AUBURN, Maine -- JoAnn Pike, who was taught by her mother never to waste food and went on in adulthood to found what became the state's largest food bank, died of cancer Wednesday at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. She was 62.
Mrs. Pike retired last month from the day-to-day administration of the Good Shepherd Food-Bank, which last year distributed more than 9 million pounds of food to food pantries and soup kitchens around Maine.
A Kansas native and a former Dominican nun who taught third-grade classes in Lewiston-Auburn, Mrs. Pike started the food bank in 1981 from the living room of her Auburn home. Good Shepherd later expanded to downtown Lewiston before moving to a huge, $3 million warehouse off the Maine Turnpike in Auburn.
Friends said Mrs. Pike embraced a simple lesson taught to her by her mother, Lidwina Engel See, who believed that "it is a shame to waste good food."
Her mission to feed others grew from her own family's needs. With two toddlers at home in 1980, she and her husband started making nocturnal visits to trash bins servicing area grocery stores. They would rescue heads of lettuce, hunks of cheese, and other edibles that might not look store-shelf fresh, but were still fine.
The salvage would feed her family as well as others in the couple's prayer group.
Soon, she told the Lewiston Sun Journal four years ago, "It became an addiction; it was just so ingrained." She created the Good Shepherd Food-Bank, storing and distributing crates of bananas and boxes of boullion cubes from the front room of her home on Court Street.
By 1983, Hannaford Bros. supermarkets began providing the food bank with truckloads of discarded groceries.
"I can't imagine another situation where one person has done so much for so many," Hannaford CEO Ron Hodge said last month when he joined 300 others in honoring Mrs. Pike on the day she formally retired.
Good Shepherd's chairman, Scott Konecny, said the agency will carry on in Mrs. Pike's spirit. The food bank, he said, "will continue to work toward her vision of a state where no one has to worry about how to feed themselves or their family, and no child will ever have to go to bed hungry."
A funeral will be held Monday at Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Mechanic Falls.