BRUNSWICK — The Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program recently completed a $650,000 expansion that will allow the agency to better keep up with increasing demand for services.
Executive Director Karen Parker said the agency has seen an 80 percent rise in visits to its food pantry since 2003, and a 40 percent increase in hot meals served from the kitchen.
At a Nov. 18 press conference attended by more than 50 donors and supporters, Parker said the expansion will double storage space, and allow all perishable and non-perishable food to be kept onsite.
The 2,424-square-foot expansion includes a new annex behind 12 Tenney Way that will be used for storage, one walk-in freezer and one walk-in refrigerator, administrative space, and a larger waiting room.
Additionally, both buildings are now outfitted with 242 solar panels through a partnership with Revision Energy, which will offset 60 percent of the building’s energy, according to chief counsel Steve Hinchman.
Parker referred to the new freezer and refrigerator as the “the pieces de resistance.” The additional cold storage gives the agency more flexibility in food storage, particularly for seasonal items.
The walk-in units will allow MCCHP to keep and distribute fresh food outside of the growing season, and possibly house food for other pantries that lack the infrastructure.
“We’re really passionate about our freezer,” Parker joked Friday.
Last year, MCHHP rescued 797,000 pounds of food and served 318,000 meals, primarily from local supermarkets, businesses and farmers.
With the help of 175 volunteers each week, MCHPP’s core services include a grocery store-style pantry and a restaurant-style kitchen where free lunch is prepared. Visitors to the pantry must meet income requirements that place them at 150 percent of the federal poverty line, but the agency’s free meals have a “no- questions-asked” policy, Parker said.
Parker said while the expansion was initiated in response to rising need, it presents the opportunity for the agency to build out more services.
Lewiston-based Hebert Construction began work on the project five months ago, but fundraising began in March of 2015. Parker said her team noticed the need for more space after they installed a second walk-in refrigerator and freezer inside the original building, which ate into space used for non-perishable items and deliveries.
“The outpouring of community support for this organization and for the families that we serve was truly astounding,” Parker said. “Without fail, you continue year after year to ensure the MCHPP is able to improve and to grow and to feed anyone that comes to our door in need of food.”
Karen Parker, Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program executive director, in the agency’s new walk-in freezer, which doubles the food pantry’s storage of perishable foods.