AUGUSTA — Since 2000, Maine Harvest for Hunger, a program coordinated by University of Maine Cooperative Extension, has distributed more than 3 million pounds of food to citizens grappling with hunger.
This year, the program donated more than 193,000 pounds of fresh produce from over 120 farms in the state. The donations went to 207 hunger-alleviation distribution sites.
Maine Harvest for Hunger had 365 volunteers this year, including UMaine Extension Master Gardeners, and eight corporate partners from 12 counties who logged over 6,000 hours. The value of the produce they harvested is estimated at over $327,000.
According to the USDA Economic Research Service, Maine has the highest rate of food insecurity in New England. The USDA estimates over 13.6% of Maine households — over 182,000 individuals — are food insecure. According to Feeding America, 18.5% of Maine children experienced food insecurity in 2017.
Since 2000, UMaine Extension’s Maine Harvest for Hunger has mobilized Master Gardener Volunteers, home gardeners, farmers, businesses, schools, and civic groups to grow, glean, and donate quality produce to distribution sites (pantries, shelters, community meals) and directly to neighbors in need. The goal is to mitigate hunger, improve nutrition and health, and help recipients develop lifelong positive nutritional habits.
In addition, educational programs, such as Hancock County’s Eat Well Volunteers, have focused on engaging food pantry recipients in learning appropriate methods of cooking and using fresh produce. Statewide Extension programs help teach Mainers to grow more of their own fresh garden produce.
Now in its 20th season, Maine Harvest for Hunger has continued to improve the efficiency of supplying fresh produce to food pantries across Maine through building partnerships. For example, through Maine Harvest for Hunger volunteer planning and communications, several food pantries are now sending trucks and vans directly to the farm where gleaning is taking place.
Maine has approximately 130 community gardens and many of them are supported by Extension staff and Master Gardener Volunteers. As a result, more than 30 of them now have added a Maine Harvest for Hunger area to their community garden and contributed almost 20,000 pounds in 2019.
–University of Maine Cooperative Extension
For more articles out of New England, click here.