BRUNSWICK, Maine — With just two weeks to go until one of America's favorite holidays, a lot of Mainers are likely already in the process of planning their holiday meals. For some people, though, that may involve financial stress that an initiative in Brunswick is addressing.
From now until the day before Thanksgiving, Mainers can go to the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program to get a bag filled with classic holiday staples like canned green beans and corn; stuffing and gravy (regular or gluten-free); carrots, potatoes, and butternut squash; and a $10 Hannaford gift card. That money is designed to help people buy a turkey or any protein of their choosing. Anyone with a family of four or more can take two bags.
"The last year and a half has been incredibly difficult for everybody worldwide, and so if we can provide people with something that they can enjoy with their families, and maybe for the first time congregate with their families after a year and a half of being separated — or congregate with the people they care about most — and celebrate that together, I think we need that more than ever right now," Heather Arvidson, the volunteer and client services manager at MCHPP, said.
Last year, MCHPP gave out 655 Thanksgiving bags. This year, staff members and volunteers are planning to give out about 800 bags — they've already given out more than 200. The goal is to increase the number of people they can serve every year, but Arvidson said there has also been an uptick in need. That could be because of the continued effects of the pandemic, or a seasonal shift since some Mainers do jobs that only last during the summer. It could also be linked to an increase in grocery prices due to supply chain issues.
"I think the expense of groceries is causing a lot of people to seek alternative sources of food," Arvidson said, noting that saving on Thanksgiving food items could help with other expenses. "I know when I go to the grocery store myself, I'm noticing an uptick in what I'm paying, and so I think it's that. I think a lot of people are [also] still unemployed or under-employed."
For six-year volunteer Hilary Ward from Topsham, helping out and serving the community means a lot. She said in many ways, it's an eye-opening experience.
"I think that a lot of people who come from very comfortable environments, who have enough money, really don't realize what it's like to be food insecure," Ward said. "(It's) really a major issue especially for families with young children or older people, and I think it's very important, especially around the holidays, that we remember those people."
MCHPP will also be serving a takeaway Thanksgiving meal this year on the holiday from 11 a.m-12:30 p.m. If you want to pick one up, you can head to 12 Tenney Way in Brunswick during regular hours, listed below. You can also order ahead online by clicking here.
- Tuesdays: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
- Wednesdays: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Fridays: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Saturdays: 12 p.m.-3 p.m.