Hoping to combat food insecurity on the Boothbay peninsula, the Community Resource Council opened a 24-hour community fridge behind the town office on Thursday, Oct. 27.
The development of the community fridge was a two-year undertaking by the Community Resource Council, a nonprofit organization with a mission to assist people in need in the Boothbay area. In the winter of 2020, the Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club approached the Community Resource Council about conducting a survey regarding food accessibility.
The survey found that clients with the Community Resource Council sought more access to the food pantry than was offered at the time. After visiting towns of Skowhegan and Kittery, the Community Resource Council decided to design its own community fridge.
“Our focus when finding a model that fit our town was more flexibility and amenity for people that used it,” Holly Stover, director of the Community Resource Council said.
After settling on a design, Stover approached the Boothbay Board of Selectmen in September 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the arrival of the building.
“Like everyone else we had to live with shortages in the economy because of the pandemic,” Stover said.
After the building and appliances arrived this past summer, a lack of electricians led to more delays. Once the building was wired the Community Resource Council scheduled the opening ceremony.
The small building sits behind the Boothbay town office and contains a chest freezer, fridge, and two shelves. Community members can donate perishable food items and home-cooked meals into the fridge or freezer.
Residents that wish to donate food must follow the instructions outlined on a poster inside the building. Fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, and cheese donations are acceptable. The two shelves inside the building allow residents to also donate other food products like canned food, dry cereal, and personal hygiene products like diapers, antibacterial wipes, and toilet paper. Donations of soda or soft drinks will not be accepted.
Raw meat or fish must be labeled and stored in the freezer, not the refrigerator.
Home cooked meals must be labeled with the dates, ingredients, and a list of any allergens. Anything that is not labeled correctly will be disposed of, Stover said.
Staff members with the Community Resource Council will check the fridge on a weekly basis to ensure all items are fresh, properly labeled, and stored correctly.
During the opening ceremony, Jessica Breithaupt, food security community connector for Healthy Lincoln County, donated some fresh vegetables to the fridge from the Lincoln County Gleaners.
Charles “Chuck” Cunningham, chair of the Boothbay Board of Selectmen, was also in attendance for the opening ceremony. Stover acknowledged the board’s cooperation with Community Resource Council on the project during her speech.
“We are a community that likes to step up when asked,” Cunningham said.
The ceremony concluded following a brief blessing of the community fridge by Pastor Todd Weir, of the Congregational Church of Boothbay Harbor.
“This food pantry is a visible sign of our hope that all people in our community will be fed, that no child goes to bed or school hungry,” Weir said.
The Community Resource Council was responsible for raising the funds for the project and receiving approval from the town of Boothbay. Stover said the project was paid for by donations from Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, First National Bank in Damariscotta, and the John T. Gorman Foundation.
Stover is hoping the fridge’s 24-hour availability will allow people to access food by reducing the stigma around food insecurity and leading to more communities embracing the idea.
“A lot of people feel ashamed for not being able to feed themselves or their children,” Stover said. “These are popping up all over the country and we hope this will lead to more in the local area.”
For more information about the Community Resource Council, including how to make a donation, go to crcboothbay.org.