Sandy Graul, volunteer coordinator at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, scoops cat food last Tuesday from a large bag into individual bags to be given out at the newly expanded pet pantry at the Lewiston facility, Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWSTON — Every Tuesday, families show up from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, desperate for pet food.

Usually it is for their cat or dog. Sometimes they need to feed a bird or bunny. The Lewiston shelter does its best to fill every need.

Now it’s working to fill those needs elsewhere as well.

The humane society is expanding its popular pet food pantry program to people food pantries and other community groups that feed people in need. If a family needs help with food, shelter officials figure, they probably need help feeding their animals, too.

“They don’t necessarily know they can get pet food assistance,” said Katie Lisnik executive director of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society.

The shelter has been offering its pet food pantry for years and has kept it running through the pandemic. Once a week, families arrive to pick up enough pet food to last them couple of weeks. Sometimes they can pick up other items as well, such as cat litter.

In 2020, the pet food pantry gave out more than 2,800 bi-weekly supplies for cats and more than 1,000 for dogs.

But not everyone knows about the pet food pantry tucked into a side room at the shelter. And for those who do, not everyone can get to it.

So the shelter has started offering a mobile version of its pet food pantry to charities that normally focus on feeding people. So far, the Leeds Community Church Food Pantry, Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry in Sabattus, 7th Day Adventist Church in Auburn and Poland Community Church Food Bank have all said yes to pet food. So have Lewiston-Auburn’s Meals on Wheels and Salvation Army programs.

“We’re partnering with any organization that wants to,” Lisnik said. “So far, everyone’s said yes. They’ve gotten the questions — ‘Do you have any pet food?’ ‘I need food for my dog,’ I need food for my cat.’ They’re definitely hearing it from their clients.”

The shelter hopes to expand further, possibly with the St. Mary’s food pantry in Lewiston and other Meals on Wheels and Salvation Army locations. The Greater Androscoggin Humane Society provides animal shelter services to 11 area towns and, ideally, would like a pet food pantry presence in all of them.

“I want to make sure if there is something going on in that town, whether it’s through a church or through a civic organization or what have you, that we have at least reached out to them and offered this,” Lisnik said. “So that nobody’s pets are going hungry just because they don’t know to come to the shelter.”

In the meantime, the humane society continues to focus on the partnerships it has, as well as its own original pet food pantry. That program is open every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Families who cannot get to Lewiston but need pet food assistance can call the shelter at 207-783-2311 and ask for Sandy Graul to get more information about closer options.

“We can help, hopefully, link people up at least to some resources in their community that will work for them,” Lisnik said.


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