A resident of Bath Housing with food from Mama Mo’s, which has provided over 6,800 fresh meals to people living at that location. Contributed / Bath Housing

Over 6,8o0 meals have been served to families and older adults living at Bath Housing apartments in the last 12 months of the COVID-10 pandemic through a partnership with Portland-based Cooking for Community.

As the pandemic-fueled lockdown started in Maine last spring, Bath Housing Executive Director Debora Keller became concerned about a variety of issues facing Bath Housing residents, largely comprising families, older adults and people with disabilities. One issue was food.

“One morning I had this idea to deliver hot soup to everyone,” Keller said. “It was March, it was cold, and everything had abruptly shut down, leaving residents scared and isolated.”

When Keller found Cooking for Community, a partnership was quickly struck. Monique Barrett, of Mama Mo’s Handcrafted Soups and Comfort Foods in Yarmouth, began providing nourishing meals at Bath Housing in April 2020.

“I started out making 140 quarts of soup for Bath Housing,” Barrett said. “Soup turned to things like shepherd’s pie and other comfort foods – 140 meals a week!

“I’ve had the pleasure of delivering meals up to Bath a few times and getting to meet some of the folks there who are so appreciative. I love that the food I make brings comfort to people.”

“I love your meals,” Bath Housing resident Denise Bussiere told Barrett on a delivery day last year. “Each one is better than the last, and I really look forward to them.”

Locally sourced produce for Cooking for Community is provided by farms such as Wolf’s Neck of Freeport and Stonecipher of Bowdoinham, and by Merrymeeting Gleaners, a volunteer gleaning group that shares local surplus harvests all around the greater Bath/Brunswick area.

In the last year, Cooking for Community provided over 100,000 hot meals around Southern Maine, according to a prepared release. Funds raised pay restaurants and their staff to provide freshly made meals to service agencies such as Bath Housing.

With the pandemic winding down and restaurants striving to return to normal, the status of Cooking for Community is uncertain, according to Cooking for Community co-founder Ellie Linen Low in a prepared statement. But Low said CFC is committed to serving its partners into June, with several possibilities for the future being considered.

“Shots in arms, relief funding and relaxed restrictions mean the pandemic’s impacts are in flux,” Low said. “But, for now, the crisis continues. We are making a strong push to continue to support our partnering restaurants and feed the most vulnerable until the need for our work diminishes.”

Though weekly meals at Bath Housing may not continue, the possibility of quarterly, monthly and holiday meals is being explored, Low said, as are on-site food pantries at each location.

“When checking in with residents, we have heard that a prepared meal being delivered is about so much more than the food itself,” Keller said. “These meals have provided a sense of community, helped folks to feel less isolated and the nostalgia of these comfort foods providing a much-needed lift to spirits.”