BTLT Partners to Bring Food to the Community

It’s been a challenging year for everyone, but for those in our community whostruggle to access enough food, this year has been particularly hard. That’s whytheMerrymeetingGleaners(a project of theMerrymeetingFood Council)have been working diligentlyto assure that as much food as possibleis reachingthose in need– eveninmid-winter, when there is little to glean from local farm fields.

MerrymeetingGleaners harvestssurplus food from35local farms and redistribute it to over 30 organizations that support individuals who require help accessing foodacross17 towns in the Bath-Brunswick region.Despitefacing challengesassociated with the need to physically distance, mask,respect the safety needs of farmers and their families,andhandle food differently,this yearover fiftydedicated gleaning volunteersgathered and harvestedalmost52,000 poundsof fresh foodfrom local farm fields and markets to donate to those in need. But they didn’t stop there.

TheMerrymeetingFood Councilsecured emergency funding from the Elmina B.Sewall Foundation to purchase food to supplement the emergency food system during the pandemic.The Food Council coordinated emergency funding requests and food distributions with other regional partners including MidCoast Hunger Prevention Program and Good Food for Bath to ensurethe food needs of all regional partners were met.MerrymeetingFood Council purchased storage crops from local farms to bolster the supply of fresh foods being distributed by the Gleaners. Local produce and ducks were distributed immediately or processed by volunteers (e.g.cut up butternut squash) or turned into soup in partnership with Bessie’s Farm Goods in Freeport.

In addition, between late December and early February, the Gleaners partneredwith FlightDeckBrewing toordernutritious, shelf stable food fromNative Maine Produce.Thisallowedthe Gleanerstoacquire healthy foods that can easily be stored at room temperaturewhichtheirpartnerorganizationswere having difficultysourcingfor their clients.

“We are so grateful for the partnership with Flight Deck Brewing,” saysMerrymeetingGleanersCoordinator, Kelly Davis. “Working with us to order shelf stable food to supplement the fresh gleaned produce we are donating has allowed us to provide even more support to our partners that are working so hard to meet the increased food needs of our community members.”

Soon,Food Council leaders were able to work withNative Maineto secure a non-profitdiscountfor the purchases. At that point,the purchasingstarted to go throughone of the Food Council’sfiscal sponsors,Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust(whichwas already administering the funds)to leverage their non-profit status,whiledeliveries keptarriving atFlight Deck– a huge help because of their existing delivery and storage capacity.

FromFlight Deck,gleaningvolunteers distributed the food to those in needacross the southernmidcoast, includingatMidCoast Community Action Program (Bath, Brunswick andPejepscotHead Starts), Big BrothersBigSisters,Wabanaki REACH, Neighborhood Café, River Landing, Richmond Terrace, Bath Housing,Village Clubhouse, Phippsburg Elementary, Family Stone Projects, Bowdoinham Food Pantry,andtheBath Area Food Bank.

DonnaPatrick, Resident Services Coordinator for Riverside Landing in Topsham and Richmond Terrace in Richmond, says she has been so grateful for all the food the Gleaners have provided, and really appreciated them going the extra mile by getting non-perishable itemsduring this season when less is available from local farms. “We manage housing for low income, elderly/disabled adults on a fixed income,” said Patrick.The gleaners deliver to our 36 residents in Topsham and 36 residents in Richmond. This delivery supplements our residents’ diets with healthy, nutritious food they may not otherwise be able to afford. With winter and COVID, food insecurity is a real fear for them. They have asked me, with tears in their eyes, to pass on their gratitude to all for keeping them safe and so well fed.”

In total,the emergency funding allowedmore than5,800poundsof additional foodto bedistributed to community members facing food insecurity this winter – with roughly one-third of that foodhaving beenlocally produced.

Nate Wildes of Flight Deck Brewing helps to load food into volunteer cars after delivery at the brewery.

Merrymeeting Gleaners Coordinator Kelly Davis, and volunteers Kathie Duncan and Rebecca McConnaughey with the food they’ll deliver to the community.

TheMerrymeetingGleaners is a program of theMerrymeetingFood Council, which is a collaboration of local organizationsworking together totake action to increase the production and consumption of local, healthy food.Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is one of the co-founders and fiscal sponsors of this collaboration.

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