June 21, 2018
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Union-supported Solidarity Harvest seeks to double number of Thanksgiving meals

Kate Collins | BDN
Kate Collins | BDN
Willow Cortes-Eklund, Solidarity Harvest Coordinator, displays a selection of food provided to local families by Food AND Medicine and the Eastern Maine Labor Council in November 2011, at the Food AND Medicine headquarters in Brewer.
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BREWER, Maine — The Eastern Maine Labor Council and the nonprofit group Food AND Medicine have partnered with the Western Maine Labor Council, farmers and other groups this year in an effort to double the number of Thanksgiving meals given away as part of their 10th annual Solidarity Harvest.

The partnership will send turkeys and trimmings to laid-off workers and others in need all around the state, said Erin Sweeney, agriculture organizer for Food AND Medicine, adding that funds are still being raised.

“With unemployment rates going up, there is a huge need for baskets this year,” she said. “Our goal is to get 1,000 meals distributed across the entire state.”

When the first Solidarity Harvest was held a decade ago, Thanksgiving meals were provided to families of laid-off Eastern Fine Paper Co. millworkers in Brewer. The need has only grown since, Sweeney said.

“Last year, we did 550 [meals], so this is almost twice as many,” she said. “It’s because of the need. We’re now hitting every county in the state.”

Each Thanksgiving basket, filled with a turkey, stuffing, locally grown vegetables and locally baked breads and pies, feeds a family of eight.

“Local sourcing ensures families receive high-quality food, supports local farms and keeps funding here in our communities,” Sweeney said in a news release. “Many unions, organizations, and churches have already committed countless hours of time and energy and generous financial donations to make the project possible.”

Organizers of the Solidarity Harvest work to buy everything local, said Cynthia Phinney, the Western Maine Labor Council’s Solidarity Harvest committee chairwoman.

“The beauty of this program is that besides being a gesture of generosity and solidarity with the families in need, it actively works to build and support a stronger local economy with the ultimate goal of having less people in need at this or any other time of year,” she said in the release.

The meals cost about $30 each, so the fundraising goal is $30,000.

“In just a few months, union locals across the state have already committed over $10,000 in support of this year’s Solidarity Harvest,” the release stated. “Manna Industries of Bangor has again promised their support of 1,000 turkeys the weekend before Thanksgiving. Bangor Savings Bank, a new partner this year, has also agreed to sponsor the project in the amount of $1,000. McTeague Higbee, a three-year partner of the project, has renewed their commitment to the project.”

McTeague Higbee, a law firm based in Topsham, has matched monetary donations collected from local union members in the past. It is challenging “the greater business community to show their solidarity this Thanksgiving season” by providing another $5,000 donation match for funds collected from other firms and businesses, the release stated.

Individuals can sponsor a family with a $30 donation, Sweeney said. All donations eligible for the matching grants must be submitted by Nov. 15, she said.

“It is a huge community effort, and we need all the support we can get,” Sweeney said.

For more information about Solidarity Harvest, contact Food AND Medicine at 989-5860 or email Erin Sweeney at erin@foodandmedicine.org.

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