Donations help Bath food pantry weather storm's one-two punch

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BATH — The Bath Area Food Bank lost two-thirds of its frozen and refrigerated inventory after being without power for almost a week because of the Oct. 30 wind and rain storm.

Coupled with the food losses was a spike in demand. Families in need of assistance nearly doubled early this month, and of the 50 families at the food pantry Nov. 7, 11 had never been there before, Executive Director Kimberly Gates said Tuesday.

“We get new families monthly, but it’s like two or three, or four, maybe,”  Gates said. “Never 11 in one day.”

In her 14 years with the organization, she said, it’s the first time she’s seen such an influx.

“Their fear is, obviously, that they lost everything; their freezers are empty,” Gates said. “They probably qualify to be at the food pantry, but they’ve just been able to just get by. But this put them over the edge, and they need to reach out.”

Gates faced having to dig into her budget for December and January. Then the Maine Credit Union League stepped in with a $2,500 check, followed by a $3,000 donation from Hannaford Bros. Co.

Now gates expects to be back at full inventory before the end of the month.

“It is going to take me time to get up to speed, but with $5,500 right off the bat, it’ll happen fast,” she said, adding that she anticipates being able to meet budget by the end of the year.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching, the biggest thing Gates needs is not food, but money.

The pantry needs about $200,000 a year in cash to operate, along with $195,000 worth of food. With each pound of food valued at $1.58, the cash pays for more than 300,000 pounds of food.

“It is a big scary number, but in order to keep our doors open, that’s what we have to come up with,” she said.

“Every dollar, I can turn into seven,” at places like the Good Shepard Food Bank and Brackett’s Market, Gates said in an interview last year. “Your $10 is going to be a $70 food donation.”

Food drives for the pantry will be held at Shaw’s, 1 Chandler Drive, and Brackett’s, 185 Front St., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 19. The items will be distributed Tuesday, Nov. 21.

The food pantry is at the rear of the former United Church of Christ building at 150 Congress Ave.

Donations can be made at, or mailed to P.O. Box 65, Bath ME 04530. Checks can be made to the Bath Area Food Bank, and non-perishable food can be left inside the glass doors at the pantry headquarters.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Kimberly Gates, executive director of the Bath Area Food Bank. The Maine Credit Union League and Hannaford Brothers Co. donated funds to help the food bank restock after a nearly week-long power outage.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.