Holiday Food Basket Project marks 40 years of feeding the hungry
CONCORD — As the 40th anniversary of the Capital Region Food Program’s Holiday Food Basket Project approaches, Chairman Steven Painchaud has given a lot of thought to what his late father-in-law, Mark E. Manus, founder of the project, would think if he could look upon his creation today.
“I think he would feel a tremendous sense of pride about what the program has accomplished, and (what) it has become,” said Painchaud, a professor at Southern New Hampshire University. “I also think he would feel some sadness that 40 years later, there are still so many in this country going hungry.”
The Capital Region Food Program (CRFP) will celebrate its anniversary during its annual Holiday Food Basket Project, which gets underway Tuesday at the National Guard Armory in Concord.
The first Holiday Food Basket Project was held in 1974. Since then, more than 2,800 tons of food have been distributed by the program through both the Holiday Food Basket Project (HFBP) and Year Round Distribution Project, according to Jill Teeters, publicity chairwoman for CRFP.
“This translates into well over $2.5 million spent by the organization over the past four decades to fight hunger insecurity in the greater Concord area,” said Teeters, a Manchester resident.
Teeters said what makes the CRFP unique is that it is not a food bank. Instead, it is a private, not-for-profit, 100 percent volunteer organization with no paid staff. It distributes food annually through two major programs — the annual Holiday Food Basket Project each December and the monthly Year Round Distribution Project.
“All food is distributed at no cost,” said Teeters. “One hundred percent of every dollar contributed to the organization is used to purchase food. Any supplies, services and expertise needed are provided as in-kind donations or services.”
The program serves Allenstown, Boscawen, Bow, Canterbury, Chichester, Concord, Contoocook, Dunbarton, Epsom, Hopkinton, Loudon, Pembroke, Penacook, Pittsfield, Salisbury, Suncook, Warner and Webster. Teeters said the program is supported by the spirit of corporate social responsibility and multi-generational leadership and volunteerism.
“Currently, we have many families working with us with their third generation actively involved in the program,” said Teeters. “For a lot of them, helping out has become part of their family’s holiday tradition.”
The CRFP was incorporated as a New Hampshire voluntary nonprofit organization in 1984. Prior to that, the Holiday Food Basket Project was carried out by partnering with the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce (GCCC). In 1982, organizers recognized the need had grown to more than just at the holidays. As a result, Manus, a former GCCC president, and other civic leaders arranged to establish the Capital Region Food Program as a separate nonprofit organization. It has remained 100 percent volunteer-driven since inception.
In 2012, more than 74 tons of food was distributed to more than 2,500 families in Concord. Recipients include Bow Human Services, Centerpoint Food Pantry, Concord Human Services, First Congregational Church, Friends of Forgotten Children, McKenna House, Salvation Army, St. John’s Food Pantry, St. Paul’s Food Pantry, St. Peter’s Church – St. Vincent DePaul Society, Suncook CAP, The Friendly Kitchen, United Church of Penacook and West Congregational Church.
More than 1,100 individuals volunteered for the project in 2012, including elders and families, business people and civic leaders, recipients and social service professionals.