You may be surprised to learn that close to 17 percent of our local residents sometimes run out of food and cannot afford to buy more. This is called “food insecurity.” Feeding America, an organization that conducted studies on hunger in Maine, found that more than half of the people receiving supplemental food from food pantries were children under 18 and seniors over 60. People seeking assistance come to the Tree of Life Food Pantry because they have lost a job; have a disability, chronic illness or injury; have lost a partner or spouse; or are elderly and living on a fixed income. Most people do not come to the pantry every week [90 percent last year]. They come when their funds or food supplies run low.
When families have limited resources, they often buy inexpensive food that is filling but not very nutritious. The problem is not access to calories but access to nutritious food. Eating too much high-calorie processed food leads to chronic health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure. Healthier foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and dairy products cost more and often require more preparation.
At Tree of Life, we recognize that giving away free food only provides a temporary respite…but we have an opportunity to help people make healthier food choices and manage their limited resources more effectively. Recently the Board of Directors adopted a Nutrition Policy to guide our purchasing toward more fresh healthy food. Every week, in addition to shelf stable food, we offer fresh milk, eggs, onions, potatoes, carrots, bananas, other seasonal fruits and vegetables and frozen meat and/or fish. We also have basic baking ingredients like flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar and yeast to support home meal preparation.
Frequently we offer tasting samples and recipes to introduce new foods and food preparation ideas. Last spring we distributed seeds and bedding plants to encourage home gardening. In our lobby we host representatives from local social service agencies and provide printed information about nutrition and local resources.
The Tree of Life Food Pantry is a 501(c)(3) charity. About two-thirds of our budget comes from the sale of donated clothing in the Turn-Style. The rest is funded through grants and individual donations. Over 120 volunteers keep our two operations running. Last year we were able to provide supplemental food for 200-plus families a week. We spent $127,000 on food.
The food pantry is open on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Turn-Style is open every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The shop has extended Thursday hours to 5 p.m. at least until Christmas. To learn more, visit our website [treeoflifepantry.org] or our Facebook page [www..facebook.com/Treroflifepantry]. We also encourage you to come for a tour, join us as a volunteer, or send a donation to Tree of Life, P.O. Box 1329, Blue Hill, ME 04614.
Tree of Life Food Pantry