Jodi Bissonnette, second from left, conducts a tour of Food Rescue of York County in Alfred during an open house in November 2013, when the agency moved into the then-new quarters donated by York County government. The agency abruptly closed last week.

Jodi Bissonnette, second from left, conducts a tour of Food Rescue of York County in Alfred during an open house in November 2013, when the agency moved into the then-new quarters donated by York County government. The agency abruptly closed last week.

ALFRED — Food pantries inland to the coast say they’ll be feeling the pinch with the abrupt closing last week of Food Rescue of York County.

While the pantries will continue to receive commodities through The Emergency Food Assistance Program – a federal program now administered through the Good Shepherd Food Bank – they’ll have to somehow fill the gap left by the closing of the food rescue organization, which supplied free food to roughly 45 pantries and soup kitchens countywide.

The closing apparently came after several setbacks.

Food Rescue board members were surprised when they walked into the Food Rescue warehouse on Route 4 in Alfred last week to find all of the remaining food had been dispensed in the regular monthly distribution to food pantries and kitchens, leaving none for May, said board Chairman Karen Boisvert.

“We were blindsided,” said Boisvert on Monday.

Boisvert said the agency’s director, Jodi Bissonnette, submitted her notice to quit the following day and turned in her keys, cell phone and other Food Rescue-related materials.

Boisvert said there had been tension between Bissonnette and the board. Bissonnette could not be reached for comment.

Boisvert acknowledged the organization had been struggling, most recently by the loss of The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which made up about 45 percent of the food they dispensed, and then by a change at Shaw’s Warehouse in Wells, which had supplied about 30 percent of the food.

Still, they’d hoped to somehow continue.

“We were trying for grants,” she said, but donations were down, and with all the remaining food dispensed, it soon became clear that it was time to close.

The board is taking steps to dissolve the non-profit entity, Boisvert said.

Unlike other organizations, Food Rescue of York County supplied the food for free.

“There’ll definitely be a dent. We depend on that,” said Rosie Cluff, president of Sanford Food Pantry.

The Sanford pantry benefits from the May food drive collected by the U.S. Postal Service, and Sanford firefighters in December conduct a large food drive outside several local supermarkets, resulting in truckloads of food – and some cash – to benefit the pantry, Cluff said.

The cash usually goes to buy meat for food pantry clients, rent for the pantry and utilities. Sanford Food Pantry does not belong to Good Shepherd Food Bank because of the costs involved.

“There’s a lot of people out there in need,” said Cluff, pointing out that one of the local schools held a food drive last week. “God bless the people of Sanford (who donate).”

Food Rescue of York County supplied about one-quarter of the food dispensed by Old Orchard Beach Community Food Pantry, one of two pantries in Old Orchard Beach.

“It definitely will impact us,” said Director Carol Davis.

She said the pantry does buy from Good Shepherd Food Bank, and, like the Sanford pantry, relies on donations.

“Jodi’s service was just what the name implied,” said Davis. “She rescued food, and she supplied it free.”

The most recent difficulties are not the first experienced by the organization, which used to be known by a slightly different name, York County Food Rescue.

In October 2014, the agency faced a temporary closing because there was no cash on hand with which to operate. At that time, the agency had plenty of food, but was cash poor – so cash poor that the agency couldn’t register their truck, Bissonnette said at the time. She put out the word, and donations began flowing in.

In 2013, the agency, which had operated out of a warehouse in a former mill on Jagger Mill Road in Sanford for several years, was looking for a home when the building was sold. At that time, York County government stepped in to offer the use of a vacant building. Under the arrangement, the county donated the space, and the agency paid its own utilities.

County Manager Greg Zinser on Monday said the county is working on a plan to continue on in a few weeks with a similar program.

‘”I hope something can be worked out,” said Cluff.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]


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