A pile of carrots, turnips and tomatoes

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. To better serve our communities, MaineHealth has opened three hospital-based food pantries at MaineHealth Maine Medical CenterStephens Memorial Hospital and Franklin Memorial Hospital. MaineHealth is also piloting a new Food as Medicine program in Farmington to improve access to healthy food and overall health for individuals living with chronic disease and experiencing food insecurity.

Need help accessing healthy food or other services?

Do you need help finding healthy food in your community, applying for health coverage, accessing affordable medications, finding transportation or other social services? The Patient Assistance line can help.

Contact Us

For more information, please contact food_insecurity@mainehealth.org

MaineHealth Hospital-Based Food Pantries

Access to healthy food is critically important to human health and well-being. In Maine, one out of every five children and one out of every ten people do not have reliable access to affordable, healthy food. That's why MaineHealth provides hospital-based food pantries as a natural part of our continuum of care.

More about the MaineHealth Food Insecurity Initiative

  • Food is Medicine: The pantry recognizes that nutrition is an integral part of health and healing and aims to distribute nutritious foods, the information needed to use them, and support access to the resources necessary to cook and eat them.
  • Empowerment: Patron, staff, and volunteer strengths are acknowledged, built upon, and validated. Feedback is regularly gathered and used to make decisions and improvements. The pantry creates and communicates clear expectations.
  • Choice: The pantry utilizes a patron-choice model where people are able to choose which foods they would like to take.
  • Safety: The pantry setting and activities ensure patrons, staff, and volunteers feel physically and emotionally safe. Each person is treated with respect, dignity, and kindness.
  • Humility & Responsiveness: People of different backgrounds have access to food and resources that fits their cultural, linguistic, dietary, and health needs. Biases, stereotypes, and historical trauma are recognized and addressed.
  • Collaboration: The pantry maximizes collaboration among care team members, community-based organizations, and patrons in program development and implementation.
  • Sustainability: The pantry prioritizes local foods whenever possible and engages in a variety of efforts to reduce waste and environmental impact.

Principles adapted from Leah’s Pantry, Trauma-Informed Care Implementation Resource Center, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 

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.


Illuminating Intersections: Hunger and Health


Screening Matters: A Family Perspective

What is a MaineHealth Food Pantry?
In partnership with Good Shepherd Food Bank, MaineHealth has opened the first three hospital-based food pantries in Maine at MaineHealth Maine Medical CenterFranklin 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 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 are 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 do you provide?
Food pantry patrons will have access, when possible, to food and information that fits their cultural and dietary preferences, and health needs. We focus on offering fresh, frozen, and shelf-stable healthy food, as well as local produce.

Who do the pantries serve?
The pantries currently serve MaineHealth patients, but 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 patrons 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.