For two Saturdays a month, the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s (MCHPP) soup kitchen is crowded with Bowdoin students and faculty. Madeleine Msall, professor of physics, who was one of the biggest advocates and committed volunteers, now leads the recruitment process for Bowdoin students and faculty. Bowdoin is MCHPP’s largest volunteer source. 

Launched in 1983, the MCHPP has since expanded to include nine different services. In addition to volunteering at the soup kitchen, Bowdoin volunteers also work at the organization’s other programs through the McKeen Center for the Common Good—such as Food Mobile and Summer Food Service, which provide food services outside of MCHPP’s business hours.  

Three years ago, Msall volunteered with a pilot program outside the College to see if MCHPP could expand from weekdays to include service on Saturday. 

“We didn’t have as many people coming for lunch on the weekend as we did during the week, but we had a good core group of people for whom this is needed,” Msall said, “That meant that the soup kitchen needed to expand its volunteer base by 20 percent.”

Msall used her organizational platform at Bowdoin to find volunteers and then committed to the role of head recruiter for two Saturdays a month. While Msall is primarily focused on faculty recruitment for Mid Coast, sophomores Jake Stenquist and Sophie al Mutawaly took on student recruitment for the first Saturday of every month, for students. 

According to Msall, there has been a constant stream of students, faculty and staff through the program. 

“We’ve had people from the janitorial staff, dining halls, deans, department coordinators, faculty from all different departments,” she said.

The faculty recruitment tends to be focused on the new faculty to give them a chance to get to know Brunswick and other staff members, according to Msall. 

The student recruitment has a heavy focus on athletes. 

“We’re both on our respective soccer teams, so we have connections with other teams. It’s easier to send it out to a captain for them to distribute to their team,” Stenquist said.

 “However, we have a couple professors who send it out to their classes via email,” he added. 

Every Saturday, around 25 people run the soup kitchen in two shifts: morning and afternoon. The morning shift is comprised of food and dining hall preparation, while the afternoon shift involves serving the food. 

“It’s a sit down meal so people are waited on; they’re not coming through a line with cafeteria trays,” Msall said. 

Through the program, the volunteers and the Brunswick community have gotten closer. 

“I think the reason I love it so much is just the interaction you get to have with people from Brunswick,” said al Mutawaly. “You meet kids, elderly, all kinds of people.”

Msall expanded on this. “The number one thing it does is it personalizes the problem of hunger in Maine. I think everyone comes away with a greater feeling about what our community is doing in a very personal way,” she said. 

Stenquist, who is pursuing a career in the military, said, “I met so many veterans who are community members in Brunswick and I’ve been able to have conversations with them.”

Msall sees the benefit of interacting not only with members of the Brunswick community, but also with members of the Bowdoin community whom she would not otherwise meet.

The program builds a stronger bond between the groups that volunteer. 

“What’s nice about Saturday is that it’s all Bowdoin faculty or students. It’s kind of a team-building event,” said Msall. 

al Mutawaly echoed this sentiment.

“I had some first years on the soccer team who came to volunteer afterward text me saying, ‘That was so much fun, please tell me every time you’re going, I would love to do it!’”

She aims to continue to build a base of volunteers with this level of enthusiasm. Msall, who is going on sabbatical next academic year, hopes that the program will continue to develop under the new head recruiter, Sara Eddy, associate director of events and summer programs, in addition to al Mutawaly and Stenquist. 

Stenquist’s goal is to get more people excited about volunteer work, which he said does not always happen naturally. 

“It does need to be spurred sometimes,” he said. “It would be great if that sense of community and wanting to give back to the Brunswick community was there instantly and people wanted to get involved.”

Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program has 1,200 volunteers, 10 percent of which are from the Bowdoin community, according to Msall. 

“The volunteers from the Bowdoin community are the biggest source of the volunteers for this local organization; it makes a tremendous difference in the amount of work that they can do.” 

This January, the highest number of lunches, 111, were served on a Saturday.

“I don’t know what it was about that particular Saturday, but I was just incredibly impressed by how poised my team was while we ran out of every kind of food,” Msall said. 

“It was so great to see that we could feed all these people, and provide something,” she added. “At the same time, I was so dismayed by how many people are hungry in Brunswick.”