2016 Solidarity Harvest Highlights

Over the past 14 years, Food AND Medicine and the Eastern, Western, and Southern Maine Labor Councils have worked with unions, labor-friendly businesses, community organizations, food pantries and faith-based organizations to distribute meals to thousands of families across all 16 counties in Maine. We have shown solidarity with over 100 farmers during that time by intentionally purchasing surplus produce to fill each meal basket with locally grown food. Last year, we were able to raise funds to cover the costs of distributing Thanksgiving meals to laid-off workers and families facing hard times.

The following summary of accomplishments demonstrates our success:

  • 1,300 meal baskets were distributed to laid-off, unemployed and underemployed workers and families from all 16 counties in Maine. In 2015, 1,200 meals were distributed; unfortunately, the need grows each year.
  • Fresh produce was purchased from over 40 local farms; rolls and butter from local food producers, which all helps to promote the local Maine economy.
  • Over 54,000 pounds of fresh vegetables, over 1,300 boxes of stuffing and more!
  • Committee members met regularly during the year, providing project leadership.
  • More than 300 volunteers including many children¬†gave of their time to source food, raise funds, sort and fill meal baskets.
  • 65 unions and 3 Labor Councils sponsored and gave out meal baskets; over 120 organizations participated in Solidarity Harvest this year.

Food AND Medicine partners not only with unions throughout the state, but also with many organizations in the Bangor region to identify those in need. Many of these organizations are facing budget cuts or restraints, and a partnership with Food AND Medicine allows their clients to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal they may not have otherwise received. We plan on continuing to partner with and strengthen local organizations in future Solidarity Harvests.

Included with each meal was a handout inviting people to tell us their story, along with a survey about the meal and Solidarity Harvest program. The outpouring of gratitude is incredibly touching. Many meal recipients indicated a desire to get involved with Food AND Medicine and/or as a volunteer for Solidarity Harvest in the future, which makes the volunteer process more rewarding for all involved.

2016 was the first year that any Solidarity Harvest meals were distributed outside of Maine. UAW (United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers) Local 3999, Bath Marine Draftsmen Association (BMDA), requested that their donation be used to provide a small number of baskets to their brothers and sisters of Local 1508 in Green Island, New York, who have been locked out by Honeywell since May. With the approval of the Solidarity Harvest Committee, 40 baskets were delivered by BMDA to their brothers and sisters in New York. Even though Solidarity Harvest is a program for Maine, the original purpose of Solidarity Harvest is to strengthen unions, and to show laid off and striking workers that their union brothers and sisters stand with them in solidarity. Especially given the current climate of anti-union rhetoric and policies, we are proud to have been part of this show of union strength and solidarity.

2016 Solidarity Harvest Committee:

Jack McKay – President, Eastern Maine Labor Council and Director, Food AND Medicine
Adam Thiesen – Organizer, Food AND Medicine
Bob Toole – IBEW, Eastern Maine Labor Council, and President, Food AND Medicine Board of Directors
Kevin Gregory – Firemen & Oilers, Treasurer, Food AND Medicine Board of Directors
Cynthia Phinney – IBEW (retired), Western Maine Labor Council, and President, Maine AFL-CIO
Elizabeth O’Connor – AFSCME, President, Southern Maine Labor Council
Sam Jenkins – Food AND Medicine Board of Directors
Stephanie Mattsen – Volunteer, Food AND Medicine
Loren Snow – SEIU (retired), Food AND Medicine Board of Directors

If you have any questions, including how you can get involved in Food AND Medicine or with future Solidarity Harvest programs, please reach out to us at FAM@foodandmedicine.org or call our office at 207-989-5860.