“We turn what some would consider waste products into gold on someone’s table,” My jaw dropped as I stepped into the warehouse of the Good Shepherd Food Bank. Every time I was able to catch a breath, I was astounded again. There were aisle upon freezers lined with food products, daily products, cleaning supplies, pet food, hygiene products, ranging in price from free to sixteen cents per pound. After forty-five minutes and a tour from JoAn Chartier, the Public Relations Coordinator at the Good Shepherd Food-Bank, I got back into my car and muttered aloud, taken aback and exasperated, “WOW, that was remarkable.”

Last year alone, nearly nine million pounds of food was distributed to feed Maine’s hungry, as the Good Shepherd Food-Bank celebrated their 25th anniversary this year. The food bank started out in 1981, when JoAnn and Ray Pike discovered how much salvageable food grocery stores were throwing away. It was then they began rescuing food from dumpsters and feeding the needy. Never did they know that one day they would be able to feed the entire state of Maine, reaching out to all sixteen counties.

In 1994, the Good Shepherd Food-Bank partnered up with America’s Second Harvest, a national food bank network and the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization. It was in 1996 when Good Shepherd saw itself reach remarkable heights, becoming the largest food bank in Northern new England. And in 1999, with a generous donation from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, a distribution center was able to be opened up in Brewer, Maine; making Good Shepherd even more available to serve the hungry.

The food industry has ceased wasting food. products that may not be able to sell in our local groceries because of a mere dent are now being sent to the food bank instead of landfills. Last year alone, more than fifteen million pounds of food was saved from landfills. About 350 volunteers come into Good Shepherd each week, along with eighteen full time and nine part time employees, and inspect and sort through the food, saving all salvageable goods and sending damaged goods to pig farms in Maine, supporting nearly hundreds of them. Salvageable goods are then sorted by type (i.e. tomato products) and given a price. I was flabbergasted by the sign, “Vac cheese, ham, and chicken – 66 cents per pound.” Good Shepherd receives food from food donors and/or financial donors and then sends the food off to agencies, such as food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters, and then those agencies get the food to our state’s seniors, families, and children. Hannaford Supermarkets donates 60% of the food banks supply of salvage food and the Good Shepherd Food-Bank works with a network of over 500 Member Agencies.

Walking into the Good Shepherd Food-Bank you see a grocery cart full of food. On top is a sign telling you the grocers price for that full cart of good, and then the food bank’s price for that full cart of food. The grocers price: $176.14. Good Shepherd’s Price: $10.64. This is a savings of $165.50. Good Shepherd Food-Bank estimates that it saves the state of Maine between 13 and 16 million dollars each year. They are feeding nearly 70,000 people each month.

I felt that the younger generations should be informed about the food bank and all that it offers. It is always looking for more volunteers, and after a mere tour I was blown away. Ted Blaisdell, a student over at Edward Little High School, did outstanding work with the Good Shepherd Food-Bank. He made road signs, worked on a memorial garden for the food bank, and made picnic benches. his work was impressive as he says his project “including approximately 20 businesses, 40 people, and 265 hours to complete.” Ted also appreciates the enthusiasm of Ms. Gosselin and Ms. Chartier who work for the food bank stating, “I have a real respect for the work that Ms. Gosselin and Ms. Chartier do.” JoAn Chartier, herself, greatly appreciates the “outpouring of generosity” from the people of Maine. The luxury of having enough money to put food on the table is something I believe that we take for granted. It is something when looking at the numbers of how many people Good Shepherd feeds and how many people in the state of Maine are hungry.

The slogan of Good Shepherd this year is the idea of “Everyday we . . .” And I think that with some knowledge, a warm heart, and a helping hand we can contribute. Everyday we . . . could make a difference.

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