The Harrison Food Bank is holding a bottle and Thanksgiving Drive this Saturday at the Harrison Town Hall. Organizers hope to fill one of its delivery trucks with returnables and the other with non-perishable food. Supplied photo

HARRISON — What is Thanksgiving without a spread of vegetables on the table? The Harrison Food Bank does not want to find out.

Instead, it is asking the community to turn out for a bottle and food drive this Saturday at the Harrison Town Office parking lot between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to help provide Thanksgiving to those struggling with food insecurity.

Add vegetables to the most recent shortage of available goods from store and food pantry shelves. That means that with Thanksgiving just two weeks away volunteers are scrambling for canned vegetables to include with up to 500 meals to families in need throughout western Maine.

“When we got our allotment of TEFAP (Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program, administered by the USDA), there were no vegetables at all,” shared Sandy Swett, founder and operations manager for the Harrison Food Bank. “That is very unusual so I called, thinking there was mistake. But they told me that the (federal) warehouse in Augusta does not have vegetables of any kind in stock. And we’re seeing the same with donations from grocery stores, not many vegetables.”

Swett expects hundreds of cars will line up in the parking lot on Nov. 23 to pick up Thanksgiving meals. The food bank serves more than 90 communities in Maine and even some in New Hampshire.

“The (vegetable) shortage kind of kick-started the plan to do both: a food drive with our bottle drive,” Swett continued. “We use returnable bottles to fund fuel for the trucks. Diesel alone runs $1,200 a month. That’s separate from the tires, batteries and inspections we just had done, at $3,800. For an oil change alone is $500 per truck.”

Donations – individual as well as business – helped keep food flowing since the beginning of the pandemic. However, Swett said, recently those have been slipping.

“We are grateful for whatever people are able to share with us,” she said. “We don’t need fresh food right now, mostly non-perishables. And whatever financial donations people are able to make.”

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