Farm to Table Partner: Preble Street

Farm to Table Partner: Preble Street

Farm to Table Partner: Preble Street

With the emergence and escalation of COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Farm to Table Series in order to protect the health and safety of our visitors and staff. Despite this, our work to transform the way we farm and eat has never been more important. We’re teaming up with four organizations focused on food insecurity to direct the food, staff time, communications and logistics that go into our Farm to Events to supporting their efforts in feeding people. A stronger local food system will help all of us through this crisis, and will create a more resilient future for food and farming.

Learn more about Preble Street, a Portland-based organization providing essential services for homelessness, hunger, and poverty, on their role in this time of need:

How did you respond to the pandemic, and has anything changed for you over the past few months?  

We’ve restructured our Food Programs operations multiple times: first to limit the number of people at a sitting to adhere to CDC guidance, then by closing the Resource Center dining room and serving all meals to go as the guidelines tightened. We also increased our Food Pantry from weekly to daily service, going from serving 140 families a week to 500 as more and more people lost their jobs. Soon after we took on the responsibility to provide meals three times a day for the City of Portland Oxford Street Shelter and quarantine shelter at the Portland Expo, the YMCA, Sullivan Wellness Shelter at the University of Southern Maine, and meals to veterans and families sheltered at local hotels.

Most recently we began our Mobile Food Services and Street Outreach Collaborative programs. The Resource Center Soup Kitchen is now a permanent food production and distribution facility. Preble Street Mobile Food Services delivers three meals per day to guests staying at area shelters. For people experiencing homelessness who are not staying at a shelter, two meals per day are delivered to small groups at various stops around Portland.

The Street Outreach Collaborative provides outreach services all day on a mobile basis helping connect people with shelter, housing, health services, IDs, clothing, and other things to help them work toward goals.

With our partners at the University of Southern Maine, Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and MaineHousing, we opened the temporary Sullivan Wellness Shelter (SWS) in April, providing 24/7 peace, safety, and stability inside the USM Sullivan Gymnasium for 50 people experiencing homelessness. The SWS offered ample space for people to physically distance, rest, and work on individual goals with their assigned caseworker.

What does community mean to you? What is important for people to understand about who you are and who you serve?  

We are a community at Preble Street. The “We” means everyone involved: staff, board, volunteers, donors, and especially those who use our services. Everyone is welcome at Preble Street, everyone is respected and treated with dignity, and everyone is invited to contribute to the effort of meeting our mission.

Preble Street is about people. Passionate and generous people who say with our founder, Joe Kreisler, “I am a human being. Part of my job, part of being alive, is making sure that other people are too.”

People who believe that families living in poverty should not have to go hungry, that no one should have to be on the street when they are tired or sick or cold, that youth who have no home should not have to live in fear and danger.

People who see their neighbors experiencing homelessness as having dignity, worth, and potential.

And most of all, the courageous people who come to Preble Street seeking help to overcome unimaginably difficult circumstances — disabilities, abuse, unemployment, substance use disorder, isolation, language barriers.

People working together to turn hunger and homelessness into opportunity and hope through programs that operate 24/7/365 to meet the needs of Mainers each day.  Preble Street will always be here for the people who depend on us.

How are you connected to farms, food, & community?  

In an average year, Preble Street serves 630,000 meals. This is not an average year. Since March, we have served over 100,000 meals each month. We could not do this without the support of local farms and members of our community. Almost 100% of our food is donated from local farms, businesses, churches, schools, and individuals. We also rely on thousands of volunteers each year to help us prepare and distribute meals via our soup kitchens, food pantry, and mobile food services.  

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