South Portland Food Cupboard volunteer Phil Dube, left, Executive Director Dwayne Hopkins, Warehouse Manager Jim Welch and volunteer Diane Farren are pleased with the results of last month’s Battle of the Neighborhoods food donation challenge. Drew Johnson / The Forecatser

South Portland residents donated over 15,000 pounds of food during the South Portland Food Cupboard’s second annual Battle of the Neighborhoods, with Sunset Park winning the challenge once again.

The friendly competition pits neighborhoods against each other to see who will donate the most food. Sunset Park took first place with 3,162 pounds, the Willard Beach/Loveitt’s Field neighborhood came in second with 2,626 and Thornton Heights finished third with 1,581.

The monthlong drive, held in March, is important for the Food Cupboard because donations routinely drop after the holiday season, said Executive Director Dwayne Hopkins.

“Hunger doesn’t take a vacation,” he said. “It doesn’t take a winter break.”

Rows and stacks of boxes full of donations fill much of the facility, a welcome sight for those at the South Portland Food Cupboard. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

The shelves are now almost fully stocked, with volunteers still sifting through stacks of boxes from the drive.

“Those boxes are a lifeline for some people,” said Warehouse Manager Jim Welch.


The food that was donated during the Battle of the Neighborhoods could last until late May or early June, but donations are always needed at the cupboard.

“We want to keep the food coming in 12 months of the year,” Hopkins said. “We’re going to have times when the shelves are empty. It’s trying to find ways to make sure those shelves are full on a regular basis.”

The cupboard has seen a 64% increase in recipients since last summer, according to Laurel LaBauve, vice president of the board of directors. When federal stimulus payments stopped last summer, she said, they “suddenly saw a big spike.”

“We’re starting to see a little bit more of a spike now,” she said, likely because of recent increases in food, energy and gas prices. “People have to decide sometimes whether you’re going to heat your home or eat, and that’s where we come in.”

Food pantry directors across southern Maine say they are seeing the same trend and are hearing from clients that their budgets are stretched thin as they struggle to keep up with higher grocery bills and soaring gas prices, according to a recent report in the Portland Press Herald.

During the neighborhood challenge, residents were also able to make financial donations, with $1 equating to 2 pounds of food.


Sunset Park resident Vincent LoConte donated $250, adding 500 pounds to his neighborhood’s total.

“They have a really great way to make it easier for people to donate, instead of dropping off food,” LoConte said. “Everyone wants to help out and do good, and this idea is genius from the Food Cupboard. The competition element rallies people together and puts a spotlight on the cause.”

LoConte credited the Edwards family for taking the lead on Sunset Park’s drive.

“As a lifelong resident of South Portland, we know all about the neighborhoods we grew up in,” said Ryan Edwards. “We wanted to stand out, and my wife’s a very competitive person. We just started getting the message out on Facebook.”

The final results of the South Portland Food Cupboard’s Battle of the Neighborhoods 2022. Contributed / South Portland Food Cupboard

Edwards and his wife, Stephanie, offered their home as a drop-off point for their neighbors’ donations. They also told neighbors they’d shop for them if they were unable to get to the stores to buy food to give.

“I come from a family where we really believe in human rights and basic rights,” Edwards said. “The idea that anybody would have to go hungry is just never going to sit well with me … This is such a great community and a really special city. None of our citizens should ever have to wonder about how they’re going to eat.”


Tricia Kavanaugh led a drive in Stanwood Park, helping her neighborhood place fourth in the competition. Her condo complex donated over half of the 1,524 pounds of food the neighborhood raised,  just 57 pounds shy of third place.

“I came to the clustered street I live on and said, ‘hey, maybe we can do something to help,'” she said. “We sent an email to about 60 condos in our complex. We did 835 pounds, and that’s just four little streets.”

Each donor who spoke with The Forecaster was adamant about giving credit to the Food Cupboard’s volunteers.

“The real difference-makers are the volunteers over at the food cupboard,” Edwards said. “People who go in day after day; those are the real heroes.”

Edwards hopes that more South Portland residents will consider donating to the Food Cupboard.

“Picking up a couple dollars extra in canned goods might not seem like a big deal or that impactful,” he said. “But if all of our 26,000 residents in South Portland picked up a couple extra canned goods, you’re talking 100,000 items that they can distribute to those in need. That is super impactful.”

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