The volunteers at the Tree of Life Food Pantry are committed to providing nutritious, high quality food to needy families on the peninsula. Like most food pantries, we always have canned goods, dried beans, pasta and cereals available but we also try to have dairy products, frozen meat or fish and fresh produce. Some of our food is donated but most of it is purchased using the proceeds from our thrift shop and cash donations.
Every week the food pantry distributes about 3000 pounds of food. We order most of it from the Good Shepherd Food Bank which offers us a varying selection of grocery items at prices well below retail. We also purchase some food from Tradewinds and Dennis Paper. Every Wednesday a tractor trailer truck arrives from Good Shepherd at about 7 AM and a crew of early morning volunteers unloads it. We also get free food from the USDA on a monthly basis which is included in our truck order.
The pantry usually receives about 400 pounds of fresh produce with each truck delivery. A grant allows us to buy root crops from King Hill Farm in Penobscot. Other local farms and home gardeners bring us donations of vegetables and eggs during the growing season. Healthy Acadia’s Gleaning Initiative provides us with between 1,000 and 5,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit every year. Local businesses including Tradewinds and the Blue Hill Co-op regularly donate produce, meat, and grocery items. Every fall the men from the three Oddfellows Lodges on the peninsula get together to make a “potato run” to the County. They bring us hundreds of pounds of Maine potatoes.
In the spring the food pantry offers donated seed packets and vegetable seedlings raised locally and purchased through a grant from the Brooklin Garden Club. People who use the pantry often proudly bring us the surplus from crops they raised at home from these seeds and seedlings.
On a weekly basis we offer bananas, apples, carrots, onions and potatoes plus a changing selection of other fresh vegetables and fruits. Each family may also have a quart of fresh milk, a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, and two frozen meat or fish choices. We have butter, yogurt, frozen orange juice, sour cream and cheese periodically.
In keeping with our nutrition policy, we try to provide low-sugar and low-salt canned goods and limit the amount of highly processed and sugary food on our shelves. We have a home baking section that provides flour, yeast, baking powder, baking soda, oil, spices and other cooking supplies.
Every November Tradewinds has a fundraiser to benefit the food pantry and they match customer donations up to $5,000. In the spring postal carriers organize a food drive that brings us hundreds of pounds of self-stable food. Local churches and schools also bring us donations on a regular basis.