Bath food bank fights post-holidays donation slump
BATH — Although giving was bountiful during the holidays, the Bath Area Food Bank now needs help.
"January, February is our worst time," Kimberly Gates, pantry spokeswoman and administrator of the Bath Area Mobile Food Truck, said last month. "Everything sort of stops."
To help make up for the slump, the Rotary Club of Bath will hold a "fill-a-bus" food drive, "because they know that the need is so great at that point," Gates said.
The bus will be parked outside the Shaw's in Bath. Customers will be handed grocery lists showing much-needed items, and asked to buy one or two items to donate on their way out of the store.
"That's been very successful for us in the past; we've done it at Wal-Mart every November," Gates said, noting that the bank received about 4,000 pounds of food the last time.
The most in-demand commodity? Peanut butter, which Gates called "liquid gold."
The non-profit food bank, which she said has experienced a 16 percent increase in demand since August, has three components: food pantry, soup kitchen and clothing exchange. The bank served more than 200 families in December, Gates said.
She tries to buy at least 70 percent of the bank's food from the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn, she said, "because we do get a pretty good discount. ... For every dollar, I can buy $7 worth of food at Good Shepherd."
The pantry provides one box of food each month for families in the bank's service area, which includes Bath, Arrowsic, Georgetown, Phippsburg, West Bath and Woolwich. The pantry is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 5-7 p.m. at the United Church of Christ Faith Community Church, 150 Congress Ave., and can be reached at 737-9389.
The soup kitchen offers meals to anyone, and is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m.-noon at the First Baptist Church, 851 Washington St., which can be reached at 798-2239. Patrons are asked to use the Elm Street entrance.
The clothing exchange, which was housed in the Corliss Street Church until it was no longer financially feasible, Gates said, is on hold until a new location can be found.
The food truck, which is helping to make up for the loss of the clothing exchange by offering winter clothing, has been serving between 250 and 300 families on the last Tuesday of the month, Gates said. The truck is at Grace Episcopal Church, 1100 Washington St.
In these lean months, Gates said, "my clients are having to make the decision on whether to buy oil or food, and being able to come to the Bath Area Food Bank makes that decision a little bit easier."
"The need's more this year than it's ever been," she added. "It gets bigger every year."
While many people want to volunteer in the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving and Christmas, Gates said, "we could really use (them) in January ... in February and March."
Those interested in donating can send food or money to the bank at P.O. Box 65,
Bath, Maine 04530. Checks should be made payable to "Bath Area Food Bank." Nonperishable food can be left inside the front doors of the UCC church.
Log onto bathfoodbank.org for more information.