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Maine Farmland Trust has received a grant of $50,000 from the Harvard Pilgrim Healthy Food Fund. This funding will be used to support nutrition incentives to low-income consumers to purchase fresh, local foods in the southern Maine communities of Biddeford, Portland, Saco, South Portland, and Westbrook, with possible expansion to other Healthy Food Fund eligible communities.
Nutrition incentive programs increase the value of SNAP benefits (food stamps) when used to buy local fruits and vegetables at participating venues. Maine Farmland Trust has been implementing local food nutrition incentive programs for the past five years. In partnership with Wholesome Wave and Maine nonprofits, the organization was also the recent recipient of two federal Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grants to support incentive programs, and has been working to expand incentives to more farmers markets, as well as local food retailers and other outlets.
In 2011, Maine Farmland Trust created a “Community Farm Share” program in Unity, Maine to serve low-income customers beyond those who shop at farmers’ markets, piloting an idea for a food hub in the process (now Unity Food Hub).
Through the Harvard Pilgrim grant, Maine Farmland Trust and Unity Food Hub will expand their joint food insecurity programming to more communities in southern Maine, an area with high need.
“It’s exactly the right time for this kind of support,” said Mike Gold, Program Manager at Maine Farmland Trust. “Maine is one of the most food insecure states in the nation, but we have the farmland and innovative farmers to combat that—it’s a scale and distribution problem.”
Maine Farmland Trust hopes that these innovations, and support from Harvard Pilgrim Healthy Food Fund and FINI, will help get more consumers buying from local farms, and more Maine food on the plates of those who need it most.
About Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation
Created in 1980, The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation supports Harvard Pilgrim’s mission to improve the quality and value of health care for the people and communities we serve. The Harvard Pilgrim Foundation provides the tools, training and leadership to help build healthy communities throughout Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. In 2014, the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation awarded nearly $2.9 million in grants to 710 nonprofit organizations in the region.
Since its inception, the Foundation has granted nearly $133 million in funds throughout the four states. Starting in 2015, the Foundation is expanding its focus on preventing childhood obesity to help families and communities eat healthier by launching the Harvard Pilgrim Healthy Food Fund. This grants program is aimed at supporting healthy food initiatives that increase access to fresh, healthy, and whenever possible, local food for families and communities in all of Harvard Pilgrim’s five markets across the region. For more information, please visit www.harvardpilgrim.org/foundation.