What work did Mainers Feeding Mainers program do?
The Mainers Feeding Mainers program is a partnership between Good Shepherd Food Bank (GSFB) and Maine farms, dairies, fisheries, and other local producers to eliminate hunger in Maine. The goal is to get fresh, nutritious, Maine-harvested food to Maine families in need while supporting our rural communities by investing in local food producing businesses.
Mainers Feeding Mainers was started in 2010 in response to a decline in food bank donations and a dramatic drop in the nutritional value of the food that was being donated. In 2018, as a result of the agreements GSFB has with local farms, dairies, and fisheries in all 16 counties, the organization was able to supply fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen fruits, seafood, dairy, and grains to its network of 400 local food access partners using the following distribution channels:
Farm to pantry - Food access partner picks up at farm/farm delivers to food access partner. This channel is especially helpful for rural food pantries that are hours away from the Food Bank’s warehouses. One hundred eighty local food access partners receive food directly from a farm.
Farm to warehouse - Farmers drop off fresh food at one of two warehouses (Auburn and Hampden). Food access partners can come to the warehouse to pick up the produce. GSFB also delivers orders throughout the state and distributes this produce using its mobile pantry.
Good Shepherd reported that, in 2018, Mainers Feeding Mainers had a $1.2 million program budget and one full-time staff member. The program was created and originally funded through philanthropic foundations, including the John T. Gorman Foundation, the John Merck Fund, the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, the Sam L. Cohen Foundation, the Betterment Fund, the Sandy River Foundation and New Balance. After demonstrating the success of the program, the Food Bank successfully secured $3 million in one-time funding from the Fund for Healthy Maine in 2015. This funding runs out in June 2019 and the Food Bank is actively working with lawmakers to continue the state’s support of this vital program.
How well did Mainers Feeding Mainers do the work?
The Mainers Feeding Mainers program has resulted in more nutritious, local food reaching low-income Mainers faster, lasting longer, costing GSFB less, and costing GSFB’s food access partners nothing. Good Shepherd Food Bank and its food access partners provided 178,000 Mainers with over 25 million meals in 2018. Mainers Feeding Mainers has been a vital part of the Food Bank’s strategy to significantly improve the nutritional quality of the food it distributes. The percentage of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables has grown from 19% of food distributed in 2010 to 41% in 2018. In addition, the percentage of local produce has grown from less than 10% in 2010 to over 20% in 2018.
Maine’s agricultural industry has also benefited from Mainers Feeding Mainers. The program started in 2010 with 5 farm partners. In 2018, 73 farm partners in all 16 counties sold their produce to the Food Bank through Mainers Feeding Mainers.
Since the inception of the program, the Food Bank has invested nearly $2.7 million in Maine farms. In 2018 alone, the Food Bank invested $750,000 in Maine’s agricultural economy.
The graphs below illustrate the growth in farm partnerships, the percentage of fresh local food distributed, and the pounds of fresh produce distributed between 2010 and 2018:
GSFB has the following goals for Mainers Feeding Mainers:
Secure ongoing state funding for the program.
Focus on an annual goal of acquiring 2 million pounds of fresh Maine farm product (about 50% purchased and 50% donated).
Expand the capacity to safely store and distribute nutritious farm produce through the winter and spring, as well as exploring ways to process and preserve fresh food product for year-round distribution.
Continue to strategically increase the number of farm partners.
Better serve those in central, northern, and eastern Maine by increasing access to fresh food, which will be made possible by the renovation of the Hampden facility in summer 2019.
Data gathered from Good Shepherd Food Bank’s Annual Reports.
Is anyone better off?
Mainers Feeding Mainers has positively affected Goal V of the Maine Food Strategy Framework in the following ways:
Strong relationships between farmers and food access program, provide farmers with better understanding of their impact. Through these relationships, other collaborations develop, such as gleaning opportunities.
Maine Families are experiencing improved health from consuming nutritious food and increased self-worth from being given fresh, locally-grown food.
“Beyond the health benefits of the produce, we often hear how the fresh produce makes people feel. The people GSFB serves are often accustomed to going to a food pantry and other support programs to have their basic needs met. They rely on second-hand clothing, second-hand furniture, and second-hand food. Often the food from a food pantry can be nearing the end of its shelf-life. You can imagine how that message can be internalized over time – ‘that is what you are worth.’ We know people in poverty are marginalized.
And then we hear the feedback from the farm to pantry program. The produce is sometimes picked within 24 hours of being distributed. We’ve had multiple pantries say that people are in tears when they see the quality food that has been grown for them. Oftentimes, it’s been so long since they have had fresh food. They can’t believe people cared enough to grow food for them. Almost equally important to the nutritional benefits of the food is the message they’ve received that ‘you matter; you deserve fresh, healthy food.’” Kristen Miale
Because the Food Bank provides forward contracts with growers, farmers have a guaranteed income on which they can depend. In addition, the Food Bank allows the contracts to be flexible, giving farmers the opportunity to change which crops they provide depending on how the growing season unfolds. This arrangement significantly improves farmers’ financial security, giving them the confidence and ability to invest in and grow their operations.
Name: Nancy Perry
Phone: 207-782-3554, ext. 1109