ORONO — Since 2017 more than $56,000 has been raised for food assistance programs on University of Maine System campuses through the UCU Ending Hunger on Campus campaign, traditionally held during the month of December.

This year, University Credit Union is matching donations dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $25,000 and has broadened the scope of its “Ending Hunger” campaign to include community-based food assistance programs, which are experiencing unprecedented demand due to the coronavirus pandemic. Funds donated through UCU will go to the Maine Credit Unions Campaign for Ending Hunger and provide a critical source of supplement funding to help cover local food assistance programs’ operational expenses and inventory.

“The fight against food insecurity on our campuses and in our communities has never been more urgent, and the battleground has shifted, as many traditional students who might otherwise be on campus are home due to the pandemic, as are many nontraditional students and families who live and work locally,” said UCU President and CEO Renee Ouellette. “By broadening the scope of our annual Ending Hunger on Campus Campaign, we can better direct resources to food assistance programs within reach of as many Mainers as possible.”

As a state with a large seasonal economy that was already struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine routinely sees a rise in demand for food assistance during cold weather months. Recent data from Feeding America predicts a 25 percent increase in food assistance demand for Maine this winter compared to last year. Local food banks and pantries have been anticipating such a scenario, but more support is needed to ensure they are adequately prepared.

Anyone can participate in the UCU Ending Hunger campaign and have their donation matched; credit union membership is not required. To make the most of planned giving this holiday season, please consider making a socially distanced donation online at https://campaignforendinghunger.org/ucu/. To give back another way, consider donating time by contacting a food pantry in your local area to ask how you can safely volunteer.

For information on becoming a UCU member, please visit ucumaine.com.

University Credit Union is an innovative, full-service cooperative institution designed to advance the financial well-being of its member owners in every stage of life. UCU is the sixth largest credit union in Maine in terms of total assets and total members and has eight retail locations across the state located in Orono, Bangor, Farmington, Gorham, Portland and Presque Isle. For more information visit www.ucumaine.com.