AUGUSTA — Nancy Haines remembers returning from the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn with pallets of food to give to hungry people.

“Now we’re lucky if we can get seven or eight boxes of canned goods,” said Haines, president of the Augusta Food Bank board. “Getting food is becoming a problem.”

The Augusta Food Bank, like nearly every other food pantry in the state, purchased food from Good Shepherd for years for about 16 cents per pound.

But as grocery stores streamlined their supply chains, there are fewer damaged goods to donate. That has food banks across the state purchasing more food at retail.

“Instead of paying 16 or 17 cents for that can of soup or peanut butter, we’re paying $1 per unit,” Haines said. “You can see how our food budget is going up astronomically.”

But while food bank supplies are strained, demand is stronger than ever.

“We’ve recently cut down on the amount of food that we’re giving out because we haven’t been able to get the product,” Perry said. “I’m worried that, over an extended period of time, it will have an impact on the nutrition and overall well-being of members of our community.”

The food bank helped feed 292 children in August.

“That’s enough to fill an elementary school,” Perry said. “If kids aren’t getting good nutrition it’s impacting their ability to learn. It’s impacting their ability to lead a productive life.”

The Augusta Food Bank helps feed about 350 households per month — or about 900 people — with some 20 new faces per week.

“We’ve seen a lot of people who were doing OK for 6 months or a year and had to come back to our service,” Perry said. “We’ve seen lots of new families.”

About 75 percent of the people the food bank serves receive food stamps, Perry said, and more than 20 percent of families who visit have at least one member who works regularly.

“Almost 5 percent of our clients are on unemployment,” Haines said. “For some, unemployment benefits have run out.”

Many of those who visit the food bank live on Social Security in subsidized housing. Many are seniors.

“I’ve heard people saying it’s going to be a tough winter,” Perry said. “I don’t know how we’re going to get through.”

The Augusta Food Bank has organized fundraisers to help it buy more food at retail.

“It certainly worries me,” she said. “I hope we can continue to do what we’re doing. … We need help from the whole community.”


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