The South Portland Food Cupboard was started in 1997 by a group of men and women from Holy Cross Church and operated out of St. John the Evangelist Church in South Portland. In 2001, the pantry applied for and received 501(c)3 status. Since then, the pantry had no formal business connection with the church but continued to benefit from the free use of space for 11 years. Because of this, the pantry did not pay rent, utilities or salaries and was able to focus completely on its mission for the first 17 years. In 2013, St. Johns closed down, and the pantry sought a new location. In November of 2013, the pantry moved into a double warehouse at 130 Thadeus Street which we outfitted to fit our needs. This spacious new home allows for greater storage and better organization. In 2015, we added a Warehouse Manager, our first (and currently only) paid staff member, to bring additional stability and provide for future growth.
What We Do:
The pantry is open on Thursdays from 8:30 am – 11:30 am and the first Wednesday every month from 5-7 pm for those who work during the day. Clients are personally welcomed and given a number. Some mothers bring small children, and it can be a long wait. So, we provide juice drinks, animal crackers, coloring books and crayons to keep them occupied. Next, clients meet with one of the interview team who will answer any questions and get the client entered in the system. To qualify, they must have a family income which falls below 150% of the Federal poverty guidelines. Afterward, they are able to select items from a menu which regularly includes many non-perishables along with personal care items, juice, milk, & frozen meats. While their order is being “filled” by volunteers in the back room, clients select from breads, pastries, and fresh fruits & vegetables in the outer room. All the items are carefully bagged and carried out to the client’s car with help from volunteers.
If they need additional guidance with clothing, medical help, social services, bus passes, they can visit the HELP Desk. Clients are welcome to visit the pantry once each calendar month, and each family (depending on size and personal preference) will leave with 5-10 full grocery bags. Over the years, the pantry has grown from a program serving less than 200 people per month to an organization serving over 700 people per month.
How We Do It:
The Pantry is led by our director, Sybil Riemensnider, aided by our Warehouse Manager, and guided by our Board of Directors. We rely on over 50 dedicated volunteers who pick up donations, stock shelves, set up on Wednesday mornings, and serve clients on Thursdays. We also benefit from the help of Holy Cross students who help out during the school year. Our goal is to serve those in need for long into the future.