Good Shepherd Food Bank, Maine’s leading hunger-relief organization, opened a new Hampden-based food distribution center on September 26, 2019.

After nearly half a decade and $5 million in renovations, Good Shepherd Food Bank has completed its distribution facility in Hampden, providing an additional — often, more convenient — hub for partner organizations and donors working to feed the hungry across the state.

Good Shepherd Food Bank purchased the shuttered printing plant from Bangor Publishing Co. in 2015. Since then, with the help of temporary freezers and cold storage, the organization has used parts of the facility to help distribute food donations around the state while renovating other areas of the building.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

With the renovations complete, the building boasts three state-of-the-art temperature and humidity controlled cold storage units that allow for year-round distribution and storage of fresh local produce, seafood, meat, dairy and other perishable products. The building also includes a dry storage space for shelf-stable products, as well as areas for sorting, inspecting, packing and distributing food.

The Good Shepherd Food Bank works with more than 400 partner agencies across the state, including food pantries, schools and senior programs, to provide meals to hungry Mainers. In 2018, the organization distributed more than 25 million meals throughout Maine. With the new facility, it aims to distribute more than 10 million more in years to come.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Why establish a distribution center in Hampden?

According to 2018 data from the United States Department of Agriculture, Maine is the 12th most food insecure state in the nation and the most food insecure state in the northeast. More than 13 percent of the state’s population is food insecure, which means that they lack of access to the quantity and quality of food necessary for a healthy and active lifestyle.

The Good Shepherd Food Bank sees the single greatest obstacle to meeting its goal of combating food insecurity in the state was the maxed-out capacity and location of their existing 56,000-square-foot Auburn distribution center. The new Hampden facility will support the Auburn facility in its efforts.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

“[The new facility] brings us the capacity we need to distribute meals,” said Kirsten Miale, president of the Good Shepherd Food Bank. “We’ve outgrown the facility in Auburn.”

The Hampden facility will serve as a hub to distribute fresh food to regional hunger-fighting partners. Miale said that at least 150 of Good Shepherd Food Bank’s 400 partner agencies will be served out of the Hampden facility.

“This is just a game-changer to get more [food], get more [food] locally and get [food] more often,” said Jennifer Jones, executive director of the Bar Harbor Food Pantry, one of the Good Shepherd Food Bank’s regional partner organizations.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

The new location is especially important for partners in more rural counties such as Aroostook, Hancock and Washington counties, where residents experience higher percentages of food insecurity than other counties in the state. Rural counties face unique food insecurity problems that Good Shepherd Food Bank’s partners are equipped to tackle, Miale said.

“There are a lot of different programs in urban and suburban areas to help communities in need,” Miale said. “In rural communities, our partners are often the only ones there.”

That said, food insecurity knows no bounds. Despite their relative wealth, southern counties in Maine such as York and Cumberland have the highest numbers of food insecure Mainers simply due to the population density of their urban centers.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

The Hampden facility will also host volunteer programs, like packing emergency food bags to distribute to health care providers for patients struggling with chronic illness as part of their Community Health and Hunger Program.

“It raises awareness to see the work that we do, and hopefully those volunteers will become ambassadors,” Miale said.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Unveiling the Hampden distribution center

The Thursday ribbon-cutting ceremony also marked the completion of the organization’s $5 million fundraising effort to renovate the former printing plant, known as their Food for All Campaign. More than 900 donors contributed to the campaign, with gifts ranging from $1 to $1 million.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Miale revealed that the plant will be called the Hannaford Center, in honor of the long-standing partnership between the Good Shepherd Food Bank and Hannaford Supermarkets dating back to the founding of the organization.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

“It’s a recognition of our longest time donor and friend,” Miale said.

“This is an investment in Maine’s future,” Miale said. She struggled to cut the ceremonial ribbon at first, but with the help of her partners on stage, she was able to do it.