November 23, 2010

'Turkey Challenge' takes a bite out of hunger in Biddeford

The owners of a pub respond to a growing need by donating 50 turkeys to a food pantry.

By Emma Bouthillette ebouthillette@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — As people filed into the Stone Soup Food Pantry on Main Street on Monday morning, Jack and Vassie Fowler pulled up to the curb with their silver minivan filled with food. The owners of Union House Pub and Pizza were delivering the last 25 of 50 turkeys they donated to the food pantry.

click image to enlarge

Jack and Vassie Fowler unload turkeys from their minivan Monday morning at the Stone Soup Food Pantry in Biddeford. "They have been our biggest help," says Kathy Duke, director of the pantry.

Emma Bouthillette/Staff Writer

The Fowlers got inspired to start their "turkey challenge" when they drove past the pantry last month on a Monday morning -- one of two days each week when people can pick up food.

"I was taken by how many people were standing in line (for food pickup)," Vassie Fowler said. "These were regular people, and they needed food."

When she contacted Kathy Duke, director of the food pantry, and offered to donate turkeys, Duke was excited.

"They have been our biggest help," Duke said.

Vassie Fowler initially set out to donate 100 turkeys. Based on the money the Fowlers raised through donations from their customers and the demand at the food pantry, that goal was knocked down to 50.

Duke said the pantry has received donations of roaster chickens and plans to give those to single people or couples for Thanksgiving, reducing the number of turkeys needed.

The Stone Soup Food Pantry is run by a core group of 10 volunteers. It serves an average of 180 families a week and usually sees an increase in patrons during the holidays.

The pantry has received donations from York County Food Rescue and from the community, Duke said.

"It's about everybody working together," she said as she watched patrons help unload a truckload of food Monday morning.

The volunteers also helped unload grocery bags full of food from the back of the Fowlers' minivan -- food the couple bought from stores in the area.

"(The wholesale distributors) couldn't help me or give me a deal," Vassie Fowler said, with prices of 99 cents to $1.29 per pound for turkey. "Then I saw that Hannaford and Shaw's had (turkeys) for 68 cents a pound."

So she shopped at the Hannaford and Shaw's stores in Saco and Biddeford, and at Walmart in Biddeford, for the best deals. She saved enough money in the process to add all the trimmings for a Thanksgiving dinner.

"This helps 100 percent, for anybody to donate all these turkeys and all the fixings," Duke said.

As people continued to filter into the food pantry Monday, volunteers worked quickly to unload the Fowlers' van and get the food sorted.

"It is usually not this busy," said Helen Lewis, the pantry's co-director, but people who benefit from the service had only Monday or Wednesday to pick up what they need for the holiday.

"They're just people in need," Lewis said.

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: ebouthillette@pressherald.com

 

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