Portland-based health network adds mobile pantry to food assistance program
Portland-based health network adds mobile pantry to food assistance program

Barbara Ginley, who runs MaineHealth’s new food pantry on Congress Street in Portland, reflects in the glass front of a food cooler. The food pantry will expand later this year with the addition of a refrigerated food truck, thanks to federal federal funding. The truck will deliver healthy groceries to people experiencing food insecurity and the homeless. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

A Portland food pantry operated by MaineHealth will expand its services this year by adding a “healthy food” truck to serve people who can’t commute into the city.

“The idea is to provide free, healthy food to people who are food insecure, whether they’re unsheltered or struggling to afford food,” said Barbara Ginley, MaineHealth’s director of public health for Greater Portland. Ginley said some people in need can’t get to the hospital food pantry, which is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays at 950 Congress Street, the site of the former Greyhound bus station, because they don’t have transportation or have a medical condition that makes it difficult to stand. queue on Thursday.

“It gives us an opportunity to expand our reach and meet people where they are,” Ginley said.

The health food truck is funded by $119,000 in federal money — inserted as a earmark by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine — that was included in the federal budget passed this weekend. The mobile model is used by other charities, including the Portland-based Preble Street Food Pantry, which also delivers free meals.

The MaineHealth Food Pantry at the Maine Medical Center opened in January 2023, and the amount of food distributed has been about three times what was expected, even though it’s only open one day a week, Ginley said. The pantry distributed 688,000 pounds of food to more than 4,400 households in 2023.

“We’ve seen exponential growth,” Ginley said. “There is such a need in our community.”

Ginley said the pantry only accepts healthy food, so it’s stocked with protein staples like fish, chicken and pork, fresh fruits and vegetables and bread, as well as non-perishable canned foods. The mobile van will pack much of the same food. Workers are careful to distribute food that needs to be cooked only to those who live in places where they can cook food.

“It’s really recognizing the things that affect health other than the care received at a doctor’s office or in a hospital,” Ginley said.

Barbara Ginley, who runs the new MaineHealth Food Warehouse on Congress Street in Portland, stands among stable foods. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The mobile van will likely begin operating in late summer or fall, Ginley said, and will go to public housing complexes, hotels, recovery centers, the homes of cancer patients and other places where people are likely to be food insecure. It hasn’t been determined exactly where the food truck will go, but it will serve Greater Portland, Ginley said.

MaineHealth operates two other food pantries, at MaineHealth Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington and MaineHealth Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway.

“As the dedicated professionals at MaineHealth serve some of Portland’s most vulnerable residents, they know that food is medicine and can improve the quality of life for many,” King said in a prepared statement. “This refrigerated van will serve as a one-stop food shop, working to break down distance barriers to nutrition – and reduce food insecurity for those who need it most.”

Pantries are open on the following days and hours.

* MaineHealth Food Pantry at Maine Medical Center: Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

* MaineHealth Food Pantry at Franklin Memorial Hospital: Monday and Wednesday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m

* MaineHealth Food Pantry at Stephens Memorial – Hours: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.


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