Braced for a feast of needs

Posted Nov. 21, 2008, at 8:39 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:16 a.m.

A major food distributor for food banks in Maine forecasts a 25 percent increase in turnout for Thanksgiving turkeys and meals this year.

“Last year we got 3,500 turkeys, and that number was not nearly enough. So this year we went out and got 5,000,” said Bob Dodd, director of development and public relations for the Good Shepherd Food-Bank in Auburn.

“We’re distributing those now, and I think we’re going to be short again this year with the agencies working with us — we have about 600 agencies — food pantries, soup kitchens and group homes.

“We upped the quantity that we purchase,” he said. “We’re definitely going to need the 5,000 that we’re purchasing this year.”

He said that he could not forecast the exact amount of increased need, but that he expected more, not just for turkeys but for food in general.

“The figures we’re working with come from the food pantries we serve, who are seeing an increase daily of more than 25 percent over last year,” Dodd said.

“It’s really going to be a challenge, but I think we’re all working together to see how we can meet the extra need that’s coming in,” he added.

The Good Shepherd Food-Bank relies on donations, as well, he said. Of the 10 million pounds of food Good Shepherd distributed last year in Maine, about 80 percent came from donations, he said. More came in food donations from big supermarkets in the state.

Manna Ministries in Bangor is expecting to distribute about 6,800 turkeys this year, up from 5,500 turkeys last year.

“We supply 60 food pantries with turkeys at Thanksgiving,” said Executive Director Bill Rae. “We’ll serve Thanksgiving dinner at the Columbia Street Baptist Church from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., so we’re just a little busy,” he added. “We’ve sort of become the turkey face for central Maine.”

Manna, a nonprofit corporation established in 1991, provides an outreach to the needy throughout central Maine.

Manna’s operations include a soup kitchen, a food pantry, a food bank, outpatient services, teaching job search skills in conjunction with finding jobs, and other programs such as support meetings for alcoholics and addicts.

“Our soup kitchen provides an evening meal five days a week,” Rae said. “Every Friday morning we have an open breakfast. There are no restrictions on access to various programs provided by the facilities.”

Manna operates a food pantry where families and individuals may come once a week on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday to receive a bag of groceries, which should last three to four days. The only stipulation that is required from the client is need, he added. Manna also operates a food bank, which allows other food providers and soup kitchens in central Maine to receive supplies without having to pay a handling fee or offer a donation. These supplies are free, as they are needed and available.

Carol Whitney, executive director for Shaw House Shelter for Homeless Children in Bangor, said the youths there will be cooking and serving Thanksgiving dinner.

“The kids are cooking the turkey for the staff and the other children,” Whitney said.

“Several organizations have called to offer food baskets,” she said. “People in the community are generous, and we have our pantry shelves stocked by federal foods.”

In Ellsworth, Sister Lucille MacDonald, director of the Emmaus Homeless Shelter, said her organization would have an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and serve dinner at 1 p.m.

“Last year we served between 50 and 60,” she said, and added that she has seen an increase for this year.

“Yesterday we distributed turkey food boxes to 130 families, and we still have next week,” she said.

MacDonald said she is looking for people to “Adopt a Family” by paying for toys for needy children, another service of the shelter.

The shelter may be contacted at 667-3962.

Chuck Berry, evening manager at the Camden Area Christian Food Pantry in Camden, said his organization has been giving $25 gift certificates redeemable at a local grocery store to families of four and food baskets to larger families.

The pantry is open Tuesdays and Thursdays and is supported by four local churches.

“Last night was the busiest night we’ve had in seven years,” he said of the increased requests for help.

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