By Haley Hersey, Staff Writer
Martin’s Point Health Care has recently donated $5,000 to the University of Southern Maine, which was used to open a food pantry on the Gorham campus, states a press release from USM’s Office of Public Affairs. The initial closure of campus due to COVID-19 inspired Martin’s Point to donate a total of $20,000 to be used for various programs at USM to support students with “essentials needs like food, rent, and medical treatment.”
In addition to the other donations, Martin’s Point Health Care also donated $2,500 to the Senior College on the Lewiston-Auburn campus (LAC). These funds were used to purchase IT equipment and support due to isolation problems derived from COVID-19.
USM already has a food pantry on the Portland campus (which is relocating to 102 Bedford St.), but the new funding allowed for a location in Lower Brooks in Gorham. There are no eligibility requirements for the self-assessed food pantries, which allow for pre-order pickups and in-person shopping. Additionally, they take dietary restrictions and requests into consideration when serving students.
Madeleine Lutts, the Graduate Assistant for the campus food pantry said, “Once we received the generous donation from Martin’s Point, we were able to purchase enough food to start offering the pre-order pick-up service for students in Gorham in addition to our Portland Campus Food Pantry, which is a grocery store shopping model. We found it to be convenient for residential students, especially during Covid-19, to easily order food online, let us know of any special dietary restrictions or requests, and then pick up their food weekly on Fridays in Gorham.”
After the closure imposed by COVID-19, Lutts maintained that the food pantry was still accessible by students and community members who utilized its services by appointment. The campus food pantry has remained an important resource throughout the pandemic for people who “had little to no work after COVID-19 hit.” She said the pantry will remain accessible throughout winter break for students.
“Most people who have attended college can understand the stress of having to think about feeding yourself nutritious meals on top of paying for school and books, attending classes, applying yourself outside of the classroom, and your overall commitment to being a student,” Lutts said. One of the goals of the food pantry is to eliminate the stigma around food scarcity in college students.
Recently, Dami Caldwell, a USM student and employee of Sodexo, USM’s food provider, won a national fall contest called “Spread the Joy.” Sodexo chose thirty winners in this contest across the country to be given $500 to be donated to a charity of their choosing and to receive a $100 gift card for themselves. Caldwell chose USM’s Food Pantry to be the recipient of the $500 donation.
In this semester alone, the food pantry has seen over one hundred student visits and has adjusted their hours. Over 550 pounds of food and 60 pounds of non-food items have been distributed due to the efforts of the campus food pantry staff. Beginning in the Spring 2021 semester, there will be additional open hours students can drop by during.
Anyone who has a USM ID is able to utilize this resource. To make an appointment and connect with the campus food pantry over winter break, email [email protected].