Feeding Maine: Growing Access To Good Food

Feeding Maine: Growing Access To Good Food

January 19, 2017


Ellen Sabina

Veggies For All volunteer Sarah “Sass” Linnekin brandishes a new beet. Veggies For All is a food bank farm that grows crops on four acres of land in Unity; it’s quickly becoming a model for other organizations across the state. A May 2015 graduate of the Environmental Writing and Media Studies program at Unity College, Sass herself was once food insecure and relied on hunger relief programs to feed her family. She now gives back by volunteering


If you see the phrase “food insecurity,” you might picture scenes from distant places hit by the global food crisis: barren fields marked by drought, families fleeing wars, or people waiting in long ration lines. You might not picture Maine.

Yet more than 200,000 Mainers are food insecure. The term means hunger and scarcity; it also means lack of access to food that’s fresh and healthy.

Meeting that need for good food is where Maine’s farmers, workers, and volunteers come in. Our state already has the elements required to feed everyone who lives here: farmland, farmers, and people who are invested in forging ties between farms and low-income Mainers. By making fresh ingredients accessible to those who need them most, the projects featured here are also creating new opportunities for local farms—by opening up markets, diverting waste through farm donations and gleaning, and creating new customers by helping people learn to keep home gardens and cook with fresh ingredients.

This series is part of a larger photo project that seeks to document some of the many people working for change in their communities, with the hope that these efforts will continue to grow into a resilient food system that serves all Mainers. A joint collaboration between Maine Farmland Trust and Good Shepard Food Bank, the photo project will be shown around the state beginning in September 2015.


Veggies For All volunteers join in the harvest. They come from all over: this group includes Unity College students, volunteers from local food pantries, and VFA staff. From left to right: John Hoeltzel, Tim Libby, Anna Mason, and Trevanna Grenfell.


lugs a crate of beets to a truck during the Veggies For All Harvest Party. This past spring, Jim gave CSA members a special deal on share prices if they donated $25 to VFA; during the harvest party, he and his farm crew helped kick-start the event by donating their time to work with volunteers. Also pictured in the background are: Kelsey Schrey, a member of Jim Buckle’s crew, and Sara Trunzo, VFA director.


runs the Mainers Feeding Mainers program, which partners with farms across the state to purchase fresh, locally grown food; that food is then distributed to pantries, meal sites, and directly to families who might otherwise go without fresh produce. “The food bank doesn’t care if the tomato isn’t the right shade of red, or if the carrots aren’t perfectly straight,” says Kristen Miale, President of Good Shepherd. “We’ll take whatever they have… All that matters to us is that we get fresh produce for people in need.”


as part of job training through the Youth Powered Catering program (YPC) run by St. Mary’s Nutrition Center. Abdullahi is a senior at Lewiston High School, and plans to attend college after graduation. At YPC, he enjoys learning to prepare dishes from all over the world. “Before, I didn’t really know that healthy food could also be delicious,” he says. “And learning how to cook is handy because everyone needs to eat.” Abdullahi also participates in St. Mary’s urbanfarming program, and works at the year-round farmers market in Lewiston, which St. Mary’s helped create.

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