Furnace Malfunction Closes Tree of Life Temporarily

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 11, 2016
by Faith DeAmbrose

The Tree of Life food pantry and its sister organization, The TurnStyle, will be closed until further notice due to a furnace malfunction that filled the building with heavy, noxious fumes.

According to Tree of Life volunteer Peggy Hopkins, the damage was found Tuesday, February 9, when people entered the building to put away a food delivery.

She said the organization’s insurance agent has been called and all are working to get back up and running as soon as possible, but the food pantry will definitely be closed for its regular day on Thursday, February 11. Both businesses will remain closed until they can be thoroughly and professionally cleaned. There was no physical damage to the buildings.

The top priority will be to reopen the food pantry, which feeds up to 300 families a week, said Hopkins, but she could not say whether the closure would extend more than the one week.

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Hunger in Hancock County

Hunger in Hancock County
By Judith Hilliker, Tree of Life Pantry Board President
published in the letters section of the Daily Packet

A recent Feeding America study found that 15.6 percent of the people living in Hancock County struggle with food insecurity. The Tree of Life food pantry addresses that problem by giving over 6,000 pounds of supplemental food a week to local families in need. The majority of the food we distribute is purchased from Good Shepherd Food Bank, but we also use grant money to buy fresh produce from local farms and we buy eggs, milk and other food items from retailers. Many local farms, greenhouses, businesses and individuals also bring us generous donations. Over the past few years the food pantry has been working to provide more nutritious fresh food to our pantry users. Studies show that the problem of hunger in Maine is not access to calories but lack of access to nutritious food. People with limited means often purchase high-calorie, low-nutrient food because it is inexpensive. This can lead to chronic health problems such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Healthier foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein cost more money. At Good Shepherd Food Bank and the Tree of Life we are trying to provide higher quality food. Every Thursday we now have fresh milk, eggs, onions, potatoes, carrots, winter squash, apples, bananas, and fresh produce from local farms. We provide recipes and tasting samples to help people learn to use fresh vegetables and alternative protein sources. On our shelves we still have canned tuna, peanut butter, dried and canned beans, low salt canned vegetables, flour, cornmeal and other baking supplies, shelf stable box milk, brown rice, pastas, canned tomato products, box cereal, oats, and bread products. Some items that we used to buy from Good Shepherd, such as canned beef stew, deviled ham, jelly, fruit in sugar syrup and high salt soups, are no longer available. The food pantry is open every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. We provide supplemental food to about 200 families every week. Anyone who is in need is welcome at the pantry. Our registration process is simple and pantry users choose the food items that their family will eat using our quantity guidelines. We are proud of our organization and welcome you to come and see us in operation. Early Thursday mornings are very busy but, if you come any time between 11 and 3, a pantry volunteer would be happy to give you a tour.

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Tradewinds matches $10,000 in customer donations

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 29, 2015

Article and photos by Tevlin Schuetz


All were smiles on Wednesday morning, January 21, at TradeWinds Market Place, as representatives of the Tree of Life food pantry accepted a donation of money from TradeWinds owners Chuck and Belinda Lawrence.

The funds totaled $20,213 and were composed of store patrons’ contributions—garnered during TradeWinds’ holiday fundraiser—matched dollar-for-dollar by the Lawrences.

The Lawrences were joined on January 21 by TradeWinds Manager Bonnie Tokas and TOL outgoing President Rick Traub and incoming President Judi Hilliker, food pantry Manager Deb Case, TOL board member Betsy Bott and Turn-Style Manager Gene Grindle.

The occasion not only commemorated this season’s donation, but it also further cements a relationship between the two neighbors on South Street; the Lawrences have similarly matched TradeWinds’ customers’ donations to TOL for the past several years, according to a press release from TOL.

As Traub stated, “We are astounded by the large amount of this gift and want to thank all of the shoppers who donated as well as the Lawrences.”

TOL can use the funds. The number of families visiting the pantry is up, and Traub stated that 21 new families came in for food two weeks ago. This is a notable jump, versus the average of five new families visiting the pantry each week in 2014.

According to a document shared by TOL—called the “State of the Tree Report”—the total number of family visits to the pantry in 2014 came to 10,904, representing a 6 percent increase over that total in 2013.

TOL has grown its operation to meet the needs of Peninsula residents since its founding 26 years ago.

Turn-Style thrift shop sales accounted for 58 percent of the money raised for food in 2014, and TOL continues to broaden its local supplier base for organic produce, to augment the thousands of pounds of produce it receives from Good Shepherd Food Bank.

For more information or to make a donation call the food pantry at 374-2900 or the thrift shop at 374-9181.

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In These Times featured in Maine Short Film Festival

2015 Maine Short Film Festival Tour Schedule:

ARRT_Maine Film Festival_2015Liz_Maine Short Film Fest_2015In These Times_Maine Short Film Festival_2015


The tour includes:

January 15, 2015 @ Guthrie’s, Lewiston: 7:30 pm

January 29, 2015 @ Stonington Opera House: 7 pm

February 4, 2015  @ Space Gallery, Portland: 7:30 pm

February 19,2015 @ Frontier Cafe, Brunswick: 7:30 pm  **Updated

March 18, 2015 @ Railroad Square Cinema, Waterville: 7 pm

March 29, 2015 @ The Strand, Rockland: 3 pm

April 9, 2015 @ The Alamo, Bucksport: 7 pm

April 10, 2015 @ Hammond Hall, Winter Harbor: 7 pm,  

April 17, 2015 @ Denmark Arts Center, Denmark, ME: 7:30 pm

Sponsored by MFVA, featuring nine short fiction and non-fiction films from eight Maine filmmakers, the 90-minute festival competition was juried by three of Maine’s top film reviewers: Daniel Kany, art critic with the Portland Press HeraldBen Fowlie, founder and director of the Camden International Film Festival, and Louise Rosen, artistic and executive director of the Maine Jewish Film Festival.  The shorts are new releases from 2013 and 2014, by several of Maine’s top filmmakers.

The purpose of the Maine Short Film Festival is to build audiences for the work of Maine filmmakers.  It also builds support for important issues that confront the people of our state.  We hope you will attend this festival and support the filmmakers and theaters in our state.” — Richard Kane, chairman of MFVA board and director of In These Times.


The titles and filmmakers include:

Liz by Sharyn Paul Brusie. Homeless at 13, Liz lived a tragic life of despair, raging behavior, and a brutal fight to survive on the streets.  With raw grit and extraordinary conviction, she surrendered the struggle and found peace when she turned her fight to the boxing ring. Second Place Audience Choice Award and Honorable Mention for Best Short Documentary, 2014 Woods Hole Film Festival.

In These Times by Richard Kane and Melody Lewis-Kane. Since 1988, the Tree of Life Food Pantry has been providing emergency and supplemental food assistance to residents of the Blue Hill, Maine, peninsula. This inspirational film encourages all to support their local food pantry to help end hunger.  Featuring the music of Noel Paul Stookey.

The Schmee of Havilah Hawkins by Steve Stone (director) and Kevin Ross (editor of www.OffCenterHarbor.com, a video website). Havilah “Haddie” Hawkins, a fourth-generation schoonerman, is the real deal.  Catch a glimpse of the soul of a boat, and the soul of her captain — both icons of trailing-edge technology.  Located on the coast of Maine in the quiet town of Brooklin, OffCenterHarbor.com is a video website created for classic boating enthusiasts.

ARRT! by Geoffrey Leighton, sponsored by the Union of Maine Visual Artists. The Artists Rapid Response Team creates banners and props to promote the work of progressive non-profits across Maine.  Artists from throughout the state meet in Brunswick for a marathon ARRT! workday.  This film tells the story of this group of artists and their commitment to creating a low-tech solution to issue-based communication.

Deux Ex Machina by Seth Campbell Brown. Covered in grease, sandwich in hand, Brown has been in his shop tearing wires and replacing logic with humor and wit; this is the story of a man building an incredibly beautiful yet incredibly dangerous machine. Premiered at the 2014 Camden International Film Festival.

A Story of Opportunities by Seth Campbell Brown.  Ugandans walk hours to reach basic life needs.  Living in isolated communities, individuals are physically stuck in a world of poverty; but there is hope for a new future, one in which they can carry themselves and their families’ eeds and dreams, on the back of a bicycle.

Farm by Christoph Gelfand. This is the simple story of a wandering spirit enjoying her time in nature.  Combining precise sound effets with a lyrical voiceover, this non-fiction short is a calm retreat where the viewer can slow down and appreciate life on a farm.

Handful of Romance by Sean Martin.  Two men cause their sock puppets to make out, creating awkward tension between them.

Ursula by Sarah Francoise and Anna Rios, produced by Jamie Hook. A young girl, wandering in a forest, meets a mysterious sunbather adrift on a lake; the stage is set for rural, pedestrian road movie in which nothing turns out to be quite what it seems.  Ursula glows with the warmth of summer and the magic and confusion of childhood.

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Good and Cheap: Downloadable Cook Book

 cheap and good salad

(This story appeared on NPR August 1, 2014)
Download Book: Cheap and Good

When Leanne Brown moved to New York from Canada to earn a master’s in food studies at New York University, she couldn’t help noticing that Americans on a tight budget were eating a lot of processed foods heavy in carbs.

“It really bothered me,” she says. “The 47 million people on food stamps — and that’s a big chunk of the population — don’t have the same choices everyone else does.”

Brown guessed that she could help people in SNAP, the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, find ways to cook filling, nourishing and flavorful meals. So she set out to write a cookbook full of recipes anyone could make on a budget of just $4 a day.

The result is Good and Cheap, which is free online and has been downloaded over 200,000 times since she posted it on her website in early June. A July Kickstarter campaign also helped Brown raise $145,000 to print copies for people without computer access.

So what are Brown’s secrets to eating well on $4 a day? It’s about stocking the pantry with cheap basics to build meals from: things like garlic, canned vegetables, dried beans and butter.

She also emphasizes flexibility, and avoids prescribing strict meals and methods. That means lots of options for substitutions, especially when it comes to the produce aisle, where prices can fluctuate based on season and availability. Each meal is priced out by serving.

Earlier this week, Deborahmichelle Sanders, 63, of San Francisco turned to the cookbook and found an intriguing recipe: cornmeal crusted vegetables with an Asian-inspired peanut sauce for dipping.

Since she couldn’t afford the suggested beans or peppers, she tried carrots. The result? “It’s so wonderful,” she tells The Salt.

SNAP currently provides 46.2 million low-income people like Sanders with a monthly average stipend for food of $126 in the form of a debit card. They can take it to the grocery store, pick out their food and swipe the card at the register.

SNAP has no equivalent in Brown’s home country of Canada; its public assistance programs are more flexible, she says. And she wasn’t impressed with what she found when she went looking for resources for people in the U.S. program on how to cook well with the benefits.

“Tons of organizations are doing amazing, useful work, but usually their recipes can sound sort of preachy, or else they’re very governmental,” she says. Brown thinks the cookbooks that exist try to tell people the right way to live their lives — explaining what exactly they should eat and how exactly they should prepare it — and that often turns them off to the recipes.

“As much as a recipe book, [Brown’s book] is an idea book,” says Brenda Mahoney of Dallas, another woman in SNAP who’s using the book. In fact, some of Good and Cheap’s pages come with exactly that label: “ideas.”

One page, titled “Leftovers,” offers tips on the myriad ways to make good use of old meals, like putting the fixings you originally used to top toast in a wrap or on a pizza, or turning almost anything into a sandwich. Another called “Popcorn!” recommends livening up the familiar snack by adding spices.

Good and Cheap is also filled with beautiful photos — a visual feast, especially compared with the other recipe books tailored to people in SNAP.
A portrait of the SNAP cookbook author, Leanne Brown. i

Take the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals. Orange lines and black bullet points fill up entire pages, with equally uninspiring sketches on the side.

And compare their Turkey Cabbage Casserole to Brown’s Savory Summer Cobbler, which both Sanders and Mahoney cite as their favorite dish. Even the name draws a reader to the recipe, which features seasonal vegetables under a peppery biscuit crust. The lush photo that accompanies it on the page doesn’t hurt.

“You choose what vegetables you want, so I used tomato and a green-striped crookneck squash, which was the cheapest I could find,” says Sanders. “It is so, so good.”

Mahoney agrees.

“My kids loved the recipe,” she says.

Mahoney cooks for her two children and herself, much like Mia Pickering, who lives in Seattle with her two teenagers. Sanders, Mahoney and Pickering have all been on SNAP for a number of years, and they say Good and Cheap, which they discovered online, works better for them than anything else they’ve been able to find. And that’s important when what they can cook determines how well they and their families can eat.

“Cooking is definitely more economical and healthier than buying premade foods,” says Mahoney.

Pickering thinks so, too. For her, it’s easier to cook fresh than heat up frozen meals. It means she and her children throw less food away and exercise better portion control.

“Many authors have tried hard to come up with cheap meals, but they taste so bad. Leanne is so gifted. It’s just incredible,” says Sanders.

Sanders has been cooking since the eighth grade, so that’s not a snap judgment.

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