Gleaning initiative gets boost

ELLSWORTH — Healthy Acadia has been awarded a $25,000 grant from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation to enhance volunteer support for its gleaning program, the Downeast Gleaning Initiative, which aims to increase food security for residents of Washington and Hancock counties.

Healthy Acadia’s program is one of 25 community initiatives receiving a grant through the Foundation’s 2019 Healthy Food Fund, which will award nearly $625,000 this year to support initiatives that grow, glean, or distribute fresh produce to increase access to healthy foods for low-income families and older adults in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. The grant awards are renewable for two additional years.

The Downeast Gleaning Initiative was launched in Hancock County in 2013 by Healthy Acadia, in partnership with University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and was expanded in fall 2014 to include Washington County. The program plays a unique role in supporting the local farm economy and improving access to healthy food for low-income residents; bringing together farmers, food security organizations, and volunteers to prevent food waste and redirect surplus food to those in need.

The program also supports community gardens. The initiative has been a catalyst for increasing food security and nutrition for low-income households — to date, harvesting more than 224,000 pounds of food that would have otherwise gone to waste and distributing it to more than 30 food security programs and organizations across both counties.

“We believe that all people deserve access to healthy food, regardless of income,” said Healthy Acadia Food Programs Director, Katie Freedman. “We are thrilled to receive this grant award from Harvard Pilgrim Foundation to support this volunteer-driven community initiative.” Healthy Acadia’s gleaning team is gearing up for the 2019 gardening season, and is actively seeking community volunteers to assist with harvesting and distribution, as well as farmers and local food producers interested in donating their surplus produce.

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