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! 


  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.

Farm Skills Training Program in its Second Year

Photo Credit: Kelsey Kobik

After convening a diverse group of farmers, agricultural service providers and other stakeholders in 2019 to focus on the longstanding farm labor shortage in Maine, the seed for Merrymeeting Food Council’s (MFC) Farm Skills Training Program was planted. Now in its second year, the Farm Skills Training Program provides participants with an opportunity to develop farm skills needed for jobs while growing food for the community and aims to support area farms experiencing these labor challenges. The program is part time and paid, and the network of collaborating organizations assists participants in accessing food, childcare, transportation, and career support. 

Photo Credit: Kelsey Kobik

This year, Kate Wallace joined MFC to coordinate the program, which runs from mid-March through early June. It is a combination of virtual workshops (like resume writing and communication skills) and in-person training (planting, soil management, tool care, and produce washing). The majority of the training takes place at Growing to Give in Brunswick with specific workshops held at other farms in the Brunswick-Topsham-Bowdoinham region.

Photo Credit: Kelsey Kobik

For MFC, the program supports their mission to connect different parts of the food system, foster sustainable partnerships, and create a community that together can help build a vibrant and resilient local food system. Partners in this program include Goodwill Workforce Solutions, Growing to Give, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. 

If you are interested in learning more about the program, please reach out to Kate (

Merrymeeting Gleaners now a program of Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program

As of this week, the Merrymeeting Gleaners, a program piloted by the Merrymeeting Food Council (MFC), is now going to be managed by Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP). The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is incredibly proud to have been a part of the creation of this impressive, local gleaning project! We look forward to seeing it grow under the leadership of MCHPP, as well as continuing to be apart of other impactful programs run by MFC.

To learn more, check out the article below from the Merrymeeting Food Council’s website.

Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP) and Merrymeeting Food Council (MFC) are excited to share that the Merrymeeting Gleaners, previously a program of the Merrymeeting Food Council, will now be run as a program of MCHPP. MFC, the volunteer leaders of the Merrymeeting Gleaners, and MCHPP believe this shift will ensure the sustainability of the Merrymeeting Gleaners Program into the future.

The Merrymeeting Gleaners harvest and distribute surplus produce from farms as well as process local food for year-round distribution. MFC launched the pilot Merrymeeting Gleaners program five years ago in partnership with Gabrielle Gosselin and Nate Drummond of Six River Farm and with volunteers from the UMaine Extension’s Harvest for Hunger Program. Since 2016, over 125 volunteers have gleaned 206,864 pounds of local food from more than 35 farms and distributed that to community members through 37 recipient organizations in 17 towns. That has meant over 172,000 farm fresh meals for our communities.

The work of the Merrymeeting Gleaners aligns very well with MCHPP’s mission and strategic goals. MCHPP and MFC have both worked to distribute gleaned or donated local produce, purchasing local food to support food producers, increasing access to food through Sharing Tables, mobile pantries, and processing or freezing local produce for year-round donation. The COVID-19 pandemic increased food insecurity rates in mid coast Maine exponentially. MCHPP’s programs saw anywhere from a 10-55% increase in use from 2019 to 2020. This partnership will increase our joint capacity and ensure that the growing number of food insecure members of our community have ample access to local, fresh, nutritious food. Gleaned produce will be used to stock MCHPP’s grocery and meal distribution sites, which provide the community with more than 500,000 free meals annually.

“This is an exciting new opportunity for MCHPP and the entire community,” says Hannah Chatalbash, Deputy Director for MCHPP. “MCHPP already invests significantly in partnerships with local farms, either by collecting unpurchased produce that they can no longer use, or by purchasing produce to help support the continued sustainability of the farm. Gleaning offers another link between our organization and the farm community that is so vital to reducing hunger in our area.”

“This program would not have been possible without the generosity of farmers, volunteers and funders. The relationships, trust, and community that have been nurtured over the past five years through the Merrymeeting Gleaners network are an essential piece of its success,” says MFC Coordinator, Harriet Van Vleck. “The Merrymeeting Gleaners program is the type of collaborative solution to community level challenges in our food system that MFC’s network seeks to support. MCHPP was a core partner as the gleaning program developed and MFC looks forward to our continued collaboration, while also being able to focus on other developing partnerships and programs.”

MFC’s ongoing and upcoming work includes:

  • Supporting the development of Community Meal programs which increase food access and build community in area towns.
  • Hosting Roundtable events to convene partners around food system challenges best addressed through collaborative solutions.
  • Coordinating a pilot Farm Skills Training Program for individuals facing barriers to employment such as housing insecurity.
  • Building food system connections statewide, through leadership in the 2021 Maine Food Convergence and the Maine Network of Community Food Councils.

Organizational Background:

The Merrymeeting Gleaners have been gleaning year round for three years and their impact has extended beyond this region through the model they set for gleaning groups statewide. In 2020 alone, Goranson Farm, Growing to Give, and Six River Farm each donated over 9,000 lbs of produce. These three, along with Whatley Farm, Fairwinds Farm, and the LOCAL Garden also stock the Gleaners’ Sharing Tables with produce. Through leadership in the Maine Gleaning Network the Merrymeeting Gleaners continue to help grow other gleaning groups and share best practices.

MFC is a network of organizations and individuals working to advance a thriving, resilient, and equitable food system that supports the health and natural resources of our communities. MCHPP has been a key partner in MFC’s network since MFC formed in 2015. Other key MFC partners include Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, Growing to Give, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and many other organizations and individuals.

Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program offers dignity and empowerment by providing all members of our community with access to healthy food. Services include prepared meals, grocery distribution on-site, at local schools, and satellite locations in Harpswell and Lisbon Falls. The MCHPP food pantry–located at 12 Tenney Way, Brunswick–is open to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Friday from 11 am–2 pm; Tuesday evenings 4-6 pm; and Saturdays from noon–3 pm; the Soup Kitchen serves freshly made-to-go meals on Mondays–Fridays from 11 am–12:30 pm and Saturdays noon–1:30 pm. MCHPP is committed to ensuring that our services are open and available to any and all in need.

To check out the new Merrymeeting Gleaners site through MCHPP, click here.