STANDISH — Local food pantries are seeing a steep increase in demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Standish Food Pantry served 375 individual families in April alone, according to President Tim Goodwin. That’s a 70% increase in demand when compared to the 220 families they served in January, their second busiest month this year.

Their numbers peaked on April 1, the day after Gov. Mills’ “stay healthy at home” mandate, Goodwin said. The pantry provided pre-packaged boxes to 61 families that day.

“It sort of dropped off a little bit, or leveled off after that peak, but we’re busier than we were prior to the pandemic,” he said.

The food pantry does not require Standish residency and often serves families from Limington, Baldwin and  Parsonsfield, he said.

In April, 68 new families — families that had never utilized the food pantry’s services before — used the Standish pantry, about three times the number of newcomers they typically expect to see, he said.

At the Naples CrossWalk Community Outreach program, the number of home deliveries of food packages went up from 25 to 65, or 160%  in just one week,  said Carol Madsen, president of the Bridgton-Lake Region Rotary Club. She and other Rotarians have organized forums with area food pantries to discuss and address need.

Representatives from CrossWalk, which serves families in Naples, Sebago, Casco, Bridgton and Harrison, could not be reached for comment.

The Raymond Food Pantry serves a smaller population than those in Standish and Naples, but manager Gary Bibeau said that in the last month, they have served about 36% more families than the did in March, from 28 to 38 families.

The food pantry is doing five home deliveries for “elders and shut-ins,” two more than usual.

But Bibeau’s biggest concern is that the increase in demand has come with a drastic drop in donations. Since the pandemic began, donations to the Raymond Food Pantry from individuals and retailers has decreased by 90% .

The Standish Food Pantry, which took over operations from Catherine’s Cupboard at Saint Joseph’s College in January of 2019, receives the majority of its food through government programs and local agencies, namely the Good Shepherd Food Bank, based in Auburn.

For safety purposes, they’re discouraging people from bringing in donations at the moment. Goodwin isn’t concerned about the food supply, although he said there’s “less variety of food available.”

Both Goodwin and Bibeau said they’ve had to turn away volunteers, working with a skeleton staff to limit group size. Bibeau said many of their volunteers are 70 and older and he has to restrict them from working during distribution hours because of their greater risk from the coronavirus.

As with most other food pantries in the area, Standish, Raymond and Naples are pre-packing boxes and bringing them to clients’ cars.

While the Standish food pantry does not have a formal home delivery system, Goodwin said that they will deliver to someone’s home if they request it. He’s also called clients he’s used to seeing who didn’t visit in March and April to see if they need anything. In the past month, Goodwin said he’s brought boxes to about 20 or so families.

“There’s always been a sense of gratitude from clients but it’s been magnified recently.”

Goodwin added that the food pantry has received a “wonderful show of support from the community,” including many monetary donations.

One of those donations was for $1,200, he said. “I can’t help but think (that) was just passing on the stimulus check to us.”

 

 

 

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