ELLSWORTH — Healthy Acadia’s Downeast Gleaning Initiative, a farm-based food collection and distribution project to address food insecurity and prevent food waste, captured 26,100 pounds of food from nearby farms, gardens, and farmers markets across Hancock and Washington counties in 2018.
Since 2013, the project has gleaned nearly 228,000 pounds of surplus food from local growers, re-distributing it to a network of 35 food pantries, free meal sites, school backpack programs, rehabilitation programs and health services. Access to this fresh produce helps people maintain a healthy diet, reduce diet-related disease and improve academic performance.
“Due to our gleaning supply from Healthy Acadia, we as a non-profit are able to offer our community fresh and healthful produce that nourishes the body through our food programs and meals prepared throughout the year,” said Gabriella Coniglio of The Common Good Soup Kitchen in Southwest Harbor. “We are so grateful to have this partnership with Healthy Acadia.”
The Gleaning Initiative provides an outlet for farmers and gardeners who end up with an unexpected surplus of fruits or vegetables and don’t want to see it go to waste. Farmers contact project coordinator Rachel Emus when they have unmarketable or surplus produce available for harvest or pickup, and she arrives with trained volunteers to collect the crop.
“Through this partnership, we’re able to redirect almost 100 percent of our surplus produce,” said Beech Hill Farm managers Anna Davis and David Levinson.
In 2018, the Gleaning Initiative partnered with growers including Bar Harbor Farm, Beech Hill Farm, Downeast Family YMCA Camp Discovery Garden, Eden Farmers Market, J&P’s Farmstand and many home gardeners.
The initiative is supported by volunteers from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program, grade school classes, college students and dedicated community members.
Interested parties are invited to volunteer for one hour, a full day, or for weekly opportunities harvesting or delivering fresh produce. People of all experience levels are welcome.
Contact Rachel Emus at 667-7171 or [email protected]