Final results of the 2023 Battle of the Neighborhoods. Courtesy of the South Portland Food Cupboard

The third annual Battle of the Neighborhoods food drive to support the South Portland Food Cupboard has just finished. Local neighborhoods were challenged to see what area could donate the most in finances and nonperishables. Many different local South Portland neighborhoods get involved, as well as the town of Cape Elizabeth and donations from Scarborough and Portland. The drive ran from Valentine’s Day to St. Patrick’s Day.

Donations greatly surpassed last year’s, with 18,895 pounds of food. In 2022, the Battle yielded 15,369 pounds in food donations.

Ocean Street held the lead for most of the drive’s duration, but a tie of Willard and Loveitt’s Field won the Battle in the final weeks. Pleasantdale and Highland Meadow tied for fourth place.

“This year’s battle was a bit different than previous years,” said Laurel LaBauve, vice president of the South Portland Food Cupboard. “We had more people donate money ($1 equals two pounds of food) than bring in nonperishables. We like the mix. The donated nonperishables provide some variety that our recipients really appreciate. But we have strong buying power for discounted food, so the cash is very helpful as well.”

With so many different people donating, a large variety of food is gathered. The cupboard is then able to provide for more people and more tastes as a result.

The South Portland Food Cupboard has more than 200 volunteers that work to help feed those in need. In the last fiscal year from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, the cupboard served about 12,000 people. The need has risen to 20,000 people between July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023.

“After New Year’s our donations go right down the tube,” said Jim Welch, operations manager of the South Portland Food Cupboard. “It’s like everybody forgets about donating. So we started this Battle of the Neighborhoods. And it took off, especially right at the beginning of COVID. And it brought in so much stuff we had to find other places to store it.

“The people are just incredible. It’s just a wonderful thing. During the time we wouldn’t be getting donations, I’m getting several tons and tons of food to put out which helps us get through to April.”

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