The Ecumenical Food Pantry at The Second Congregational Church in Newcastle will soon add evening hours in order to reach people who can’t make it to the pantry during its regular hours each Tuesday morning.
The pantry is open from 9:30-11 a.m. every Tuesday. As of April 10, it will also be open from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month. The evening hours will coincide with the church’s free community suppers from 5-6 p.m.
“We’re hoping that people who come for the suppers will see the free food in the pantry and will sign up for the pantry program,” pantry co-manager Linda Sandefur said.
The Ecumenical Food Pantry is a volunteer organization supported by eight churches in Damariscotta, Newcastle, and Nobleboro. The pantry has provided food and support to local families since 1989, when it was conceived by Ruth Ives and Gail Berry.
Food for the program comes from Good Shepherd Food Bank, the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program, Hannaford Supermarket, Main Street Grocery, Twin Villages Food Bank Farm, Morning Dew Farm, Straw’s Farm, Rising Tide, and local food drives.
Last year, the pantry introduced its Weekend Backpack Program, which provides healthy snacks to local children in need.
“When the children are at school, they’re fed breakfast and lunch, but when they’re home on weekends, there may be times when there’s not enough food available,” Sandefur said.
Eligible participants include children who receive free or reduced-price lunches at area schools, and those who participate in programs designed to support low-income families.
Current participants include Great Salt Bay Community School, Nobleboro Central School, Dresden Elementary School, Salt Bay Head Start, and Waldoboro Area Head Start.
“We put healthy snacks in bags so the kids can access them,” Sandefur said. The snacks include canned tuna or chicken, fresh fruit, granola bars, fruit cups, trail mix, nuts, microwavable popcorn, and raisins. There are currently 120 children enrolled in the program.
The food pantry also distributes free diapers to parents of young children, and a social worker is available Tuesday mornings to help with housing issues.
Around 65 families benefit from the pantry, with a total of 3,385 visits in 2018, when the pantry provided over 80,000 pounds of food.
Char Corbett, pastor of The Second Congregational Church, who came to the area in 2017 from Windsor, Conn., said she’s impressed with the caring and involvement in the community.
“I think (the food pantry and the free suppers) will be a wonderful collaboration,” Corbett said. “It will encourage families to come in and have a hot meal, and it will be accommodating to working families to come in and use the food pantry resources.
“It’s such an amazing collaboration, and for me, coming from another place, it’s been something amazing to see, and I really champion it. “
Towns eligible for the program are Damariscotta, Newcastle, Nobleboro, Waldoboro, Bristol, South Bristol, Edgecomb, Bremen, Wiscasset, and Jefferson.
The pantry program is managed by Sandefur and co-manager Mike Westcott; a board of directors that includes President Carol Hartman, Treasurer William Judd, and Secretary Jennifer Ober; and a staff of around 20 volunteers.
Located on the bottom floor of the church at 51 Main St., the pantry is always looking for volunteers from 8-11:15 a.m. Tuesday and now during the Wednesday hours. Volunteers must be able to lift up to 30 pounds. For more information, call 563-5597 or go to newcastlefoodpantry.org.