pantry for food assistance or who visit the organization’s soup kitchen on Union Street. Last fiscal year, Mid Coast Hunger provided food to 1,200 families in eight midcoast towns and served more than 45,000 hot meals.

Calls to the manager of the Brunswick Shaw’s for comment were referred to corporate spokeswoman Teresa A. Edington, who wouldn’t say why the company had stopped the food donations.

“For a number of years, Shaw’s partnered with local food banks on a Fresh Rescue program where it would donate select perishable product that was close to the sell-by-date,” Edington said in an email. “However, at this time, the company is no longer running that program.”

Parker, who has been in talks with Shaw’s about restoring the donation program, said company officials have not said why the food donations ended, only mentioning that it had been a corporate-driven policy decision affecting all of the state’s 400 food pantries.

“Shaw’s has been a very generous partner. They have given us a lot of food over the years,” Parker said.

The agency continues to receive donations from Hannaford, Target and Panera Bread.

Kristen Miale, president of the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn – the state’s largest food bank – said Shaw’s notified all Maine food banks and pantries in 2013 that it would no longer be able to provide food donations.

Miale said Shaw’s decision to discontinue its donation program was phased in slowly.

“Shaw’s never explained why they did it,” Miale said.

She said that Mid Coast Hunger Prevention may have been the last food pantry in Maine receiving food donations from Shaw’s.

“Some store managers continued to donate food despite the corporate decision,” Miale said. “Apparently, the Shaw’s in Brunswick was one of the last to continue donating.”

Good Shepherd’s food supplies suffered a major blow when Shaw’s stopped supplying food.

“They were our largest source of meat,” Miale said. Shaw’s provided the food bank with more than 400,000 pounds of meat a year. “That (loss) we definitely felt.”

Good Shepherd relies on donations to keep its shelves stocked with food. It then sells food to food pantries at a heavily discounted rate.

She said Shaw’s competitor, Hannaford, continues to supply Good Shepherd with meat and other food.

Miale said corporate donations of food that was nearing its expiration date or wasn’t selling has been going on for decades. She said the tradition is partly rooted in goodwill, but seemed to take off in the 1990s when a new federal law – called the Good Samaritan food donation act – took effect.

Miale said that law protects food suppliers who provide food to a food relief agency from being sued in the event of illness or sickness.

Rep. Chellie Pingree recently introduced a food bill that aims to help farms, retailers, restaurants and schools waste less food, while diverting high quality food to food banks and food pantries.

“We’re all worried about hunger in this country and we’d love to see food that was going to get wasted go to people who deserve it,” the Maine Democrat told WCSH-TV on Monday.

Mark Swann, the director of Preble Street, said the social services agency that operates a food pantry and soup kitchen in downtown Portland lost its supply of food from Shaw’s about a year ago.

“We gently pushed back and were told that it was not a local decision,” Swann said. “Our local Shaw’s workers and managers were very disappointed because they had been donating food to Preble Street for years.”

Swann said the loss of the food source hurt his agency, which has seen demand increase dramatically.

“We have served more than 600,000 meals this year,” he said, noting that was a 15 percent increase over the number of meals served in 2014.

Edington said Shaw’s will continue to support and partner with local and state food banks, including the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, on food drives and other charitable initiatives.

“Shaw’s has a long history of supporting local and state-wide food banks and pantries across New England,” she said. “And over the years the company has raised and donated millions of dollars and countless pounds of products to hunger relief agencies.

“We truly value our relationship with these very important nonprofit organizations and will continue to support them.”