Hunger across Maine is climbing due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Good Shepherd Food Bank, Maine’s largest hunger-relief organization, is assessing the local impact in each of Maine’s 16 counties, as statewide rates of hunger are projected to grow by as much as 40 percent in 2020.

Sagadahoc, York, Cumberland and Knox counties are projected to see the greatest increase in the number of

people struggling with hunger. Piscataquis, Somerset, Aroostook and Washington counties will see less of an increase but will still rank as being the hungriest counties in the state — in fact, those counties have the highest rates of hunger in the northeastern United States.

In a press release, Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank, stated, “Our partner food pantries and meal sites in the southern counties have seen the need skyrocket as these more populous areas experienced increased job losses. Our partners in the northernmost counties are seeing big increases, too, but not at the same rate; unfortunately, these counties are accustomed to having high rates of hunger in their communities.”

Pre-pandemic, Maine had approximately 180,000 people struggling with food insecurity. Good Shepherd believes the number could climb to as high as 250,000 people.

“Unfortunately Maine’s children will see the highest increases in levels of food insecurity,” said Miale. Child food insecurity in Cumberland County is projected to increase to about one in four; rates of child hunger in counties such as Piscataquis, Somerset, Aroostook, Washington and Oxford could cause one in three children to experience hunger.

Good Shepherd Food Bank estimates that it will incur $6.3 million in additional expenses related to the first six months of its COVID-19 response and the organization has raised more than $5 million to specifically fund those needs. In May alone, the Food Bank purchased 370 percent more food than it does in an average month.

For more information, visit feedingmaine.org.