Published Date Written by Staff ReportWayside Food Programs is building a new kitchen and bringing all operations under one roof at 135 Walton St., the food distribution program announced Tuesday.
This move, which increases Wayside's capacity and efficiency, comes at a time when Maine families and individuals are having difficulty putting healthy food on the table, Wayside reported. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 15.4 percent of Maine households are food insecure, meaning the household lacks access to enough food to meet nutrition needs.
To make the project possible, Wayside has launched a capital campaign to raise $100,000. The campaign received a boost when the Sam L. Cohen Foundation donated $20,000, and the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation committed to a $35,000 challenge grant.
The centerpiece of the project is a new 830-square-foot kitchen, which will enable Wayside to process donated produce, which can be used for nutrition and healthy cooking education, the organization reported in a press release. The kitchen is double the size of the current facility.
In the past, Wayside worked out of three Portland sites. Administrative offices were in Bayside, the warehouse on Walton Street, and the kitchen located at the Portland Public Schools' food services building, just off outer Forest Avenue.
Consolidating three operations (administration, kitchen and warehouse) at Walton Street allows Wayside to reduce expenses for rent, utilities and vehicle use; increase staff efficiency by eliminating time-consuming travel between locations; improve communication between staff; and expand kitchen use and capacity, allowing educational outreach and processing of fresh fruit and vegetables.
"This new kitchen will allow us to do so much more," says Don Morrison, wayside's operations manager. "With the kitchen next to the warehouse, we will be able to make use of perishables in a more timely manner. And having our full inventory of food readily available, without the need to transport, means greater flexibility in meal planning."
Wayside Food Programs collects and distributes food to 42 agencies, including soup kitchens, food pantries and other social service providers across Cumberland County. Wayside also runs free community meals at six host sites in Portland and Westbrook, four of its own mobile food pantries, and supplies healthy snacks for kids through a program with Portland Community Policing.