Helen Martin, director of the Canton Food Pantry, stands with her husband, Jim, recently at the pantry in the storage room of the Fire Station at 90 Turner St. They are among 14 volunteers who serve residents of Canton and Hartford. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

CANTON — Helen Martin has taken on the duties of director of the Canton Food Pantry, leading a group of 14 volunteers serving residents of Canton and Hartford.

She and her husband, Jim, have been volunteering with the food assistance program since January 2021, when Steve and Lisa Wills were in charge.

“Steve and Lisa Wills gave selflessly to the community for many years,” Helen said. “Their passing has been a huge loss, our patrons and workers loved them dearly. We are very appreciative of the endless hours they had given over the years.”

The pantry is giving out an average of 800 pounds of food a week donated by Rumford Hannaford and Mexico Walmart. A shipment from Good Shepherd comes once a month at low or no cost.

Through Good Shepherd’s Mainers feeding Mainers Program, they are able to purchase from local farmers at a discounted rate.

“There has been an increase in patrons since the fuel cost jumped a month ago,” Helen said. “Already there have been five new patrons, and they expect to see an increase in the need for assistance in their community.


The pantry volunteers are divided into 4 teams who donate their time one Sunday per month.

One change Helen has made is the way people pick up food on Sundays from 9 to 11 a.m. in the back of the Fire Station at 90 Turner St. Those coming for food arrive at 15-minute intervals on a rotating schedule that allows everyone a chance “to have first dibs, or last dibs, where you can take what you want,” she said.

“That has been very well received,” she said.

Before, nine to 12 carloads of people waited at a time to come inside to pick up food, she said.

Helen said they have begun stockpiling hams in freezers for the weekend before Easter, April 17, because the pantry will be closed that day.

“But we’re probably going to make some phone calls to see if we can get a discount on ham steaks,” she said. “A lot of our people are only one or two people and they are retired. So, a spiral ham is overwhelming to them,” she said.

Volunteers deliver food to residents, staff the pantry or pick up food at the grocery store and bring it to the pantry.

For more information contact Jim Martin at 212-5488 or email Helen Martin at cantonmefoodpantry@gmail.com.

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