Health precautions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic have caused Preble Street Resource Center to change the way it provides daily meals, the city’s shelters have put new protocols in place, Amistad has suspended all support services and Milestone Recovery has temporarily halted a key outreach program.
“We are still preparing food and plan on continuing to feed people, but we are doing that to-go,” said Preble Street’s Executive Director Mark Swan. “That is considered best practice right now for the crisis we are in. That is what everybody is doing.”
The Preble Street Soup Kitchen serves about 300 people during each of its breakfast, lunch and dinner sessions, but Swann said he worries that number may rise as the coronavirus takes a greater hold in the community.
“We are expecting things to get worse, not better, as people lose their jobs and go without a paycheck,” he said. “Now the numbers are steady, but looking ahead gives us great concern about our capacity.”
The 14th annual “Stuff the Bus” program was another huge success.
Wednesday, volunteers unloaded buses stuffed with food items for the Preble Street Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry.
It’s the largest food drive in Maine, and is put on by Bristol Seafood and radio station “Rewind 100.9.”
Thanks to your generosity, several tons of food were delivered.
“Our food pantry operation is reaching people further and further away, as more people struggle with food insecurity and many communities are under resourced,” Preble Street Senior Director of Food Programs Joe Conroy said.
A pot of turkey and tomatoes, stewed with turmeric, needs stirring. The plantains are prepped, along with fish spiced with garlic and ginger. At Preble Street, a social service agency in Portland, Maine, fans meant to cool the kitchen’s heat amplify the aroma.
On a recent afternoon, a handful of volunteers cooked 600 meals to be served at a local sports arena. Lined with cots instead of bleachers, the Portland Expo Center became an emergency shelter in June for the sudden arrival of Central African asylum-seekers. The ethnic food is meant to replace fear of the unknown with the comfort of familiar flavors. Fufu, a starchy staple, is a favorite.
Several meal prep volunteers are asylum-seekers themselves. They slip in and out of French, Portuguese, and Lingala with the ease of changing aprons. Some have already found temporary housing. Yet day after day, they keep turning up to cook for fellow newcomers.
Along with the need for shelter, asylum seekers also need food, as they are legally barred from working during the transition.
Preble Street is stepping up to make sure asylum seekers don’t go hungry.
Preble Street Executive Director Mark Swann is a guest on Maine Points. There are many ways to describe Preble Street: drop-in centers, soup kitchens, food pantry, shelters, social work services, supported housing. These descriptions only tell part of the Preble Street story. Marks talks about the many ways Preble Street works to turn hunger and homelessness into opportunity and hope through programs that operate 24/7/365 and meet the needs of 500 people each day.
… Over the past year, Good Shepherd Food Bank and Preble Street have undertaken the first research effort of its kind to better understand trends of hunger and food pantry usage in Maine.
The results from more than 2,000 surveys completed in 244 towns in every county show how much Mainers are depending on local food pantries, stretching the capacity of a network that was set up for emergencies. A quarter of those surveyed had lost SNAP benefits in the past year, and 59 percent said they were using pantries more this year than last.
“It was really when the recession hit,” said Kristen Miale, Good Shepherd Food Bank’s president. “They saw the spike, and it has yet to get better.”
Eighty-two percent of those surveyed at their local food pantries use pantries once a month or more often. Seventy-three percent have made trade-offs, having to choose between paying for food or other necessities.
Pantries are filling a need they weren’t designed to fill, said Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street, which offers social work, housing and meals. Good Shepherd Food Bank’s pantry network — of which Preble Street is a part — gives out 21 million meals a year, while SNAP is responsible for the equivalent of 86 million meals.
“The whole idea of food pantries really was about an emergency measure, neighbor helping neighbor when something unexpected happened, catastrophe happened, and when people needed one-time, short-term help,” Swann said. “What we’ve seen is people have been coming back over and over and over again.” …
Read the full article here.
… Donna Yellen, chief program officer for Preble Street, said the agency’s Joe Kreisler Teen Center reached capacity Wednesday night. The center has 24 beds. Yellen said the staff brought in cots to accommodate the overflow.
Florence House on Valley Street is a 40-bed shelter for women. When it reaches capacity, women are sent to the Oxford Street Shelter. Florence House exceeded its capacity Wednesday night, according to Yellen.
Yellen said the overflow area at Preble Street would be full Thursday night. During the day, Preble Street “was packed, the need is so great.” Preble Street serves three meals a day to the city’s homeless population.
“Homelessness, especially in these weather conditions, is life-threatening,” Yellen said …
WPOR’s Sarah Sullivan hosts this week’s Maine Points! This week’s episode is about the Preble Street shelter in Portland’s downtown.
Walking briskly up Exchange Street and realizing it was time to break out a warmer jacket, I was stopped by a man who saw the “I voted today” sticker I was wearing. “Excuse me,” he said. “Who did you vote for?… Did you vote for the people who won’t increase the price of food? I want to vote, but I don’t know who won’t increase the price of food. Who should I vote for?”
I could hear a sense of urgency in his voice, and I knew this was not a rhetorical question or even a question about which political party would do better. No, the core of his question was about food – survival.
Read more …
… As Mainers, we should be ashamed of the growing numbers of kids and seniors with empty stomachs, fewer households eligible for crucial help augmenting their meager budgets, and more and more people lining up at food pantries and soup kitchens.
At Preble Street, we serve 1,200 meals each day at three soup kitchens and provide emergency groceries for up to 200 families each week. But we don’t want to.
Mainers need real solutions that end hunger, not just more hunger relief …