Name: Alan Smith

Age: 54

Title: Executive director

Organization: Augusta Food Bank

About: A food bank serving anyone with food insecurity in Augusta and Manchester; on average 350 clients come to the facility and 30 clients receive home delivery every month, and during the school year, 110 children are served every weekend.

Website: www.augustafoodbank.org

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Transportation for our clients. That’s not necessarily the job of the food bank, but part of the problem for our clients is getting here. They can’t use public transportation to get here and get home. We’re trying to figure that out. We have some calls in to KVCAP (the non-profit community action agency that serves people in Kennebec and three other counties with programs including transportation.)

We give out a week’s worth of food per person in the family at once. So, for a family of five, you can’t take that much food on a KVCAP van. So can we decrease the amount they take with them and allow them to come back more often? They can come once a month only now. That is banana boxes of food.

We need to develop a model that works in the system that allows folks to get what they need. Our hope is to develop a new program using public transportation.

What’s the best advice anyone has given you?

Don’t accept reality. That’s from John Dibiase, a mentor and boss I had 20 years ago while I worked for Mead Paper Company.

Everyone will tell you that you can’t build a building, or expand a program.

We started a capital campaign two years ago to raise enough money to build this building (161 Mount Vernon Ave.). We needed $700,000. Within 18 months, we had what we needed. You have to make your plan, dream your dream and make it happen. Let it succeed or fail on its merits.

How do you foster creativity in yourself or your staff?

We don’t limit ourselves. We look at something, and take on a challenge. Sometimes we fail and sometimes we succeed. If we fail, so what? We dust ourselves off. There’s no stigma. If we succeed, we go on to the next thing.

We bump up against things all the time — not enough money, not enough food. But you don’t let that get you down.

What’s your biggest fear?

It’s strange, but I think my biggest fear hasn’t come to fruition. We built a new building, we have a new building, and it looks great. My fear is that people will think we don’t need any more money.

People think we exist by big donors. Not true. We exist by the $5 check, the $20 check, the donated bag of canned goods.

A capital campaign is different from an operational campaign. We still have to run the place. We have more bills now than we had when we were at Summer Street (the former St. Mark’s Church parish hall). We need (money) now more than ever.

We haven’t seen a drop off in giving yet, but we’re only halfway through our year. The bigger giving time of year is coming up. Summer is low and people are on vacation. We haven’t seen anything major yet. I’m hoping we don’t see a drop, but you never know.

Where will your organization be in five years?

I plan to be here in five years.

The exciting part of where the Augusta Food Bank is, is we spent two and a half years focusing 100 percent on moving away from Summer Street. Now we’re here, in the building, and we have made a successful move. Now we start focusing on the program, how to reach more shut-ins, more seniors, how to have more programs for kids. How do we make it easier for folks to come in?

We have done some work with Meals on Wheels, and we have increased our home delivery program by 30 percent. We can focus on how we grow and expand and (get to) everybody.

We’ll run 40-50 seniors a month who use our service. You can’t tell me there’s not more than that who need our service. We have to reach those folks.

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