PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Food pantries in six counties across the state are facing large funding cuts because of changes the federal government made to its Emergency Food and Shelter Program.
Maine food pantries are facing a 57 percent cut in funding from last year. In Cumberland County alone, 23 agencies that received grants last year will get nothing from the program. The Root Cellar is one of those agencies. It received about $10,000 last year to feed needy families in Portland's East End. The Root Cellar says without that money, it will likely be forced to give the families that depend on the food pantry less food each week.
"Either feed less families or give each family less, that's probably what it will end up being," The Root Cellar's Portland director Kurt Holmgren said. "Because what we'll have is the same number of families that will come in, they just won't walk out with a box as full as they normally would have."
The United Way is charged with distributing the federal dollars county by county. Rebecca Ermlich of the United Way of Greater Portland says the Emergency Food and Shelter Program changed the formula for figuring out which counties around the country qualify for funding. But she says that doesn't mean the level of poverty and hunger in Maine has gone down.
"There are many, many working families who are still struggling to meet basic needs," Ermlich said. "So certainly it is not a reflection on increased jobs in Maine or Cumberland County, or a reduction in poverty."
Good Shepherd Food Bank says while it is not directly affected by these cuts, they will have a drastic impact, because hunger relief organizations facing cuts will likely look to Good Shepherd to give them more food with very limited resources.