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Food Insecurity & Hospital-Based Food Pantries

What is food insecurity?

Health and hunger are closely connected. Food insecurity means not having steady access to affordable, healthy food. This makes a person more likely to develop a chronic disease and makes it harder to manage disease. Not being able to access healthy and nutritious food, or any food at all, can lead to disease complications, missing doses of important medication, and needing to be hospitalized. All of these factors make health care more expensive.

What is MaineHealth doing?

Through a partnership with Good Shepherd Food Bank’s Community Health & Hunger Program, MaineHealth care teams have been trained on food insecurity and the connection to chronic disease. Food access resources have been added into our electronic health record system, and we can provide healthy emergency food resources to patients who need it.

MaineHealth Hospital-Based Food Pantries

To better serve our patients and communities, MaineHealth has opened two food pantries: one at Stephens Memorial Hospital, and one at the campus of Franklin Memorial Hospital. The goal is to help more people access healthy food and to improve the health of people in our local communities. The food pantries are part of our services as a health care organization, and are a natural part of our continuum of care. Pantries are open only to patients and care team members for now, but we aim to be open to community members in the future.

More about the MaineHealth Food Insecurity Initiative

  • Provide a Client-Centered Experience: We collect client feedback often and use it to make decisions and improvements.
  • Promote Nutrition Education: Clients, volunteers, and staff have access to nutrition and cooking education.
  • Create a Welcoming Environment: We welcome clients warmly and provide a confidential and dignified experience. We put healthy options on display so that they are easy to access.
  • Provide Cultural and Dietary Accommodations: Pantry clients will have access to food and information that fits their cultural and dietary preferences and health needs, whenever possible.
  • Develop Community Connections: Our pantries connect and work together with the community and community-based organizations.
  • Provide Local, Healthy Foods and Reduce Waste: We aim to provide healthy food with a focus on fresh fruits and vegetables. Our pantries support a variety of waste reduction efforts.
  • Establish Nutrition Goals to Meet Client Needs: We work with clients to make sure that the foods they get from our pantry support their nutrition goals.

Health and hunger are closely connected. Not having access to nutritious food puts a person at greater risk of developing a chronic disease. It also affects a person's ability to manage their health as they often have to make decisions about food versus medicine and may rely on buying cheaper foods that may not be as healthy. At MaineHealth, we are working to address food insecurity in our communities to improve the health of all Mainers.


What is a MaineHealth Food Pantry?
MaineHealth is working with Good Shepherd Food Bank to open the first hospital-based food pantries in Maine at Franklin Memorial Hospital and Stephens Memorial Hospital. This is a new part of our continuum of care. Many Mainers have a hard time accessing the food they need at one point or another. Our food pantries will offer fresh, frozen, and shelf-stable foods for free. We hope this resource will give people steady access to food that supports health and improves disease. Our food pantry spaces will be welcoming, dignified and confidential, with helpful staff and healthy food options.

How common is hunger in Maine?
In Maine, 1 out of every 5 children, and 1 out of every 10 people, experience hunger.

What is a hospital-based food pantry and how is it different than a community-based food pantry?
Food insecurity makes a person more likely to develop a chronic disease and it also makes it harder to manage disease. Our hospital-based food pantries can help improve food insecurity in our local communities, while also making the connection between health and hunger.

Integrating food pantries as part of our services as a health care organization is a natural part of our continuum of care. Our goal is to offer a variety of fresh, healthy foods that promote good health.

What types of foods will you provide?
Food pantry clients will have access, when possible, to food and information that fits their cultural and dietary preferences, and health needs. We will focus on offering fresh, frozen, and shelf-stable healthy food, as well as local produce.

Who do the pantries serve?
The pantries serve patients and care team members. We will provide resources for the entire household, not just the referred person. In the future, we aim to be open to community members as well.

How much food will I be able to get?
Pantry staff will talk with clients about their needs. Usually we will be able to give a household up to 1 week’s worth of food during a visit to our pantry.