Mainers Feeding Mainers, Good Shepherd Food Bank’s farm partnership program, is in the midst of its 4th growing season! The season got off to a slow start because of the weather, but growth has begun to pick up over the past two weeks. So far our partner food pantries and meal sites are seeing cucumbers, summer squash, green beans, kale, chard, radishes, cabbage, corn, and some broccoli. Tomatoes will be coming in soon and before we know it the winter root veggies will be ready as well.
This summer, we are working with 20 farmers who are growing vegetables for purchase by the Food Bank. In an exciting new development, we are now partnering with 7 apple growers in Maine and are expecting approximately 200,000 lbs. of apples this fall.
Approximately 80 of our member food pantries receive produce directly from local farms through the farm-to-pantry model. This method of distributing the fresh produce works well because it cuts down on transportation to and from the Food Bank and it connects local hunger relief agencies to growers in their communities.
In another new development this year, we are having local farmers grow produce for a processing pilot with Portland Public Schools – various veggies purchased through the Mainers Feeding Mainers program are being turned into sauce at the school district’s kitchen facility. The first batch of sauce is done and we hear that initial taste tests conducted at Preble Street, Wayside Food Programs, and York County Shelter Programs have been a big success. Through this project with the Portland Schools, not only will our partner food pantries and meal sites have access to this locally-made sauce, but students will benefit as well, since the sauce will be used in school meals.
Everyone at the Food Bank is looking forward to a bountiful fall and we are excited to once again distribute hundreds of thousands of pounds of Maine-grown food to our neighbors in need.
Photo: Beets and carrots growing at True North Farm in Montville, ME.