The former Greyhound mural stands above Congress Street in Portland in November. The mural has since been painted over as its new owner, MaineHealth, prepares to renovate and convert the former bus station into a food pantry. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

MaineHealth plans to open a food pantry in partnership with Good Shepherd Food Bank in the former Greyhound bus station at 950 Congress St. in Portland.

The Portland food pantry will be MaineHealth’s third, it said; the first two were opened at Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington and Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway in 2021.

“Health and hunger are closely connected, and we know our communities alone can’t fill the needs associated with food insecurity,” said Dora Anne Mills, MaineHealth’s chief health improvement officer, in a statement. “Our Community Health Needs Assessments have identified food insecurity as the No. 1 priority amongst social determinants of health. The food pantries are a part of our services as a health care organization, and a natural part of our continuum of care. We also believe it is necessary for us to collaborate with community partners to support and supplement existing work.”

The former bus station needs renovation work before a food pantry can be located there. In November, MaineHealth, which operates Maine Medical Center in Portland, said it would have to tear down a decades-old mural on the building’s exterior to make needed improvements to the property. The mural has since been painted over.

MaineHealth bought the former Greyhound station in April 2020 for $1.4 million, according to city tax records. Built in 1961, the station sits at the base of a hill that rises to the city’s West End neighborhood and is dominated by the buildings and parking garages of Maine Medical Center.

MaineHealth said Wednesday that it has secured the required city permits to renovate the building for use as a food pantry. Renovation work is expected to begin next month, and MaineHealth plans to open the pantry by early fall.

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The work is being supported through a $200,000 investment by MaineHealth, coming in part through funds set aside by its board of trustees to honor long-term former CEO Bill Caron. The project also will be supported by a $100,000 donation from former state lawmaker and 2020 U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon, it said.

“Every Mainer deserves access to healthy, nutritious food, and only by working collaboratively can we make that a reality,” Gideon said in a statement. “This gift will provide immediate and significant support to an innovative partnership between MaineHealth and Good Shepherd Food Bank to help end hunger in Maine and drive down the costs of health care.”

The Portland pantry will initially serve MaineHealth patients, but its goal is to serve the entire community, “offering healthy fresh, frozen and shelf-stable food in a convenient, trustworthy and stigma-free environment,” the MaineHealth release said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Feeding America, as of 2021, 13.5 percent of Maine’s population, or nearly 182,000 Mainers, were food insecure, meaning they lacked access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life. MaineHealth said it can more fully addresses the health needs of the community by addressing social determinants of health such as food insecurity.

“The mission of Good Shepherd Food Bank is to improve access to nutritious food to people in need,” said Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine, in a statement. “A hospital-based food pantry has a special focus on addressing the nutritional needs of their patients and is often better positioned to provide wrap-around services such as access to healthcare, safe and reliable transportation, and housing assistance through partnerships with community-based organizations and other hospital programming. The Food Bank is looking forward to helping MaineHealth meet the need with this new location.”

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