PORTSMOUTH — As the Pease ‘n Carrots holiday food drive embarks on its 11th campaign its chairman hopes for participation by every Pease International Tradeport business.
“My goal is to make it as hard for every company on Pease not to belong to this because we try to make it as user friendly as possible,” said Mark Sullivan, the Seacoast Asset Management president who has run the annual food drive since the beginning.
Sullivan said participation has grown each year with 42 tradeport companies joining the 2017 campaign. Last year, cash donations totaled $17,039 and foodstuff donations totaled 22,188 pounds, all for Gather, the nonprofit organization that addresses hunger issues in the greater Seacoast.
There are 250 or so companies – from very large to very small – at the tradeport.
This holiday season’s drive starts Tuesday, Nov. 13 and runs through Dec. 21.
“It’s a good time of year to be doing good,” said Deb Antony, Gather’s executive director. “In terms of the companies, I think employees get behind that kind of thing. They like the idea that they can bring peanut butter to work and know that they’re helping, or they can write a check to help.”
Sullivan said the fact the tradeport is a community unto itself is a benefit. “I think it’s helped a lot by the fact that the tradeport is a defined area,” he added. “I really do think that the generosity here seems to be above average.”
Philbrick’s Fresh Market in Portsmouth, a long-time backer of the drive, is loaning grocery carts to the effort: 35 carts will be positioned at the companies that have donated the most in past years. “The visual of the cart is really impactful,” said Sullivan, as interest in the drive grows as the carts get more and more food donations.
End-of-the-drive prizes are given to one large company and one small company with the most donations in terms of cash and food. The two annual “My Cup Runneth Over” trophies were presented last year to Prime Buchholz & Associates and Loftware.
Points are awarded, depending on the donation:
* Five points for cash, checks and online giving;
* Three points for each donation of proteins and staples, such as canned tuna, peanut butter, canned tomatoes, granola/protein bars and low sugar cereals;
* Two points for baking and seasoning items such as flour, sugar, olive oil, vinegar and spices;
* 1.5 points for personal care items such as shampoo and conditioner, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and diapers.
Sullivan and Anthony say cash is king.
“It allows us to purchase when something goes on sale, so that we can load up on stuff that we know we’ll need,” Anthony said. “We’re not overstoring peas and carrots, we’re able to have a diversity of things that we’re collecting.”
Sullivan said, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, 1.2 pounds of food equals one meal, and $1 equals four meals. So a $250 donation equates to 1,000 meals. Cash is also easier to claim as a tax deduction than a bag of groceries, he added, and its donation requires no cost of transportation.
The drive is making it easier to donate cash online: https://gather.networkforgood.com/projects/61224-pease-n-carrots-2018. Companies can commit to a monthly donation and get credit for the full amount when it comes time to calculating its food drive points.
Anthony said Pease ‘n Carrots is a huge benefit for Gather. “The winter season is the hardest for most of our families,” she said, “because they’re paying bills that they haven’t had to pay. It’s an abundance of food coming in that usually lasts through March.”
There is also the benefit of the connection of the tradeport community to Gather.
“When you’re working with companies, every employee gets to know us,” Anthony said. “We’ve had almost five times the amount of companies this year that are part of this call and ask to do a group volunteer job. It opens the door for us to a lot of these companies that we might not otherwise interact with.”
The economy is good, unemployment is low, and Sullivan hopes that translates to a healthy amount of giving this year. But as good as the economy is Anthony notes there are folks who struggle.
“There are still people here who are hungry,” she said.
Gather provides nutritious food through distribution programs and its Pantry Market from its offices and warehouse at 210 West Road. It works with community partners throughout the Seacoast to distribute food and provide ready-made meals that it prepares.
New Hampshire has an aging population and Sullivan has seen through his work as a financial planner that many people were not prepared for retirement. A trend they’re both seeing is the increasing number of elderly looking to Gather for help.
“It doubled in one year,” Sullivan said.
“We’re seeing an increasing number of senior citizens that are coming in,” added Anthony.