Don Gean, pictured here at the original site of York County Shelter Programs, where he served as Executive Director until last spring. The following blog post is taken from a letter Gean sent to WCSH TV after a report on fundraising efforts of a state-wide food bank, Good Shepherd Food Bank. GSFB is an important partner in fighting hunger in Maine, and York County, but Don's letter raised important issues for local communities when he wrote it - and these still bear consideration today.
The 5:30 PM news just ran another informative story about the need to help feed a growing number of people in Maine who have so little money, they often have little or no food to eat. This, though, is not new, it has been with us for several decades, but what is new is the growing money gap between the rich and the poor. With all of that in mind, and as the former director of the largest Food Pantry in York County for many years, I applaud and thank you for your continuing interest in this sad American dream gone to hell, but want to correct one aspect of the story about Good Shepherd Food Bank; you said several times that GSFB "distributes" millions of pounds of food each year to food pantries, but the sad truth is that GSFB "sells" that food to food pantries. In short, by encouraging people to donate food and money to GSFB alone, instead of GSFB AND local food pantries, you are helping to put these modest sized, mostly volunteer operations in a precarious position where they have fewer donated dollars with which to buy food from Good Shepherd.
If more people choose to donate only to GSFB because they have greater political and media skills, these little food pantries will simply dry up and blow away. When enough of them throw in the towel, how do you think the GSFB will be able to efficiently replace the hundreds of thousands of volunteer work hours, pantry facilities, and local support and good will? I truly believe you are trying to help, that you have committed considerable time and resources into doing that, and that GSFB plays a very important role in helping to feed hungry people in Maine. The problem is that no matter how good and big and glitzy GSFB becomes, they will never be able to reach deep enough into the many and different Maine communities to find the people presently served out of church basements, barns, and spare rooms. Please consider advertising the local pantries along with the GSFB, and encouraging people to donate to them as well. It would be helpful if WCSH developed a Pantry Locater online or in print, to help people find them for donations or help. There are many things you could do to help these courageous bands of volunteers, and the only thing that can ruin them is for people to really believe that a donation to GSFB alone will trickle down to their local food pantry and save them. It won't, unless they have the money to buy the food from them.
Thank you for all your good work in this area.
Donald H. Gean
Former Executive Director
York County Shelter Programs, Inc.
Former Executive Director, York County Shelter Programs, inc. YCSPI is home to York County's largest food pantry - which provides food for people from all over York County.
Is a Master Gardener and volunteers with Partners for a Hunger-Free York County.