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Easing the Hunger

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or many of us there is a lot to be thankful for, not only doing the holiday season, but year round. In fact, many families end up throwing out much of what we buy at the grocery store because we have so much to spare. According to Natural Resources Council of Maine, “48 million Americans, including 208,000 Mainers, are food insecure. Maine ranks 12th in the nation and first in New England for food insecurity” yet we throw away close to 40 percent of our food.

      15.8 percent of the population struggle with hunger each day in Maine, however as a result of endless generosity on behalf of The Saco Food pantry and TA student council there was some hope for local low income families. Those lower class families who are eligible for assistance receive help from the Saco Food Pantry, which helps put food on their tables. Thornton Academy has held the annual Thanksgiving food since 2005, since that time they have aided numerous families in Saco; giving all the families something to be thankful about.

      The Saco Food pantry serves as a non profit organization helping residents in Saco. Recipients of food are permitted to visit the pantry once a month. Bob Nicholas, founder and Operations Manager is incredibly thankful for Thornton’s food drive participation and said, [quote]“They have over the years, in conjunction with various events, always managed to set a goal, come through and then surpass it by just that ‘little bit’. While unbelievable to some I guess, for all at TA nothing is impossible; not even a dream. This donation from TA is often the cornerstone of all donations to the pantry and helps to insure the shelves stay full. To all at TA and the Middle School for your generosity to those in need, we offer our deepest heartfelt thanks and best wishes for all your future endeavors[/quote] .”

     The food pantry has occupied 67 Ocean Park Rd since Nov. 13th 2003 prior to that they had multiple temporary locations. It is safe to call this their permanent location home, the contract to purchase the place took part on October 29, 2004. It was purchased from Bob and Evelyn Tyrrell for $175,000.00.

     Prior to the pantry Nicholas was a commercial truck driver, once he retired and settled down he became a proud member of the pantry in 1996. At the time the pantry was located at The First Parish Church, Bob was stocking shelves once a week. With no kids Bob has devoted his retirement to the pantry and considers his peers and fellow volunteers  to be family. Bob had been recruited to volunteer by a local guy, the chairman of the pantry then Bryce Miline. Bryce held the chair for twenty one years prior to resigning, originally he was nudged by Helen to accept the job. Both Helen and Bryce had been with the pantry since 1985 for the start of a never ending battle with hunger. Helen herself was born in Biddeford and is a Thornton Alumni, she graduated in 1945 where she went onto to study classics at Bates college before graduating in 1949.

     Nearly everyone who volunteers has great things to say about the pantry, for all the right reasons. “Every year, when we do our food drive, I am more and more amazed with my community and the members of the council. My favorite part of the job as student body president is getting to help plan and participate in our community fundraising events because they are so humbling. The thought that you made a significant difference in someone else’s life by just doing a simple task is beyond rewarding and the level of participation makes me proud of the community I live in.” Natalie Nadeau class of 2017, student body president. The purpose for the food pantry is never ending, it’s an ongoing uphill battle to say the least. Due to perseverance, donations and food drives the Saco food pantry is allowed to assist others. In total $887.00 and over 3,000 food items filling over forty banana boxes with an estimated weight of 2,400 plus pounds were donated this year by Thornton Academy.

     What keeps many of the volunteers going is their dedication to their cause, needless to say they appreciate recognition. “The food pantry is such a welcoming, awesome place for people in need and also a great place to volunteer and donate too!  The people who volunteer their time make it a better place to go!  Bob is such a hard worker and he is such a loving person.  He makes everyone smile.  It’s an incredible feeling that makes your heart feel good about giving and helping out wherever it’s needed. We are very fortunate to have people in our Saco community to care enough to volunteer their time on a daily basis for the Saco Food Pantry,” said Guidance Administrative Assistant Mary Ann Martin and senior class advisor.

     In 1977 there were three food pantries open in southern Maine, today there are 80 food pantries. Nearly a quarter of these pantries have opened in the past five years. DHHS reported a 38 percent increase in food stamp usage between 2008 and 2012. According to food pantries provide food to more than 25,000 people in southern Maine. USDA ranks Maine 9th in the nation and first in New England for food insecurity. At the end of the day there is a growing hunger in recent years, yet organizations like The Saco Food Pantry are doing their part in making a difference locally.

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