On Tuesday, teammates from the basketball and football teams – plus one player from the women’s lacrosse team – gathered at the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program early on a rainy, bitter morning to unpack a food truck, or “Food Mobile.” They were the morning’s first shift of Bowdoin student-athletes, there to unload the truck packed with 3,080 lbs. of donated food.
Since last November, Bowdoin athletes from several different teams, including field hockey and the men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams, have been volunteering once a month at the the local food bank to distribute food to the needy.
Beginning well before 9 a.m. Tuesday, people began lining up in the cold drizzle, some standing under umbrellas, others huddled in their jackets, to wait for the Food Mobile to open. For many years, the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program has run a soup kitchen, food pantry and food bank, but starting last fall, the organization received a grant from the Good Shepard Food Bank in Auburn and the Senter Fund to offer an additional monthly food program.
From the beginning, Bowdoin athletes have been helping with this new service, beginning with the men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse teams, and later broadening to include many other sports, according to David Caputi, head football coach. Other students from campus have helped out as well.
To start off the day, students unpacked the vegetables, boxed and canned goods, meats, drinks, desserts and other food from the truck, and placed the items on tables for the long line of people to pick up. Between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., the students helped fill clients’ bags and boxes with 20 lbs of food, and carried them to their parked cars.
Because clients are limited to biweekly pick-ups from the food bank, once every 14 days, the new service has helped them get through the lean days, according to Interim Executive Director Karen Parker. Plus, while the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program requires that its clients provide federal eligibility, it does not do so for its monthly food truck program. “The Food Mobile is open for all,” Parker says.
The last two visits brought 210 and 189 people, according to Jeanne Mayo, a former board member and longtime volunteer. While giving an overview of the program to the Bowdoin teammates who had arrived early in the morning to help, Mayo said, “If you think people need food enough to stand outside for two hours on a cold, raw day, [this service] is really a necessity.”
The rain dampened the numbers somewhat, but not by much. Parker said 153 people showed up Tuesday. She added that in the past two years, MCHPP’s soup kitchen clients have increased 32%.
With the Bowdoin students departing for the summer, Parker says the organization is looking for volunteers to help with the Food Mobile June 5, July 10 and August 7.