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Blue Hill Community Food Projects Funded in Wake of COVID 19

Belfast, ME – Today, Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) announced the award of 20 grants totalling $50,000 to projects increasing food sustainability and community health on the Blue Hill Peninsula. Many of this year’s grants will fund projects that support food security efforts, which has become increasingly important during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Part of creating healthy, vibrant Maine communities is supporting food projects of all scales, and we are excited to see this program continue on the Blue Hill Peninsula,” said Catherine Durkin, Nutrition Incentives Project and Farm Business Planning Co-Manager.

The 2021 awardees include Healthy Acadia, a community health organization, who received funding for their Downeast Gleaning Initiative; and Sedgwick Elementary School, who will use grant funds to revamp their school garden. The grantees span a breadth of community impact, from school gardens and nonprofits to farms and individual homesteads..

Healthy Acadia’s gleaning program sits at the powerful nexus of reducing food waste and using that food to combat food insecurity and create stronger communities. The Downeast Gleaning Initiative, which has collected over 300,000 pounds of food since 2013, will use the grant to increase their refrigerated storage capacity. “This increase will greatly enhance our ability to distribute fresh, local food to Peninsula food programs,” said Rachel Emus, Food Programs Manager for Hancock County at Healthy Acadia.

During the pandemic, Sedgwick Elementary School had the opportunity to reimagine their school garden program, after students have been spending more time outside during the past year. “The greenhouse has suffered years of inaction and getting it back in shape has been our mission,” said Sarah Doremus, a teacher at Sedgwick. The grant has allowed the school to fix up the greenhouse and start planting, helping them to integrate their gardening program into the curriculum. Using this program as a springboard, several teachers at Sedgwick are also developing a garden-based curriculum that meets the Maine educational standards. Doremus added, “The Maine Farmland Trust grant came at a perfect time for our garden program!”

The Maine Farmland Trust grant came at a perfect time for our garden program at Sedgwick Elementary School. We have in the past had a very active garden program but over time with staff changes it had become neglected. Enter new staff and COVID 19 and the garden program has had a new beginning. As a school we have spent much more time outside this and more time working in our gardens. The greenhouse has suffered through years of inaction and getting it back in shape has been our mission. We cleaned and weeded the greenhouse, and mulched the walkways with donated woodchips but the irrigation system and side panel of the greenhouse were beyond repair and we needed a ventilation system. The generous grant from Maine Farmland Trust has allowed up to fix the greenhouse and start planting.

We, as a school, are committed to developing our gardening program through integration into the curriculum with project based learning. We have a volunteer working through the summer in the green house and with the students. Several teachers are developing schoolwide garden based curriculum that meet the Maine education standards. We now have an active composting and vermiculture program and throughout this coming winter we will be starting seedlings, planning our garden and working with our kitchen staff to use what we grow in our lunch program. – Sarah Doremus, Sedgwick Elementary School

The Blue Hill Peninsula Community Food Grants are available for nonprofit organizations, schools, community groups, or individuals. Projects or programs must be carried out on the Blue Hill Peninsula, in the towns of Blue Hill, Sedgwick, Penobscot, Castine, Orland, Surry, Deer Isle, Stonington, Brooksville, or Brooklin. Applicants can apply to receive grants of up to $3,000, which will be awarded based on the merits of the proposal and the likelihood of project completion, and preference is given to first-time applicants.

Visit Maine Farmland Trust’s website for more information about the Blue Hill Peninsula Community Food Grants: https://www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/farm-viability/blue-hill-peninsula-community-food-grant/

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