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Nonprofit Gets Creative to Deliver Food to Maine Islands

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This Maine Seacoast Mission pantry in Cherryfield has expanded its hours to serve more people since the COVID-19 pandemic. (Maine Seacoast Mission/Facebook)
This Maine Seacoast Mission pantry in Cherryfield has expanded its hours to serve more people since the COVID-19 pandemic. (Maine Seacoast Mission/Facebook)
May 29, 2020

BAR HARBOR, Maine - Demand for emergency food from food pantries is up around 50% in Maine since the COVID-19 outbreak. And when you live on an island, it can be that much harder to get.

The Maine Seacoast Mission has gotten creative to deliver groceries to people on the islands who need them.

They had to stop using their boat for deliveries when the shutdown began in March. Instead, they quickly coordinated with Penobscot Air to fly the food in.

Sharon Daley is the director of Island Health for the Mission, and also an island resident. She describes what many islanders have been facing.

"They've got a double issue with food," says Daley. "First of all, people not working - lobstering being bad, sternmen not being able to earn any income right off. Then, there's also the issues of getting the food out to the islands."

The Maine Seacoast Mission also has helped set up food pantries on Matinicus and Frenchboro islands with the support of the Area Interfaith Outreach or 'AIO' Food Pantry and the Bar Harbor Food Bank.

Since early March, the Seacoast Mission's food program has more than doubled the number of people it is serving throughout Downeast Maine, from about 400 to more than 950. Daley worries that the summer tourism economy could mean more tough times for locals.

"People that normally come to the island and rent for short-term, if they can't go out for 14 days after they get here, and they're renting for two weeks," says Daley, "I think a lot of those people won't come."

And if the seafood industry doesn't pick up, and government stimulus checks run out, Daley and others at the Maine Seacoast Mission expect there could be more people needing food assistance this summer.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - ME