Ninth annual Solidarity Harvest under way in Brewer

Posted Nov. 21, 2011, at 6:55 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — The ninth annual Solidarity Harvest, a project that distributes baskets full of Thanksgiving food to needy families in the area, is in full gear as the holiday approaches.

The project, coordinated by Food AND Medicine and the Eastern Maine Labor Council, was created in 2003 in the wake of layoffs at the Bucksport paper mill and has grown ever since, an organizer said. Union locals, community organizations, farmers and small businesses gathered together to provide families of laid-off workers with Thanksgiving baskets featuring local foods.

“In the beginning, we thought it would be one and done, but the layoffs kept coming and the need was ever-present,” Food AND Medicine director Jack McKay said in a press release. “Solidarity Harvest has grown to over 550 baskets.”

The baskets were distributed over the weekend and on Monday. The total is up substantially from last year, when 341 baskets were handed out.

Solidarity Harvest baskets are almost entirely made up of food grown at local farms. This helps the farmers and ensures that money stays in the community, according to McKay.

In addition to turkeys donated from the Manna Industries turkey drive, each basket contains carrots, beets, rutabaga, onions, cranberries, squash, potatoes, stuffing, rolls, pumpkin pies, cider and butter.

Included in the baskets are surveys that collect information about how the loss of jobs is affecting people in the region.

New this year, eight sponsors stepped forward to purchase reusable bags for the vegetables, while a Topsham-based law firm, McTeague Higbee, offered a matching grant of up to $5,000 that allowed Solidarity Harvest to grow in many ways this year, according to McKay.