Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program rolls out a new mobile pantry in Harpswell. The non-profit starts a new monthly mobile pantry in Lisbon June 20. (Submitted photo)

LISBON — Starting next month, the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program will boost access to food with a mobile pantry in Lisbon.

“We recognize that one of the barriers to access to food for some people is transportation, as well as the time they have available to access the services that we have,” said Monica Helms, the organization’s program coordinator. “One of the things we’d like to do is bring food to people where they’re at.”

That is especially important because so much of Maine is rural, she added. Helms hopes to piggyback on the success the mobile pantry has had in Harpswell since it started service in 2016. The Brunswick-based nonprofit has seen more than 60 people visit those monthly mobile pantries at the town office.

The Lisbon mobile pantry will set up in the parking lot at Lisbon High School on June 20. It will be there every third Thursday of every month from 3-4:30 p.m.

The service is free and open to anyone. There are no restrictions or residency or questions about income.

“We do recognize that sometimes it’s just helpful to get a little bit of a boost to bridge a gap for people,” Helms said.

While there is a stigma to accessing these resources, this is the work the program is here to do, she said. And there is plenty of food.

“There is nothing wrong with coming to get some fresh food to take home,” she said.

Many of the people the program serves are working parents who can use the relief on their grocery bills so they can put money toward other things.

The food truck is loaded with meats, eggs, bread, pantry staples like soups and canned goods, rice and a lot of fresh produce. 

Helms is looking for volunteers if anyone in the area is interested, either helping set up the mobile pantry of helping administer food to people. The service in Harpswell has become a community event where many volunteers also access the food pantry. It’s not a “us versus them” situation, Helms said. It’s neighbors helping neighbors.

“I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t benefit from some free food,” she said.

Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program was eyeing Topsham for the site of its second mobile pantry. However, Lisbon is also within its service area and Helms said Lisbon has a higher poverty rate.

Helms said 9.2% of Lisbon residents had an income below the poverty level in 2016. Statewide, 12.5% of residents were below the poverty level that year.

The mobile food pantry won’t be the first food assistance program in the area. The nonprofit Lisbon Area Christian Outreach was founded in 1985 and has offered a food pantry in town for many years. Currently located in the back of the MTM Center at 18 School St., the food pantry and clothing bank are open Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m.; Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon; and Saturdays from 8-10 a.m. The Clothing Bank is closed the second Wednesday of each month.

Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s mobile pantry truck is stocked with food. (Submitted photo)

“I think that the (Lisbon Area Christian Outreach) pantry does a phenomenal job there and we sort of just wanted to help support what they have going on and take some of the burden off their shoulders,” Helms said.

Debbie Hill, Vice President of the outreach board and director of its Lisbon Falls pantry, is welcoming the mobile pantry. She offered the use of their parking lot at the MTM Center.

“They’re going to give us leftover food which is the best thing in the world because we always need food,” she said.

The need has continued to grow at their pantry. In April, they had 11 new clients, 35 renewals, 277 families, 474 adults and served 248 children. 

“We have been increasing a lot,” she said Wednesday. “We weren’t expecting it at all.”

Hill is looking forward to the mobile food pantry.

“I think it’s a good thing,” she said. “The town will love them too.”

Helms said the plan is to start with the monthly, year-round stops in Lisbon before expanding the service.

“We’re curious to see how many people access the service and if we feel the need is higher,” she said. “We’d love to expand.”

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