Union members give thanks with Solidarity Harvest

Posted Nov. 09, 2013, at 3:42 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — The “ridiculously ambitious” goal of providing turkey and trimmings to 1,000 needy families at Thanksgiving was accomplished last year, so this year’s Solidarity Harvest goal is 1,100 families, according to Jack McKay, president of the Eastern Maine Labor Council.

“That’s enough food to feed 8,000 people,” said McKay, who is also director of the nonprofit group Food AND Medicine.

The original Solidarity Harvest was held in 2003 in the wake of layoffs at the Bucksport paper mill and was continued in 2004 after Eastern Fine Paper Co. in Brewer closed and sent millworkers out the door with nothing.

“We thought it was big when there were 130 baskets,” said McKay, who added the need continued to grow over the years and the project has since moved statewide. “I know this year they are delivering to Aroostook County, Washington County and upper Penobscot County” among other locations in central and southern Maine.

A total of 150 baskets were delivered in 2008, but by 2011 the number of families provided with Turkey Day meals had reached 550. Last year, the deliveries doubled in size, thanks to matching donations from Maine businesses.

Union members at the Bucksport mill annually host a turkey drive to collect turkeys and the rest come from Manna Inc. in Bangor. Union locals, community organizations, small businesses and individuals gather donations and work with local farmers to provide families of laid-off workers and others in need with Thanksgiving baskets.

The Solidarity Harvest Thanksgiving baskets have a turkey, stuffing, locally grown vegetables and locally baked breads and pies, and are enough to feed a family of eight.

Individuals can sponsor a family with a $30 donation, said Erin Sweeney, agriculture organizer for Food AND Medicine.

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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