PORTLAND — With Maine experiencing a higher rate of food insecurity than most of the United States and an estimated 182,000 Maine residents experiencing hunger, Oakhurst Dairy announced its pledge to donate $200,000 in funds and $479,000 in food donations over the next four years to Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine’s Campaign to End Hunger.

This is in addition to funds and food donations made by Oakhurst to the organization over the last two years totaling almost $420,000 — $50,000 for the Food Bank’s Hampden facility renovation, $10,000 in emergency pandemic relief funds and $359,000 in food. Combined these donations will total a little over $1 million by the end of 2025, according to the announcement Nov. 29.

The state’s largest hunger-relief organization has set a goal to raise $250 million — $150 million in large scale food donations from food retailers, manufacturers, producers, and Maine farmers, as well as $100 million in philanthropic donations from individuals, businesses, and foundations — by 2025.

“Since the start of the pandemic, Maine has seen a dramatic increase in families and individuals who need help from our partner food pantries to ensure healthy food is on their tables,” said Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank.

“It is more important than ever to help Mainers get the food they need to thrive, and we are grateful Oakhurst is joining us in our mission to end hunger in the state with this generous cash and nutritious product donation. In the last year, many of our partners reported increased visits from families who had never experienced food insecurity. No community in our state is immune.”

Campaign to End Hunger in Maine

Good Shepherd Food Bank launched the Campaign to End Hunger before the pandemic, at a time when rates of hunger were on the decline, with the goal of fully closing Maine’s meal gap by ensuring all Mainers experiencing hunger had access to enough healthy food by 2025. The COVID-19 pandemic then put rates of hunger into a tailspin creating an unprecedented demand on the charitable food network, the effects of which are still lingering.

Today, the food bank anticipates that 40 million meals will be needed annually to close Maine’s meal gap. In partnership with its network of more than 500 hunger-relief organizations, a record-setting 31.6 million meals were distributed throughout the state last year. Even with the increase, there is still a gap of more than 8 million meals needed to close Maine’s meal gap.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Household Food Security report, 11.4% of Maine households were food insecure between 2018 and 2020, which is higher than the national average. Maine also ranks fifth in the nation for very low food insecurity, a more severe range of food insecurity that involves reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns. More than 31,000 Maine households fall into this concerning category.  The Food Bank also estimates that as many as 50,000 children in Maine live in households that are experiencing hunger.

In addition to increasing food distribution, the Campaign to End Hunger also empowers Good Shepherd Food Bank to invest in the capacity of its partners in the charitable food network, developing new partnerships and innovative models for equitable food access, and research and evaluation to better understand the problem of hunger in Maine. The organization has raised nearly $165 million toward the $250 million campaign goal to date. For more information about the Food Bank’s Campaign to End Hunger, visit FeedingMaine.org/campaign.

“Oakhurst is committed to being a part of the solution to end hunger in Maine,” said John Bennett, president of Oakhurst Dairy. “It is critically important to the long-term welfare and prosperity of our state that Maine families and children have access to nutritious food so they can thrive and become active, successful members of our community. At Oakhurst, we believe that ‘Giving Goodness’ is a team effort, and we’re proud to join the Good Shepherd Food Bank team in its mission to end hunger in our great state.”