REGION — An increased need for services coupled with challenges in obtaining certain foods has caused some local food pantries to make changes in how holiday food is provided for those in need.

The Livermore Falls Advertiser held phone interviews with directors of several area food pantries and learned most pantries are seeing more requests, some food items are hard to find and there are ways the public can help.

For the past three or four years, Care and Share Food Closet in Farmington has been providing $25 gift cards to its regular patrons to purchase what they need, Leiza Hiltz-Scerbo said recently. “The gift cards are for food only,” she noted.

Hiltz-Scerbo said the closet needs to order turkeys three months in advance – when prices were double what sale prices nearer to Thanksgiving are. “We decided the gift cards were the best thing to do,” she stated. “At this point about 500 cards are needed. It is expensive, it adds up.

“Patrons receive approximately 100 pounds of food each month,” Hiltz-Scerbo said. “We give them a box of staples, every week they get five to 10 pounds of frozen products such as chicken, butter, cheese, milk, and fresh vegetables.

“Thank God for all of the local farmers – they have been wonderful to us,” she noted. “The Mainers Feeding Mainers program through the Good Shepherd Food Bank pays full retail value to the farmers so they don’t lose money. We received three truckloads of squash from a farmer in Starks, got things from the York farm. It has been awesome. It helps Maine farmers stay afloat, helps our people get fresh food that is not from half the world away.”


Ninety percent of farmers providing produce to the food closet don’t get paid, they just care and are trying to help local people, Hiltz-Scerbo added.

The Farmington food closet serves about 500 families a month – that is a lot, she said. “Numbers have definitely grown, there are a lot more people in need now than three months ago,” she noted. The closet has two satellite sites, one at St. Joseph’s Parish Hall serving 100 to 150 families every week, the other in the Stratton-Eustis area which feeds people all the way to Canada, Hiltz-Scerbo noted. There aren’t a lot in that area but it does reach out really far, she added.

Some foods are hard to get and the closet tries to stockpile certain foods, Hiltz-Scerbo said. Grain is a world-wide issue; buckwheat is purchased locally and the closet is only able to get a little so planning ahead is needed, she said. “It’s hard for us to even buy spaghetti right now,” she noted. “If we can even buy it, it costs twice as much. The total cost of food has increased 30%, that hits the food pantry.”

Hiltz-Scerbo said the food closet has help until the end of the year but after that it is going to be tough. “In the past the Bjorn Foundation has matched up to $10,000 in other donations made to the closet, has promised to continue that. The program usually runs through January so if people could donate now that would help.

“We are trying to stockpile now,” Hiltz-Scerbo noted. “We know prices are going to increase. If we can buy now we will be able to buy so much more.”

For more information call 207-778-0508.


Last year the Wilton Area Food Pantry ran into problems with its Thanksgiving baskets and has decided not to give them out any longer, Nye Mosher said. They will be giving out gift cards instead.

“The number of people seeking aid is up, not a lot, but it is starting – we are seeing more people,” Mosher said. “Right now there is no problem with us getting the food we need, right now we are okay but I can see that time coming.”

The pantry gets a lot of donations at this time of year, the pantry is building its stock up, Mosher said. “The Academy Hill [School food donation] pass down is Friday, Nov. 18,” he noted. “They always do a wonderful job for us.

“As soon as Christmas is over donations go the other way. Donations of food to the pantry are down this year.”

For more information call 207-645-3840.

It has been a busy year at the Industry food pantry, Amy Palmer said recently. Sign ups for Thanksgiving baskets started in September/October, there is a higher number than previous years, she noted. Shorey Chapel is donating 60 Hannaford gift cards for families to get whatever they want for meat as there is no place to store that, she stated.


Some items for the baskets have been set aside, although there has been difficulty locating cranberry sauce, Palmer noted. “Save-A-Lot can’t even get it, it’s $1.49 a can at Reny’s,” she said. “We are pretty well set on some things because we don’t wait until the last minute.”

The pantry has a plentiful supply of peanut butter, rice, and dried beans, Palmer said. “We are encouraging people to try new recipes,” she stated. “The Turkey Farm in New Sharon has provided squash, onions and potatoes. They have been very good at supplying things for us whenever we need them. Chicken quarters or legs have been obtained there at times.

“People and organizations have been very generous,” Palmer said. “Extension Homemakers have provided cleaning products, Shorey Chapel donates, we have gotten crates of apples. Anything that won’t keep is taken to St. Joseph’s in Farmington.”

Different people are using the pantry, there has been a slight uptick in numbers, Palmer said. “We are getting people who are seeking emergency boxes,” she noted. “People are coming from Starks, New Sharon, Skowhegan, Anson and Wilton.”

For more information call the Industry Town Office, 207-778-5050.

Salem United Methodist Economic Ministry is still getting some donated turkeys, Amy Viles said. Sometimes pork loins or hams are available, it depends on what Good Shepherd Food Bank has available when we order – it is the luck of the draw, she noted.


There is no sign up for Thanksgiving baskets, those who are having a hard time may be known, some people may ask, Viles said. “Typically we have 60 turkeys for sure,” she noted. “It is first come, with the elderly and those with children first.

Sign ups are required for the Christmas baskets, Viles stated. “Typically we give out 150 to 200,” she noted. “We order through the local grocery, we plan ahead, start to order now for the Christmas things. Those baskets will be given out Dec. 22.”

The number of people using the pantry has been fluctuating, food stamp amounts increasing has helped, Viles said. Some days there are still new people coming in, she noted.

There have been no foreseeable problems with food availability for the pantry, Viles added.

For more information call 207-678-2611.

The food pantry for the Tri-Town region is no longer affiliated with Tri-Town Ministerial Association and has a new name – Food Cupboard Jay, Livermore, Livermore Falls – but everything else will remain the same, Steven Coates said.


Already about a dozen more Thanksgiving baskets have been requested, Coates said. Turkeys for the baskets are usually obtained at Walmart but aren’t available this year, he noted. “We are going with $20 gift cards for the turkey, the other staples will be given out,” he stated. “Everything else is pretty much available.”

Requests for assistance this year are reaching 2020 levels, there was a decrease in numbers last year, Coates said. “About 300 individuals are being served,” he added.

For more information call 207-897-2441.

Members of Fayette Baptist Church donate Thanksgiving baskets for those in need, Sash Gieseman said. About 21 families ranging in size from an individual to 10 people requested one and even though the sign up period has ended, more people are asking for one, she noted. “The church holds a huge food drive at this time of year, so if we need to build extra baskets we can,” she added.

Families from Livermore Falls, Jay, Readfield, Livermore and Wilton also signed up for baskets, Gieseman noted. The Fayette Town Office provides gift certificates to help for Fayette residents, she said.

Food is purchased from the Good Shepherd Food Bank and lack of products wanted hasn’t been an issue, Geiseman said. “A local farm donated a lot of squash and American Legion gave four 50-pound bags of potatoes,” she added.

Gieseman said no one is ever turned away. “If there is food on the shelves it is available to them,” she noted. “They have been brought to our door for a reason.”

For more information call 207-685-9492.


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