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Hunger Action Month

Did you know that September is Hunger Action Month? Unfortunately, there are many people right here in our community who struggle to put food on the table. 

According to Feeding America, one of the largest anti-hunger organizations in the United States, 

  • 1 in 10 people face hunger in Maine
  • In Maine, 33.2% of households receiving SNAP benefits have children. 
  • Many households that experience food insecurity do not qualify for federal nutrition programs and visit their local food banks and other food programs for extra support. 
  • Across the country, the pandemic has increased food insecurity among families with children and communities of color (African American, Latino, and Native American), who already faced hunger at much higher rates before the pandemic because of systemic racial injustice. 

It’s no surprise that with access to nutritious foods, people are better equipped to live a more full and healthy life. A core part of BTLT’s mission is to support a vibrant local food system and an important aspect of that work includes efforts to increase food security in our local community.  

At the BTLT Farmers’ Market, we work hard to ensure folks from all socioeconomic backgrounds have the opportunity to access fresh produce and feel invited to participate in our local food system. Our Market participates in several food access programs including SNAP and Maine Harvest Bucks (MHB). Both the Brunswick Farmers Market and Brunswick Winter Market have also started participating in the SNAP and Maine Harvest Bucks programs, creating more opportunities to access food grown in our community. With these additions, all five farmers’ markets in the region are now accessible to SNAP families! This success was due in part to the action by the Merrymeeting Food Council – raising grant funds and offering training that enabled both markets to start accepting SNAP and MHB market-wide.  

Volunteer at the BTLT Saturday Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm

Each year in BTLT’s Common Good Garden (CGG), thousands of pounds of fresh produce are grown and donated to local food security efforts, most going to Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP).  We are thankful for our stellar CGG volunteers and for our partnership with MCHPP, with whom we conveniently share an office building. Their new facility on Neptune Drive now has a community kitchen, which MCHPP hopes will reduce food insecurity and improve the efficiency of the local food system. We’re also grateful for our close partnership with Merrymeeting Food Council, which supported the development of this new sliding-scale, fee-based, community kitchen. It’s partnerships like these that allow BTLT to have a greater impact on these important issues in our community. 

Volunteers in the Common Good Garden

Even at CREA Camp, we work to ensure all campers are fueled for a full day of summer fun by engaging volunteers to provide healthy lunches when there’s a need. 

Thank you to our BTLT members and volunteers who enable us to do all this great work towards food security in our community. Whether you’re a BTLT member or not, read below to learn how you can help! 

WHAT YOU CAN DO THIS MONTH AND BEYOND:

  1. Learn more. Try listening to the podcast Elevating Voices, Ending Hunger, checking out Maine’s Ending Hunger by 2030, or reading Merrymeeting Food Council’s Community Food Assessment. 
  2. Check out MCHPP’s Harvest Week events line up (Sept 25th-30th). 
  3. Volunteer at the Common Good Garden. Volunteer Work Days are every Tuesday and Thursday 8:30am-10:30am May through October, unless it’s raining. All are welcome, just stop on by and garden in community with others! Learn more here. 
  4. Volunteer at the BTLT Farmers’ Market – Volunteering at the Market is a great way to support a healthy local food system. Helping at the BTLT info booth especially can make a big difference! Part of this role is processing EBT/SNAP/Maine Harvest Bucks transactions. Being able to answer questions and process transactions with a kind smile can help reduce the stigma around food security and ensure folks feel seen and supported in our community and welcome at the Farmers’ Market. Learn more here. 
  5. Understand what local resources are available and help spread the word so other folks do too! Click here for food access information for towns in our area or here for statewide food access information.

A (Local) Food Community for All

At the BTLT Farmers’ Market, we work hard to ensure folks from all socioeconomic backgrounds have the opportunity to access fresh produce and feel invited to participate in our local food system. Our Market works with the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets (MFFM) to participate in several food access programs including SNAP, Maine Harvest Bucks, and Bumper Crop.

This year, we saw an increase in the use of SNAP benefits at our Market! MFFM launched a postcard mailing for SNAP users in Brunswick, bringing about a dozen new SNAP shoppers to the Market. Both the Brunswick Downtown Market and the Brunswick Winter Market have started participating in the SNAP program this season creating more opportunities to access food in our community. With these additions, all five farmers markets in the region are accessible to SNAP families.

The Maine Harvest Bucks program offers bonus vouchers for SNAP users to spend on fresh produce. The match shifted from last year’s 1:1 match to a 2:1 (50%) match of SNAP transactions. This change was due to an increase in the use of the program which has strained the funding. MFFM is currently fundraising to support the Harvest Bucks program. In 2021 $1.2 million was spent with local food producers through SNAP and Maine Harvest Bucks, according to MFFM.

BTLT has continued to participate in the Bumper Crop, a workplace wellness program developed by the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets that provides employees with vouchers to be spent at farmers markets. The program has continued to expand with employers across the state and the number of participating farmers markets. While BTLT’s Bumper Crop voucher use was lower this season, other markets in the area have joined the program resulting in a net increase in use in our communities. If you are an employer or an employee in Maine and think this program would be a good fit for your company or organization, you can learn more here

We are also excited to share that we are continuing to expand our food access programming with a new Pop Club program for the 2023 season. POP Clubs provide youth at Farmers Markets with vouchers to spend on fruits and veggies, encouraging exploration of foods and healthy eating, early engagement in local food systems and agriculture, and providing more income to local producers. Vendors are encouraged to partake in POP Club programs by offering “POP” deals for kids. We are looking forward to launching this program in the spring and continuing to explore more ways to expand food access and invite more folks to our Market!