BATH — Although donations of food are always appreciated, money is what the Bath Area Food Bank can use right now – dollars it can stretch to buy far more than the regular consumer.
The Food Bank’s pantry, at the rear of the former United Church of Christ building at 150 Congress Ave., resembles a local market, with products on display and plenty of refrigeration space. Customers in need come in with grocery lists determined by family size, pick up what they’re looking for, and check out with a staff member, who ensures the items match the list.
“We ask them, what do you want that I don’t have, and it was unanimous – eggs, cheese and butter,” Food Bank Executive Director Kimberly Gates said in a tour of the pantry Dec. 14. “I do buy that, but it’s gotten very costly.”
Costs have made budgeting particularly tough this year, along with the continued strong demand in the greater Bath communities the Food Bank serves.
“We sent out about 180 certificates” before Thanksgiving this year to schools in Bath, Arrowsic, Georgetown, Phippsburg, West Bath and Woolwich, Gates said.
The schools allotted those gift cards, each good for a turkey, to children of families most in need. That brought six new families through the pantry’s door, Gates recalled.
“That’s huge,” she said. “I was able to walk so many people back here and say, this is what we have. And they’ll come back.”
The pantry – which, starting in January will be open 5-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and closed Fridays – gave out 211 Thanksgiving dinners in all, and will likely offer 125 for Christmas, since many organizations chip in at that time.
Although fewer parents came last year, “this year we’ve got a really good turnout, which tells me, they needed it. It’s hard to come here.”
The Food Bank is feeding more people than ever. It offers multiple food pantries at Morse High School, and supplies area schools with granola bars and snacks, which are being consumed faster than Gates had planned.
But these things cost money; the gift cards alone totaled almost $4,000.
“We’re really hoping for monetary donations by Dec. 31 to help cover all of the holiday expenses,” Gates said. “We definitely went over (budget) for Thanksgiving, we are going to go over for Christmas. And I’m going to need to restock the (Morse) mini pantry before they leave for school break.”
Donations can be made by calling Gates at 650-3478, or logging onto bathfoodbank.org.
“Every dollar, I can turn into seven,” at places like the Good Shepard Food Bank and Brackett’s Market, Gates said. “Your $10 is going to be a $70 food donation.”
In praising the support she already receives from the community, she recalled a time when a person asked her for a size 3X coat. Although Gates’ bailiwick is food, she put the word out on Facebook.
“I had four coats within three days,” she recalled. “And one of those coats was brand new, with tags on it.”
Gates offered to cut the tags of that coat when the man came by to pick it up.
“‘No way,'” he responded proudly, Gates recalled. “‘I want everyone to know I have a brand new coat.'”
“It’s that type of community,” Gates said. “When I need, it’s there.”
Kimberly Gates, executive director of the Bath Area Food Bank, shows off produce donated by Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets.