In the close-knit community of Falmouth, Maine, community spirit is alive and well as neighbors help to ensure the Falmouth Food Pantry is fully stocked, including through fundraising events like the pre-pandemic dinner pictured above. Hannaford has supported this nonprofit organization through the Fight Hunger Bag Program.
Tell us about Falmouth Food Pantry.
Our primary mission is to provide support for families unable to meet the nutritional needs of their households or facing an emergency situation. In addition, we may assist them in meeting the demands of basic living needs through the donation of food, household goods, heating bills, electric bills, cost of prescription medicine, and/or rent assistance.
The whole concept was founded about 40 years ago in the back seat of the car of the school nurse who realized that some children were coming to school without breakfast. They would have lunch at school and then go home, but they wouldn’t really have supper or food for breakfast the next day. So the nurse would bring in some food or collect food from other teachers and secretly give it to these families. The idea of a way to provide food to those who needed it grew and grew, and the Food Pantry moved to different locations in town. In the spring of 2008, there was an opportunity for the Food Pantry to go to an area attached to the Falmouth Town Hall, and that’s where we’ve been operating ever since.
We are so fortunate to have a wonderful cadre of volunteers. Thanks to the help of Hannaford and these volunteers, during the pandemic we have been able to put together boxes of food. In the beginning, families drove to the Food Pantry and we would put boxes of food in their cars. Because that sometimes meant contact that was too close, we decided to deliver the food to the families’ doorsteps, step back, and just wave at the family members who came to the door to pick it up. Through this process we’ve been able to have very close relationships with the different families who are in need. Together we can decide the timing of the next delivery date and even figure out what size diapers their children will need.
Tell us a story that illustrates the good work you are doing.
Falmouth is a very close-knit community, and there are some people in our town who do a lot of knitting, no pun intended. They are very generous and starting in November, they give us hats, gloves and scarves of all sizes for adults and children. We have been able to give those out to our families with the boxes of food they receive from us.
One time before the pandemic when we were open for families to visit, a woman came to the Food Pantry wearing a hat in striking colors that she had chosen at an earlier visit. One of our volunteers saw her, went home, and knitted a scarf to match the hat in the same lovely identical colors. She brought that to the visitor, and they immediately became very good friends.
Another story has to do with a man who had never visited us before; he needed some food for himself and his wife. We gave him food, and as he started to walk away, he asked, “What do you do with all these boxes?” He pointed to a big stack of broken-down cardboard boxes, and we said we look for people to take them to the Transfer Station so they can be recycled. He said, “I’ll be back.” From then on for more than seven years, every couple of days he would drive his truck to our little recycling shed, fill it up with boxes, and take off to the Transfer Station. He didn’t expect to be given more food or anything else. He just wanted to help. He wasn’t able to get a paying job at that point, but he wanted to be useful to others in the Town.
What achievement or contribution to the community are you most proud of?
We are probably proudest of the fact that we’ve been able to continue operations during the pandemic and to serve almost as many families during this time as prior to the onset of COVID. During 2021, we served 3,527 families compared to 3,529 in 2019. In 2021, that meant over 10,500 family members.
It was a challenge to figure out what to do during the pandemic because, unlike some food pantries, we have a very small space, so we couldn’t continue to permit people to actually come into the Food Pantry. We tried to figure out what the best system would be. Although it’s very labor intensive for our volunteers to prepare the boxes and get things together with exactly the right thing for each family, I think safety-wise it’s the best we can do. Prior to the pandemic, the families were able to select the food they wanted. Now we have to guess and try to figure out what the families would like, but we text and call them to check in. We’re really in touch with them and do what we can, but we don’t pretend to be perfect.
We are probably proudest of the fact that we’ve been able to continue operations during the pandemic and to serve almost as many families in 2021 as in 2019 prior to the onset of COVID.
What do you want people to know about your organization?
Most importantly, I think it would be that we are flexible and passionate about helping those in need. We really want people to communicate with us, and we do our best publicizing our emergency phone number, our address, and all the ways to contact us. People have been very conscientious in letting us know about families who could use help and getting them connected with us.
Another important thing for people to know is how wonderful our community is in supporting the Food Pantry. We depend on the generosity of local businesses, civic organizations, and many individuals. The Falmouth Lion’s Club, the Knights of Columbus, the Falmouth Rotary Club, the Town Hall staff and Town Council, the school system, and the churches all support what we do. The students at the school do food drives at different grade levels, which is wonderful. Once a year we have a big fundraising event, and the community is always very supportive. Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Falmouth High School students, local businesses, members of local faith groups. Everybody in town helps at that event in every way they can. At holiday time during the last couple of years, preschool students made cheery gift cards for us to give to our families. It’s just so great having the full spirit of the community!
We are flexible and passionate about helping those in need.
How did you hear about the Hannaford Helps Reusable Bag and Bloomin’ 4 Good programs?
Because I go to Hannaford all the time! I’m there not only for the Food Pantry but also personally for my own family. There is signage for your programs and really great publicity. The cashiers even mention them. Hannaford has been very generous, and the Falmouth Food Pantry is so lucky to have the help of the people at the West Falmouth Hannaford. They know our names. They go out of their way to help lug heavy things. They order eggs for us in advance so we can come at a convenient time, and they often have them ready for us on the loading dock.
How will you use the funds raised from these programs?
Definitely we will use it to buy food for the Food Pantry. By the way, we also use the Hannaford Rewards Program to buy food for the Food Pantry. For instance, in December we were able to get one entire case of large white eggs for the Food Pantry without paying any additional money because of the Hannaford Rewards Program, and it was wonderful. Thank you, Hannaford!