By Gillian Graham; Portland Press Herald
By 9:30 a.m. Monday, the team had already sent 500 breakfast packages out the door, bound for people staying in shelters and motels, at the YMCA and on the streets. The tacos, all 860 of them, would be delivered for dinner. Up next were 420 hot ham and cheese, and meatloaf sandwiches for lunch.
This is typical day for Preble Street’s emergency food programs, but the location is all new.
In the past three weeks, the agency has shifted kitchen work to its new Food Security Hub, the first facility of its kind in Maine focused on food insecurity. Preble Street leaders say that moving into the 30,000-square-foot building on Darling Avenue in South Portland will allow them to increase the number of meals prepared, improve nutrition and reduce waste by preserving more donated produce, and connect with anti-hunger and social justice organizations to address hunger in a more holistic and collaborative way.
“I really see this as a space for people to all come together and work on food insecurity issues as a collective community. I know when we put our resources together we can do more with them,” said Natalie Varrallo, the agency’s food programs director.
The Food Security Hub comes at a critical time in Maine, when emergency food programs report that record numbers of people have been reaching out for assistance since the start of the pandemic. Good Shepherd Food Bank, which serves a network of programs across the state, estimates that the number of people experiencing food insecurity has leapt up by 25 percent.