Grantee Update: Wayside Food Programs
The Sam L. Cohen Foundation has granted strong support for Wayside Food Programs for more than a decade. Wayside’s impact in Greater Portland grows out of its effective use of more than 800 volunteers and its efficient network for collecting, rescuing, and redistributing food. More than a food bank, Wayside has a dual mission of tackling food insecurity while building community around healthy meals. To meet its mission, Wayside Food Programs sources and redistributes salvaged and donated food to 50 programs and agencies throughout Cumberland County as well as organizing community meals at ten community sites. This approach to fostering community through nutritious, no-cost meals has drawn significant support from the Foundation. Since 2006, Wayside Food Programs has received five operating support grants ranging from $20,000 - $25,000.
Wayside Food Programs had two standout initiatives during the most recent grant period. Through a partnership with Cultivating Community (another long-time SLCF grantee), Wayside hosts an annual “Pop Up Picnic” series, offering tours of one of Cultivating Community’s community gardens, performances by local musicians, and outdoor games for families. Last year, attendance at Pop Up Picnics nearly doubled, and more than 600 meals were shared. The event is volunteer-driven and zero waste. The Wayside Catering Collective expanded during the grant period as well. The Wayside Catering Collective brings individuals and community groups to Wayside’s commercial kitchen to prepare meals for community gatherings using rescued ingredients. The meals often center around a specific cultural tradition. During the grant period, Wayside’s Catering Collective shared a record-breaking 1,350 meals with community groups at organized community gatherings. These special activities complement Wayside Food Programs’ ongoing activities. Wayside provides meals at community gatherings for thousands of food insecure seniors and families and offers more than 7,000 healthy snacks for youth in community programs.
In June, the City of Portland reached out to Wayside Food Programs to assist in the effort to welcome, shelter, and feed more than 200 asylum seekers who were housed at Portland’s Expo. Wayside was part of the team working alongside other SLCF grantees such as the Preble Street Resource Center, Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, and Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project. Wayside Food Programs provided volunteers to prepare and deliver lunches to the Expo three days per week. The meals were prepared by participants in the Wayside Catering Collective, and they incorporated as many traditional foods as possible. In addition, Wayside Food Programs coordinated snacks and food to support nonprofit partners who needed extra supplies to meet the heightened demand at the Expo.
With a $25,000 operating support grant from the Sam L. Cohen Foundation, Wayside Food Programs was able to keep 425 tons of food out of landfills and serve thousands of families, seniors, and children through mobile food trucks, community meals, and programs with 20 nonprofit partners. More information about Wayside Food Programs is available here.
2019 Sam L. Cohen Pioneer Scholars
The Pioneer Scholar Program, a partnership between supporters and the Mitchell Institute, provides the opportunity to recognize specific Mitchell Scholars and Alumni who, through their contributions to school and community and their demonstration of certain qualities – as students and as citizens – stand out for acknowledgement.
Robert Sheils - Portland High School * Bates College
Addison Moore - Biddeford High School * Wheaton College
Zainab Jabor - Thornton Academy * University of New England
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