The South Portland Food Cupboard processes over 11 tons of food per week, and has seen a 60-65% increase in recipients this year. Demand has gone up due to the pandemic, but so has the response from volunteers. Courtesy South Portland Food Cupboard

Demand for the South Portland Food Cupboard has spiked this year, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused chaos in the economy. But while the number of people needing the pantry has increased, said Executive Director Dwayne Hopkins, so have donations.

“There’s the good and bad about our success,” Hopkins said. “The good is that we’re able to help needy people, and the bad of it is there’s a lot of needy people out there. … The pandemic is the most significant single factor affecting food insecurity.”

The South Portland Food Cupboard is a pantry founded in 1997 that helps those facing food insecurity. The Cupboard has seen a 60-65% increase in recipients this year, said Jim Welch, warehouse manager.

“The pandemic is either forcing people to not work or they are in a position where they can’t work,” Hopkins said. “Schools shut down, daycare centers shut down; parents are still responsible for their kids.”

The national nonprofit organization Feeding America states that 1 in 8 Mainers face hunger. According to the USDA, between 2018-2020, a little more than 11% of households in Maine experienced food insecurity, a 3% decrease from the preceding two years.

The South Portland Cupboard is currently processing 11-and-a-half to 15 tons of food per week, an increase from the roughly 10 tons they processed last year, according to Welch.


Hopkins attributes part of this to “food rescue,” ensuring that food from stores and restaurants does not go to waste.

“We’ve been able to do more food rescue the last year and a half,” he said, noting grocery stores and local bakeries are major contributors.

The number of volunteers increased by 25% this year, according to Welch.

That includes Natalie Brown, who recently began volunteering.

“It’s an amazing operation,” she said. “I had no idea how big it was or how many people are impacted by it.”

An increase in monetary donations has helped the cupboard fill some gaps as well.


“When we haven’t been able to pick up food, we’ve been able to buy it,” said Hopkins. “If either one of those two groups (donors and volunteers) were to back off or back away, we would not be able to continue feeding neighbors in need.”

The cupboard also sends an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 pounds of food per week to the Quality Inn hotel, according to Welch, which is housing asylum-seekers and unhoused members of the community.

“Our volunteers have been heroes throughout this whole pandemic,” Hopkins said. “They don’t get paid for what they do. They have shown up, they’ve been faithful, they’ve been vigilant.”

He stated that thanks to how “conscious” volunteers have been, the Food Cupboard has not had a single COVID outbreak.

“We have some of the best volunteers we could ever wish for, truly,” said Welch. “I’m so proud of them. They do such a great job.”

Located at 130 Thadeus St., the South Portland Cupboard is open for donation drop-offs between 7:30 a.m. and noon, Monday through Friday. To learn more about the cupboard, how to donate or volunteer, visit

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