Farms across Maine will once again grow food for hunger relief programs this season
AUBURN, Maine – Governor Mills has signed a bill to continue funding for Good Shepherd Food Bank’s Mainers Feeding Mainers program, ensuring that more than 70 farms across the state will be able to continue supplying fresh, local food to hunger relief programs.
Through Mainers Feeding Mainers, Good Shepherd Food Bank purchases locally grown crops from farms in every county for distribution at food pantries, meal sites, schools, senior housing facilities, and health care centers across the state. In 2018, the Food Bank distributed more than 2 million pounds of local foods and invested $750,000 in the local agricultural economy.
“The impact of the Mainers Feeding Mainers program on our farm’s viability is very significant,” said Eugene Ripley of Ripley Farm in Dover-Foxcroft. “Having this additional market for our crops translates into a remarkably large difference in our bottom line. I can honestly say that this program is one of the brightest spots in Maine’s local agricultural economy.”
Like many other farms across the state, Ripley Farm is providing fresh food to food pantries and schools in its region. In 2018, the farm provided an array of vegetables including carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, and potatoes to the Dover-Foxcroft Food Cupboard, Corinna United Methodist Church Food Pantry, Milo UMC Ecumenical Food Cupboard, Milo Elementary School, Harmony Cares Food Pantry, and the Newport Apostolic Bible Church Food Pantry.
The food pantries and other hunger-relief programs across Maine that distribute fresh food through Mainers Feeding Mainers are also relieved to see this funding continued.
“We love the Mainers Feeding Mainers program,” said Karen King, director of the Dover-Foxcroft Food Cupboard. “We get unique, colorful, delicious, fresh produce from Ripley Farm. The customers we serve really look forward to the display of all the fresh veggies when they walk in. We also take a few of the veggies and cut them up for tasting and will pass out recipes for specific produce. It’s just amazing to give the people we serve fresh veggies directly from the farm.”
“I think if you really believe in something and feel it’s good for the community, it’s important to step up to keep it going,” King continued. “It was so great to see that all our legislative outreach for the Mainers Feeding Mainers program was successful in helping our leaders in Augusta see how valuable the program is to so many.”
The Food Bank forms agreements with farms ahead of the growing season, jointly laying out what will be purchased and at what price. This gives the farms a guaranteed source of revenue that they can plan around throughout the growing season. Farms that grow for Mainers Feeding Mainers often report expanding acreage, adding labor, and purchasing equipment as a result of their participation in the program.
Good Shepherd Food Bank started the Mainers Feeding Mainers program in 2010 with funding from several charitable foundations. For the first six years, the Food Bank raised funds from foundations and individuals to support the program. In 2016, the legislature passed a law to fund Mainers Feeding Mainers for three years through a state appropriation from the Fund for a Healthy Maine. That funding was set to run out in June 2019.
This year, through LD 786 An Act to Reduce Hunger and Promote Maine Agriculture, the Food Bank sought to continue the state’s support of this program. At the close of this legislative session, the legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee voted to fund LD 786 for two years, approving $1 million for fiscal year 2019-2020 and $1 million for 2020-2021. The funding will be administered by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
“Hunger persists as a devastating problem across Maine, with nearly 15 percent of households experiencing food insecurity, including one in five Maine kids,” said Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank. “The Food Bank is committed to increasing access to nutritious food for our neighbors who are struggling with hunger and Mainers Feeding Mainers is a crucial part of our strategy. We are so happy to have the state’s continued support for this program.”
Good Shepherd Food Bank distributes food to a network of more than 400 local programs in Maine, serving nearly 180,000 individuals each year. In 2018, together with its statewide network of partners, the Food Bank distributed 25 million meals to Mainers in need.
About Good Shepherd Food Bank
As the largest hunger relief organization in Maine, Good Shepherd Food Bank provides for Mainers facing hunger by distributing nutritious food to more than 400 partner agencies across the state, including food pantries, meal sites, schools, and senior programs. Together with its network, the Food Bank leads a statewide effort to combat the root causes of hunger by engaging in advocacy, nutrition education, targeted interventions, and strategic partnerships. In 2018, the Food Bank distributed 25 million meals to families, children, and seniors in need throughout Maine. www.feedingmaine.org