Biddeford Food Pantry has launched a GoFundMe campaign to add solar panels in an effort to reduce energy costs for the facility. The nonprofit is hoping to raise $10,000 of the $30,000 project and is asking for the public’s help. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — If successful, a new campaign launched by the Biddeford Food Pantry is expected to result in reduced energy costs and allow the nonprofit organization to serve more people from the community.

Late last month, the 2,240-square-foot food pantry facility at 162 Elm St. in Biddeford was converted to LED lighting and the nonprofit also established a GoFundMe campaign to raise $10,000 toward a $30,000 project that will generate clean solar energy for the organization from a rooftop array.

Biddeford Food Pantry Director Don Bisson said that the all-volunteer nonprofit is working with ReVision Energy of Portland on the initiative which would install 28 solar panels at the facility and generate 10,500 kilowatt hours of clean electricity every year.

“This electricity will be used in real time to power the food pantry’s lights, refrigerators and other appliances,” Bisson said. “Any excess power will be sent out to the utility grid and through net metering, the Biddeford Food Pantry will receive credits that we can use at night or during shorter winter days.”

According to Bisson, the expected time for return on the solar investment is 10 years and it is projected to save the food pantry $49,895 on utility costs over the 40-year lifespan of the solar arrays.

“For us it would cut our energy costs by 40 percent and that is absolutely huge for us,” Bisson said.

Funding the project has been a challenge because of the food pantry’s nonprofit status, he said.

“Usually larger companies can find the funding easily to do this,” Bisson said. “Because we’re nonprofit we don’t have that capability and so we’re asking for the public’s help in raising the funds necessary to do this.”

He said that the food pantry also is applying for institutional funding and grants to offset project expenses.

Biddeford Food Pantry was established in 1981, and is the oldest food pantry in Maine. It is a nonprofit service that distributes more than 200,000 pounds of food to those in need in the community every year.

Once known as the Friends of Community Action Food Pantry, it will not refuse to help anyone who visits seeking assistance and is open from 9 to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Program participants often receive three weeks of food monthly including a large grocery bag of non-perishable items such as canned soups, canned vegetables, canned fruits, pasta sauce, rice, and beans; a large banana box containing assorted breads, frozen meats, yogurt, potatoes, oatmeal, juices, hot dogs, muffins and other items; and a large grocery bag of pastries, juices, oils, condiments, marinades, two gallons of bottled water and a gallon of milk. The actual quantity of food given out is determined by the number of people that are being fed.

Many local businesses such as Hannaford Supermarket, Walmart, Target and others donate perishable food items to the food pantry while numerous restaurants such as Dunkin Donuts, Biscuits & Co. and Reilly’s Bakery also contribute to the program. Most of the food it dispenses is purchased and then stored for distribution at the Elm Street site.

The food pantry has several massive coolers for perishables, which were obtained through a $26,500 grant a few years ago. Hannaford donated a van to the nonprofit and Maine author Steven King purchased a box truck to transport food to Biddeford about 10 years ago.

Bisson praised the efforts of ReVision Energy to assist the food pantry in trying to lower spiraling energy costs.

“Their mission is to transition New England away from fossil fuels and on to clean, renewable energy while creating positive social change,” he said. “They have worked previously with a variety of nonprofits including The Nature Conservancy, Maine Audubon, Camp Ketcha and the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program.”

In its monthly newsletter to customers, ReVision Energy has mentioned the food pantry’s GoFundMe page for the project and how much it will assist the nonprofit in better serving those in need in the Biddeford community, Bisson said.

“We’re fully committed to this and this solar array will offset 11,056 pounds of carbon each year, which is the equivalent of planting 83 trees,” he said. “Any donation will make an impact to this cause which means so much to us.”

To donate, go to www.gofundme.com and search for Biddeford Food Pantry.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 or by email at [email protected]

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