AUGUSTA – Truck driver Dick Brown smiled as Augusta Food Bank volunteers and Hannaford workers scrambled to unload the tractor-trailer load of food he’d backed up to the loading dock at the food bank’s warehouse on Bangor Street.
While he joked he’s always happy when there are people waiting to unload his truck, the 35-year driver for Hannaford said he felt “fantastic” about delivering this particular load of food. Not because of the help unloading, but because the food was donated by the company to the food bank which will, in turn, donate it to area residents who need help putting food on their tables.
The food bank is at 9 Summer St., off Winthrop Street on the city’s West Side.
“It’s always a pleasure to know you work for a company that helps people,” Brown said.
Nancy Haines, president of the food bank, and Abigail Perry, its executive director, said other than an annual food donation from the U.S. Postal Service, the tractor-trailer load of food Hannaford brought Friday is the largest single donation of food the bank has gotten.
“The need has never been greater,” Haines said. She said the demand for the food the nonprofit organization provides is going to more people than it ever has, but donations are dropping.
Eric Blom, a spokesman for the Maine-based supermarket chain, said company officials responded to the needs of the Augusta Food Bank after they saw a Kennebec Journal article about the food bank operating at a net loss this year because donations and other revenue aren’t meeting expenses.
“We read about the need here, and felt it was particularly important to help out,” Blom said. He said Hannaford regularly gives food to food pantries and to Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn, which distributes to food pantries across the state.
“So many people in the community have been helped by (the Augusta Food Bank) over the years,” he said. “There are times when people doing good work in a community need an extra hand themselves.”
Blom said the 4,741 pounds of food delivered Friday cost Hannaford about $2,600.
He said the company hoped the donation will also help raise awareness of area residents’ need for help.
The delivery included cases pasta, rice, canned vegetables and soup, among other food.
Perry said the donation means the food pantry will have to buy less food to give away.
She and Haines said they especially appreciated the many healthy items included in the delivery.
“I can’t put into words how much this is going to help,” said Haines, who noted when she was volunteering a couple of weeks ago the food bank ran out of canned fruit. “Everyone will be able to get these great staple items, peanut butter, veggies, rice.
“People can do so much with that,” she said. “We just don’t get influxes of this amount of food very often.”
The Augusta Food Bank gave out about 400,000 pounds of food in 2013. It provided food for 208,000 meals last year, a 6.4 percent increase from 2012. Clients can get a week’s worth of food once a month. The food bank fed an estimated 10,000 people last year, 3,000 of them children.
However its annual fundraising letter campaign, which 10 years ago brought in $20,000 in donations, only brought in about $7,500 this year, $2,000 less than last year and $6,000 less than in 2011.
Haines said since the story about the food bank’s increasing need and shrinking donations, donations have contributed about $1,500 in additional cash.
A Shaw’s supermarkets program, in which the Hannaford competitor displays an item shoppers can buy to have donated to the Augusta Food Bank, has also helped the food bank.
Donations may be made to the Augusta Food Bank online at augustafoodbank.org
Keith Edwards – firstname.lastname@example.org