Volunteers unload bags full of donated food during the United Way's food drive.
PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The United Way of Greater Portland kicked off its annual campaign with a food drive to help area food pantries and raise awareness about the growing hunger problem in Maine.
"Kids are going to school without breakfast, moms and dads are going without dinner at night to feed their kids," explained Suzanne McCormick, president of the United Way of Greater Portland. "We know that there are record numbers of people, because of the economy and the recession, that need help."
The United Way estimates one in five families in Cumberland County do not know where their next meal is coming from. The need has put more pressure on food pantries and soup kitchens at a time when funding has been reduced.
"We are in a bad place," said McCormick. "It is something I think we should all be concerned about. We lost, here in Cumberland County, we lost over $140,000 in federal emergency food and shelter money, which was money that was used to buy food directly for pantries and soup kitchens."
Paul Doucette's arrival at the food drive on the fringe of the city's Old Port was a cause for celebration. His van was full of donations he helped collect from his fellow employees at Hannaford Brother's corporate offices in Scarborough.
Doucette is acutely aware of the situation. His wife works as the director of a food pantry in Gorham.
"The need is there," he stated. "Surprisingly, people that thought they would never ever have to go to a food pantry find, because they lose their jobs, or illnesses within the family, or their situation has changed, that in turn, they need to do that."
"This will go a long way," explained Doucette. "It will be much appreciated throughout the southern Maine area."
The food drive collected over 5,000 pounds of food and just over $1,000 to help local food pantries.