Giving Thanks: One Food Drive Sparks Controversy, Another Creates Solidarity

Thanksgiving (pic)You don’t often see “controversial” and “charity food drive” in the same headline, but that’s exactly what has been happening over the past week.  With Thanksgiving upon us, Walmart once again takes the cake (pumpkin pie?) for being the biggest turkey.  The mammoth retail chain pays its employees so poorly that a Walmart in Canton, Ohio, put up signs requesting food donations from fellow employees, so “Associates in Need can enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner.”

As the image went viral, it sparked outrage.  “That Walmart would have the audacity to ask low-wage workers to donate food to other low-wage workers – to me, it is a moral outrage,” said Norma Mills, a Canton resident who saw the sign.  The food drive highlights the fact that Walmart refuses to pay its employees a living wage.  By Walmart’s own figures, most of its associates make less than $25,000/year, just over the federal poverty line. 

As Stephen Colbert pointed out, “Some critics out there say Walmart isn’t doing enough, but they’re wrong, because Walmart isn’t doing anything.  These bins are for Walmart employees to donate to other employees.  And where can Walmart’s low wage workers find cheap food to donate?  Walmart.”

But here in Maine, there’s an annual Thanksgiving food drive underway that celebrates solidarity and unity, not controversy.  This year marks the 11th Annual Solidarity Harvest, a project sponsored by Food AND Medicine, a non-profit organization in Bangor.  Since 2003, Food AND Medicine has joined with individuals, unions, businesses, and local farmers to provide Thanksgiving meals to laid-off workers who have hit tough times.  Last year, Food AND Medicine distributed 1,000 locally grown meals to families across Maine, and this year it hopes to reach 1,100 families.  That’s enough food to feed 8,000 people.

This effort is about solidarity, not charity.  The Thanksgiving baskets are filled with food grown and made by local farmers and bakeries, showing solidarity with these workers. Volunteers deliver the baskets of locally sourced food, and some of the volunteers are working families who received baskets themselves in past years. 

Empowering Maine workers is at the core of McTeague Higbee’s mission, and Solidarity Harvest is an important part of that work.  As in past years, this year McTeague Higbee is providing generous financial support to Solidarity Harvest in its efforts to feed Maine families and support local farms and workers. 

The employees at McTeague Higbee salute Food AND Medicine for its efforts, and invite you to join us in standing up for Maine’s workers.  For more information about the Solidarity Harvest, just contact Food AND Medicine.  At this time of giving thanks, we hope you will join us in supporting our fellow Mainers.

If you believe your rights have been violated, contact us.