AUGUSTA — A federally-funded program will bring 18,000 pounds of local food to area residents Thursday in Augusta.

Volunteers and officials from the Augusta Food Bank and other city organizations will distribute 1,000 boxes of food from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.

There are no residency or income requirements to get a box, which will weigh about 18 pounds and will be filled with Maine potato and dairy products from Pineland Farms, which is based in Bangor, Mars Hill and New Gloucester.

Augusta Civic Center

An empty Augusta Civic Center parking lot seen on April 20, will host a Farmers to Families event Thursday, which will distribute 1,000 free 18-pound boxes of Maine food to families. Scott Monroe/Kennebec Journal file

Augusta Food Bank Executive Director Bob Moore said the box contains 5 pounds of potatoes, 2 pounds of cheese, a package of mashed potatoes and a half-gallon of milk.

“They’re packed well and the product (is) great,” he said.

Thursday’s event is a supplement to the Augusta Food Bank’s normal program, Moore said. He noted that Thursdays the Food Bank also distributes its excess for free with few restrictions.

When asked if the programs see any abuse from people who may not need the service, Moore said it wasn’t noticeable.

Bob Moore has been hired as executive director of the Augusta Food Bank. Photo courtesy of Augusta Food Bank

“It there is any abuse at all,” he said, “it’s got to be very low numbers.”

Moore said the number of families the Food Bank serves initially rose during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, but then leveled out. He said other community organizations are offering meals or food, while SNAP benefits and unemployment have allowed some customers to shop at grocery stores.

Despite normal numbers for other programs, Moore said he was anticipating a “huge crowd” at Thursday’s event.

Farmers to Families is a program administrated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to the department’s website, more than 50 million boxes have been distributed as part of the project and two rounds of funding have raised as much as $2.67 billion for the program.

Presque Isle-based Maine Farmers Exchange was awarded about $2.1 million for dairy products, fruits and vegetables during the program’s second round of funding from the agriculture administration.

Maine Farmers Exchange President Bob Davis said all of the money awarded to the exchange was going to Pineland Farms.


Laurie Nelson, human resources manager for Pineland Farms Potatoes in Mars Hill, said her company was sitting on a stockpile of product after many restaurants closed due to the pandemic.

She said products were packaged and given it away at locations around Aroostook County. Since Pineland Farms was already packaging the food, the company worked with Davis to get the federal grant to participate in the program and is packaging all the food to be distributed at Farmers to Families events. Davis said 10,000 packages will be produced weekly during an eight-week period.

Davis said the program is a “win-win” for Pineland Farms, which benefits by being paid for product it would otherwise dump or give away, and for local consumers, who eat more local food. He said the contract with the U.S. agriculture department also benefits Pineland Farms’ smaller contracted farms, which are reeling from a reduced need for product.

That has resulted a reduction of about 5% in total acreage for potatoes crops in Maine, Davis said, and uncertainty around labor from migrant workers.

“You can’t plant it if you don’t know you’re going to sell it,” he said. “The planning part was the most difficult thing for farmers to manage (during the coronavirus pandemic).”

Davis lauded Good Shepherd Food Bank and the Augusta Food Bank for their efforts to bring the program to Augusta.


“They’re the ones that need to be credited,” he said.

Another Maine company also received funding in the second round: Westbrook-based Native Produce was granted $1.35 million for fruits and vegetables.

For Thursday’s event in Augusta, recipients will enter Community Drive as if traveling to the Augusta Civic Center, where volunteers will direct traffic to the food box distribution area. Augusta Police Deputy Chief Kevin Lully said the large parking lots at the location should allow for a drive-thru style of service.

There will be another Farmers to Families event in Waterville at 10 a.m. Aug. 11. The event is sponsored by the Elks Lodge, and will take place near their lodge at 76 Industrial St.

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