Liz Waldo, a seven-year volunteer with Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program in Brunswick, handing out lunch. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

After the organization’s busiest year on record, Brunswick’s Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program is beginning to take steps towards expansion, eyeing a portion of a building at Brunswick Landing.

Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program is a food justice non-profit and food bank based in Brunswick and has been headquartered at Tenney Way since 2003.

While still in the preliminary stages, they are exploring a location at Neptune Drive at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. However, an expansion there would require an adjustment in a zoning ordinance. The Brunswick Town Council unanimously took the first step last month by sending the zoning amendment request to the planning board.

The building on Neptune Drive is part of the same property being used by the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust, and according to Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s Deputy Director Hannah Chatalbash, an increase in space is much needed, particularly after last year and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Outisde of Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s Tenney Way location. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

“Coming into 2020, everything changed,” Chatalbash said. “We experienced exponential growth across our programs in a way that we had never experienced before in terms of client need.”

At the organization’s food pantry, 2020 brought a 12 percent increase in visits when compared to 2019, with the three busiest months being November, December and October. There was an annual total of 10,965 visits.

In the soup kitchen, Mid Coast Hunger served over 64,000 meals in 2020, which represents a 56 percent increase over 2019.

Additionally, the non-profit’s mobile pantries in Lisbon and Harpswell were visited more than 2,500 times, a 127 percent increase over 2019. The significant increase in the mobile pantry visits can be attributed to their expansion during the pandemic as the Harpswell mobile pantry went from monthly to weekly.

Karen Parker, Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s Executive Director, said the pandemic highlighted the organizations need for more warehousing space and, ideally, a loading dock to manage supply.

“We don’t have a loading dock,” Parker said.  “So, every time we receive food from our partner agency, Good Shepherd, we are manually taking off and putting on pallets of food from one vehicle to another.”

Other needs for improvement, said Chatalbash, include a safer parking option and, on the most basic level, “some more square footage to work with,” to make “a service environment that is comfortable and welcoming for folks.”

One client, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and has been visiting the Tenny Way facility for 10 years, said Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program serves an important role for them as well as the community.

“If this place wasn’t here a lot of people would be going out without any food,” the client said, noting that the organization has consistently offered them nutritious, hot meals, alongside a sense of greater community.

“I find out that a lot of other towns do not have this availability,” the client said. “It’d be better off if a lot of other places could have something like this.”

According to Parker, the organization has not figured out exactly what strategy to use to fund a move, and if the spot at Brunswick Landing does not work out, the organization will continue to look for additional space elsewhere.


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