February 27, 2023

Bringing Food Home

The Show Must Go On by Jess Breithaupt

I don’t know about you, but I’m used to cancellations now in a way that I wasn’t before the pandemic. Family gatherings and dinner parties have been cancelled last minute, due to illness, more times than I can count. Schools have closed for weeks at a time, sports games have been postponed due to “reasons beyond our control”, and I’m getting used to it. Sometimes I expect something to be cancelled, and I don’t even put it on the calendar. I’m coining this phenomena “cancellation normalcy”, and am urging you not to fall into this newfound societal mind trap.

It helps to remember that many sectors of our society never cancel, not even once, even when things are at their bleakest. Some folks that fall into that category are emergency personnel, hospital staff, grocery store workers, mail carriers, and one that I discovered in March of 2020: food pantry volunteers.
I didn’t know much about food pantries until the pandemic put a great big spotlight on them. Images depicting people waiting in mile long food pantry lines flooded news sites, as demand increased everywhere. I was forced into awareness of these services by the pandemic, as I’m sure many of you were too.
Food pantries in Lincoln County never considered closing down. They adapted to the environment by complying with mask mandates, and moving their operations outdoors by offering drive-through services. They suffered losses too; volunteers got sick, and some of them didn’t make it through to the other side.
Several of our area food pantries operate every single week, and many parts and pieces need to fall into place to make that happen. There are food pickups from Hannaford and other grocers, bags to pack, volunteers to assemble, emails to answer, and calls to make. This happens on the daily and the regular, whether it’s raining, snowing, sleeting, or someone is sneezing.

Last week we had a snow event on Thursday that threw a wrench in the charitable food system gears. Snow events shift operations a day or two, so for the Wiscasset food pantry, which operates on Thursday afternoons, everything moved to Friday. However, volunteers were still picking up donations Thursday, in the snow, and more volunteers were waiting to receive and pack those donations. Fresh food is time sensitive. You can’t wait a week and hand out the same package of lettuce- it will go bad between now and then.

Another aspect of food pantry distribution is the movement of prepared meals. We are a very lucky county, because the staff at Kieve-Wavus Education has stepped up to provide prepared meals for many of our pantries throughout the winter months. They make over 100 meals a week (sometimes 200 a week, depending on how many pantries are operating), and for them, the show must go on as well. The Thursday snow event was just an obstacle to move around; they pivoted and got the meals to the pantry a day early.

These meals are so important for our older adults that need food, and lack the mobility to prepare nutritious meals on their own. Meals on Wheels isn’t enough for these folks, and their government food benefits aren’t enough either. The food pantry provides a major service for them by providing more food and meals.
I hope that by spreading awareness of what goes into this system, you will have an appreciation for the safety net that serves many of our county residents. Next time you see that an event is cancelled, think about the tireless food pantry volunteers that just keep going. They’re the ones strapping creepers to their boots to walk on ice, donning ponchos to shed the rain, and loading their vehicles with food donations up to the roof. It’s happening right here in this county, every day. If you want to learn more or support these groups, please reach out to me at

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