The Bowdoinham Food Pantry is one easily overlooked doorway in an easily overlooked town. Like a secret society, you must knock before entering and once you do, you will be welcomed into a safe space, stocked with all the food you need to make it through the week. 

beer, alcohol, liquor
Colby Itkoff

The name food pantry can be misleading because we have so much more then just food. Our shelves are laden with toiletries, feminine products, gloves and hats in the winter, and small presents for children around the holidays. We even have sleds!

Some of our greatest attributes are the fresh vegetables, meats, and baked goods that local farmers and hunters provide at no cost to the organization. There are even community members who make fresh stews and soups in the winter, left hot and ready at the pantry waiting to be ladled out to the people who need it. 

soup, vegetable
Tiare Brown

A typical afternoon spent volunteering at a local food pantry like ours begins around 3 o'clock, when we put out our open sign and check that the shelves are stocked. We have beverages, grains, canned goods, condiments, baking supplies, fresh produce, cleaning supplies and toiletries. Everything has a place behind the counter and it is made easily visible to the patron. We also have two fridges, and a freezer chest stocked with bread, meat, dairy and farm fresh eggs.

sweet, Whole Foods Market, Whole Foods, Fruit, mango, orange, kiwi, blueberry, jar of fruit, strawberries, strawberry, grape
Shelby Cohron

When a member comes in, we look up their information to see how many adults, kids, and pets are in the household. We do this in order to judge how much food they should need to make it through the week, but no one will be turned down if they ask for a little extra. We also want to make sure that any pets are being taken care of, and keep both cat and dog food well stocked. 

We prepare a bag for the patron, talking to them about their wants and needs, first asking if they would like a box of juice pouches, or a liter of soda, then moving on to the main meal. We build a meal plan with them, and a conversation goes something like this...                                                                                              "Would you like pasta?"  Yes.                                                          "What kind of sauce do you prefer?"  Marinara.                              "Which vegetable would you like on the side? Carrots.                    "We have some potatoes today that were donated by a local farmer... Can I interest you in some of those?" Sure, thanks!         

spaghetti, vegetable, sauce, penne, pasta, carb
Caroline Ingalls

We move on to baked goods, dairy, coffee or tea, and toiletries, making sure to go over every section before the patron leaves. Patrons come in one at a time, and their anonymity is preserved by the people working there. Occasionally patrons will give a little cash or spare change in exchange for the goods, but payment is not requested, necessary or implied. The pantry's only aim is to support and serve the community. 

A food pantry like ours is run by volunteers, people who care and want to make a difference in the community. As a volunteer, there are different levels of commitment and different ways you can help out. These volunteers range from students in high school, to men and women who have long since retired but are still showing up every week to serve the community. It is incredibly easy to become a hero at your local pantry, whether you donate your time, food or financial support to the organization, you are helping to create a better, safer community for everyone in it. 

Whole Foods Market, vegetable aisle, watermelon, mango, juice, veggies, Green, lettuce, Vegetables, fruit aisle, cabbage, salad, Organic, organic fruit
Shelby Cohron

For More Information:

If you are looking to support or join a local organization, check out for help locating your nearest food pantry.