LITCHFIELD — Plans to build a food pantry that can serve more people and offer a wider variety of food came one step closer to fruition this week.

Roughly 20 people came out to the Litchfield Plains Baptist Church parking lot on Tuesday afternoon as officials broke ground on a new spot for the Litchfield Food Bank, which will be located on the church’s property. The church has sponsored the food bank since it opened three years ago.

The Litchfield Food Bank received a $50,000 grant from the Good Shepherd Food Bank in February to help fund the endeavor.

The food bank has operated out of a former Gowell’s Store building at 491 Richmond Road since March 6, 2019, and serves up to 45 households per week. The only requirement for the service is that patrons show they’re Litchfield residents.

Litchfield Food Bank Director Rayna Leibowitz, who also serves on the town’s select board, said the new location will allow them to accommodate more people and provide more food options. It will also include a shopping area where people can pick out which foods they prefer.

“Right now we provide pre-bagged supplies for them, and they have a list where some of the things can be selected, but much of it is done in advance. We may put mushroom soup in it and they may never want mushroom soup. We have no way of knowing. When they can make their own selections, they choose not to pick mushroom soup,” she said.

Advertisement

The new 20-by-32-foot building also includes plans for a garage and a delivery receiving area.

Leibowitz said that, with the volatility of building material prices, they will need to do additional fundraising and seek out more grants, and that contractors have not been able to provide a solid estimate for the project.

She said one contractor told her that last year concrete was at $115 per cubic yard, and that the price has more than doubled since then.

“This year it’s around $250 to $260 for the same yard,” Leibowitz said. “It’s crazy.”

Rayna Leibowitz, director of the Litchfield Food Bank, speaks Tuesday during a ground breaking ceremony for the group’s new building at the Litchfield Plains Baptist Church. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The location also provides some advantages. The church owns the property, and at one point a former pastor and his family had built a mobile home on the site of the new food pantry. The ground still contains a septic tank.

“We’ve got some big-ticket costs already taken care of,” she said.

Advertisement

Leibowitz said phases of construction will occur as the funding is available for each step. The grant from Good Shepherd Food Bank will cover site work, a concrete pad, framing, doors, windows, a heating and electrical system and shelving.

“Our intent is not to borrow money,” she said. “I have a reputation for being tighter than bark to a tree, and I will squeeze every dollar that I possibly can and stretch it as far as it will go. The community has supported the food bank really nicely in the three years that we’ve had it, and I’m very hopeful that the community will continue to support the food bank and recognize that this is an important resource for the community.”

The exterior of the current Litchfield Food Bank on Richmond Road. The group broke ground on its new building this week after receiving a grant from Good Shepherd Food Bank in February. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

During the groundbreaking, Litchfield Town Manager Kelly Weissenfels and Selectmen Gary Parker and Clarence “Rick” Gowell showed support for the new building.

“It’s wonderful to see the food bank find a permanent location,” Weissenfels said, adding that it’s a vital part of the community.

The immediate next steps are to proceed with site work. Leibowitz said local contractor Larry Nadeau is going to begin soon, potentially as early as next week.

Leibowitz said she has heard nothing but positive feedback from the community about the upcoming move.

“Everyone I’ve talked with agrees that it’s a good idea,” Leibowitz said, “that it’s needed and is serving a very important function. I have had not a single negative response. This community has brought us eggs, brought us vegetables, donated money, and it’s been extremely supportive. So I’m very excited about it. And I think it’s going to be a great resource for the community.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.