By Eden Martin (Giving Voice) – food bank coordinator at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community.
Spring is my favorite season – full of hope, new beginnings, and the start of the growing season in Maine! Farmers and gardeners are ramping up for the coming growing season by planning gardens, planting seeds, and working to prepare for the busy months ahead. What if during your planning, you decided to set aside the food in one raised bed for your neighbor? Well, many people are doing just that! Local farmers, community and home gardeners, businesses, and schools are all setting aside produce that they harvest to donate to those in the community who need it.
The Maine Harvest for Hunger Program, run by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, coordinates and tracks donations of produce throughout Maine and you can be a part of it! All you have to do is connect with a local recipient agency, like Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, drop your produce off at the agency, then report your donation on the Maine Harvest for Hunger website – super easy! This reporting helps the state get a more comprehensive idea of how much food is actually being used to feed neighbors in need.
A great example of this is the Common Good Garden run by the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust. Volunteers tend the garden and spend over 400 hours each season planting, watering, and harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables. This produce is donated to Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community, which then distributes it throughout the region to help feed people experiencing food insecurity. In 2021, the Common Good Garden donated over 3,000 pounds of fresh produce to Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program!
Since the Maine Harvest for Hunger system started keeping track in 2000, approximately 3,176,120 pounds of fresh produce has been donated in the state of Maine – that is a lot of produce! Thanks to partners in the community such as the Common Good Garden, Crystal Spring Farm, IDEXX, Whatley Farm, Six River Farm, farmers’ markets, and many more, food insecure individuals in Maine are able to have access to fresh, local produce all year long.
To learn more about how you can be part of this movement and use your home garden to support your community, you can visit extension.umaine.edu/harvest-for-hunger or www.mchpp.org.