Happy Summer! MFC Coordinator Update

Happy Summer!  

It has been an exciting few months for the Merrymeeting Food Council! We have secured funding to expand our Merrymeeting Gleaners program with increased Gleaning Coordinator hours AND funding to pursue an initiative seeking to build community health through increased access to local food. We are very excited to begin this work!

We will host a series of community meetings where all community members can work alongside healthcare professionals, food producers, and others to identify barriers to accessing healthy local food and best practices for increasing food access. Together, we will examine existing programs and models for potential new programs. Following on these meetings the Merrymeeting Food Council and our partners will be seeking sustained community engagement in designing programs that promote wellness through healthy food and physical activity. If you are interested in joining our work group focusing on these issues, helping host or plan the community meetings, or simply to learn more, please contact us. EVERYONE IS WELCOME. You do not need to have related professional experience, personal experience is equally important. Stay tuned for more on this in the coming weeks.

We are able to pursue this wellness initiative and community engagement work thanks to our funders, the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation (www.sewallfoundation.org) and the New England Grassroots Environment Fund (www.grassrootsfund.org). THANK YOU!  Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust was the recipient of the Sewall Foundation grant as MFC is not a non-profit. BTLT is administering both grants, thank you BTLT!

Lots of fun and educational food system events are coming up! If you missed the recent Open Farm Day in Bowdoinham, see our news feed for great photos captured by our partner Bowdoinham Community Development Initiative (BCDI). See the events listed here, with more detail available on our events page

 

More about our funders...

 

The long-term goal of the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation is to improve the well-being and prosperity of all Maine people and the environment in which they live.  Among the most pressing issues currently facing Maine and negatively impacting the well-being of both people and the environment are: limited economic opportunity, environmental degradation, and the existence of barriers that create inequities and separation among people.

We believe that the well-being of people and the environment are inextricably linked.  Neither can thrive while the other suffers.  As the connections between people and their environment are strengthened, both become healthier, more resilient and more vibrant.  Further, we believe that more positive relationships between people across socioeconomic and cultural boundaries can bridge differences, reduce inequities, and contribute to community health.

 

 

The New England Grassroots Environment Fund energizes and nurtures long-term civic engagement in local initiatives that create and maintain healthy, just, safe and sustainable communities using stories, tools and dollars to fuel local activism and social change. Since 1996, the Grassroots Fund's core grant making program continues to fund nearly 150 grants annually, giving more than $4 million in 20 years to more than 2,000 community groups and initiatives covering more than 60% of New England's cities and towns. For more information, please visit grassrootsfund.org or call 603-905-9915.

Harpswell's Fishing Community - Needs Assessment Report Complete

Spurred in part by discussions within the Seafood Advisory work group, Maine Coast Fishermen's Association (MCFA) took on an extensive needs assessment of Harpswell fishing community which is both diverse and resilient. MCFA's assessment was in-depth, and amassed over 200 hours of interviews. The final report, Beyond the Bow, is available for local, regional, and state resources to be developed and modified to better support the fishing community as it continues to grow and adapt.

View the condensed booklet of Beyond the Bow.

View the full, comprehensive fisheries needs assessment final report.

For questions or inquiries, please contact Kendra Jo Grindle from MCFA.

This project was funded in part by the Holbrook Community Foundation. Learn more about their work in Harpswell on their website www.holbrookcommunityfoundation.org.

Happy Spring!  

The ground is starting to thaw and things are starting to poke through the ground, but the soil is not all that's warming up! We have been busy writing grants and making plans for future MFC work and continuing to build our network and Merrymeeting Gleaners program. There are numerous events coming up, so check out our events page for listings of partner programs. 

Last month, the Fourth Food Security Forum hosted by Morris Farm and Chewonki focused on Food is Medicine: Food Security and Health with presentations by Good Shepard Food Bank, Maine Farmland Trust, Cultivating Community, doctors, our Merrymeeting Gleaners, and many more. There were great discussions throughout the day long event and of note was the passion and thoughtfulness shown by the students present from Chewonki’s Maine Coast Semester School, Cultivating Community (Portland), and St. Mary’s Nutrition Center (Lewiston). To see the program from the Forum, click HERE

This week concludes with the Annual Summit of the Maine Network for Community Food Councils on April 13th in Belfast, with an exciting focus on how to knit together the wide range of food systems work occurring at local, to state and regional scales. This event is open to all and provides a wide variety of resources and topics for those engaged in our food system. To register, click HERE.  

Three sessions during the 8:30 am-4:00 pm Summit will focus on building a powerful statewide food system network. Session one includes workshops on: Network Design: Sharing is at the heart of networks; Food System Metrics; and Gleaning & Composting: Two Nodes of a Paradigm Shift. Session two includes workshops on: Network Building; Community Education & Engagement Strategies; and Food Policies: How Can Food Councils Make Food & Agriculture a Policy Priority in the 2018 Elections. Session three includes workshops on: Building a Network of Networks, and Open Space for other topics generated during the morning sessions.

As a teaser, here is the scope of the Food Policies workshop which highlights the role for Agriculture Policy in upcoming elections and the Farm Bill renewal. This session will explore what's going on and how community policy work can connect with larger scale policy work (State and Federal). Amanda Beal from Maine Farmland Trust will help facilitate and share a draft Agriculture Policy Platform focused mostly on gubernatorial candidates. Emily Horton (from Representative Chellie Pingree's office) will share federal policy work updates.

MFC is an active member of the Maine Network of Community Food Councils through which we gain knowledge from shared resources and the work of other community food councils and food council partners. Learn more about the network on their website and Facebook pages. 

Grant Award to KELT Expands Local Food Access and Awareness

See KELT's post below for some exciting news about our Merrymeeting Gleaners! (Reposted from KELT)

Awarded annually, the Quimby Family Foundation invests in projects that grow human wholeness by fostering stronger relationships between people and nature. In December, the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust (KELT) was awarded a Quimby Family Foundation grant for $15,000 to support the expansion of local food access and awareness programs.

Specifically, the grant award will support food collection efforts by the Merrymeeting Gleaners and educational programs at the LOCAL Garden in Bath and the Georgetown Central School in Georgetown.

The support of the Merrymeeting Gleaners, a project of the Merrymeeting Food Council, will provide capacity for a much-needed, paid coordinator position to organize volunteers and communicate with local farmers. Since 2016, the Merrymeeting Gleaners have focused on increasing the amount of nutritious produce available to food insecure individuals by harvesting surplus produce from nearby farms. In 2017, this all-volunteer group harvested over 22,400 lbs. of food for distribution to local organizations committed to fighting hunger and providing fresh food, many of which are located in KELT’s service region. If interested in volunteering with this active group, visit the Merrymeeting Gleaners on Facebook and email merrymeetinggleaners@gmail.com.

The grant award will also help support a wider array of programming at the LOCAL Garden (Leading Our Community in Agricultural Learning) in south Bath and at the school garden at the Georgetown Central School. Managed by KELT, the LOCAL Garden is primarily used as an outdoor classroom and produce grown is donated back to the surrounding community (1,187 lbs. in 2017). With the generous support of the Quimby Family Foundation, KELT’s goal is to make the garden an educational space for all ages in the Bath region. The land trust looks forward to facilitating more family and adult oriented workshops this year.

The Georgetown Central School’s garden also functions as an outdoor classroom in an effort to get students outside and reconnected with their food. The school will use funding to support their Garden Coordinator and make structural improvements to their well-utilized greenhouse.

KELT would like to thank The Quimby Family Foundation for their support of efforts to connect people with the outdoors and to increase fresh local food available in the Bath area. For more information about The Quimby Family Foundation go to http://quimbyfamilyfoundation.org/.

 

 

 

Happy New Year! And a reflection on Merrymeeting Food Council's first 2 years...

Here is a look at some of the things we have been up to in our first 2 years:

Structure and Funding:

  • established a diverse and engaged Steering Committee which: developed framing documents, guides and supports all MFC work, is seeking sustainable funding, is finalizing a set of core goals and metrics by which we can measure progress toward our goals, and serves as a key point of connection with multiple communities

  • developed an online presence (Facebook and website) with ties to local, regional and statewide food system representatives and organizations

  • established 2 active work groups (Processing and Food Security) and 2 engaged advisory groups (Seafood and Farm) with plans to continue expanding our number of active work groups

  • received over $19,000 in primarily grant funds, almost half of which have been used for purchasing project supplies including a cold storage trailer for gleaned produce

  • received more than $116,000 of in-kind contributions through staff time from partner organizations and volunteer time

Outreach and Network Development:

  • established partnerships with diverse stakeholders: non-profits and for-profits, health care organizations, municipal organizations, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and fishermen, farmers, processors, Maine food councils, and others who have supported and guided our development as a food council

  • active participant in Maine Network of Community Food Councils (MNCFC)

    • presenter at 2 MNCFC Annual Summits

    • working with MNCFC and other food system groups like Maine Food Strategy to plan for coordinated collection of key metrics statewide which would facilitate identification of practices or changes effective at moving key food system levers

  • active participant in the Maine Gleaning Network

  • presenter at first two annual Local Food, Local Hunger forums hosted by Morris Farm and Chewonki

  • advised four student summer fellows through both the Environmental Fellowship Program at Bowdoin College and the McKeen Center for Common Good

  • working with partner organizations to supervise an intern from the Muskie School of Public Policy at USM and a Goodwill AmeriCorps VISTA fellow

  • developed relationship with Master Gardener program and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension

  • supporter of Maine Innovation Challenge which led to the opening of New Beet Market and other area businesses

  • supported bulk purchasing option for Bristol Bay salmon in partnership with Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and New Beet Market

  • promote partner events and achievements through social media

Projects:

  • Educational Resources:

    • developed Edible Main Street Toolkit available for any community interested in building community sidewalk gardens, email for more information

    • developed informational resources about top groundfish species landed in Maine and their fate once landed, email for more information

    • developed information cards about frequently gleaned produce with preparation instructions and recipes to be distributed with produce to recipient organizations , email for more information

    • developed diagram detailing the processing pathways for food within our local system

  • Needs Assessment of the Harpswell Fishing Community:

    • a three-phase project of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and the Seafood Advisory Group

    • the project will identify gaps, concerns, and fisheries successes brought forward by the fishing community

      • Phase I focused on the findings from the groundfish and shellfish fisheries as well as several town personnel

      • Phase II focused on aquaculture, the bait industry, lobster, and recreational fisheries

      • Phase III reconnected with interviews and infrastructure from Phases I and II

  • Merrymeeting Gleaners: a highly successful gleaning project, which has led to over 36,000 lbs of fresh local produce being gleaned and distributed (that's over 18 tons of healthy locally produced food and over 30,000 meals!)

    • built a database of more than100 volunteers who have contributed over 3,000 hours of their time in 2017 alone, a contribution worth more than $58,000

    • work with a growing number of farms, three in 2017: Six River Farm (Bowdoinham), Scatter Good Farm (Brunswick), and Goranson Farm (Dresden)

    • glean from several additional farmers at the Bath and Brunswick Farmer's Markets as well as pop-up gleans at numerous sites

    • established 21 sites for donations of gleaned produce, serving 7 towns

    • created data tracking system for the Merrymeeting Gleaners

    • created criteria and forms for recipient organizations

    • advise and share resources with gleaning groups statewide

    • plan to continue expanding both gleaning and distribution sites until all 14 towns in our service area are served

Merrymeeting Gleaners Overview of 2017

In 2017, the Merrymeeting Gleaners were able to expand in more ways than one. With over 22,000 pounds of produce collected, the Gleaners have been able to reach more recipients through their all-volunteer group. We participated in the first annual Maine Gleaning Week, a collective effort by all gleaning programs in Maine to harvest the bountiful fall produce and to bring in others who may not have been involved in gleaning before. The “Glean with a Friend” event at Six River Farm in Bowdoinham did just that. Twenty people came to get their hands dirty, half of which were new to the group. That day alone, 740 lbs of produce was collected and donated to 10 partners.

During the “Glean with a Friend” event, the Merrymeeting Gleaners were also able to christen their cold storage trailer. This project was made possible by grants from the New England Grassroots Environment Fund and Bowdoin College. It will allow more produce to be stored, which creates greater flexibility for organizations with limited hours and no cold storage of their own. This increases the amount of produce we can provide.

In 2018, the Gleaners hope to expand outreach to organizations that may benefit from receiving produce, spread the word to farms that may want to donate, and increase the number of consistent volunteers.

First Annual Maine Gleaning Week: A Success!

This past week, the Merrymeeting Gleaners took part in the first annual Maine Gleaning Week. Gleaners from across the state rescued 18,000 lbs. of produce that otherwise would have remained in the fields. From corn to kale to potatoes, the gleaners collectively harvested 23 varieties of produce from 30 farms and gardens, enough for 75,000 servings of food shared among 35 recipient partners from Saturday, Oct. 7, to Monday, Oct. 16.

The Merrymeeting Gleaners collected 740 lbs. during their event, “Glean with a Friend”, at Six River Farm. Both veteran and new gleaners came together to harvest a mixture of spinach, bok choy, beets, peppers, broccoli, kale and radishes for distribution among partners such as Bath Housing, Bath Head Start, and the Bowdoinham Food Pantry. The event was a chance to expose new individuals to this work as well as collect produce before the first frost. The event also celebrated the completion of a cold storage trailer built for the Merrymeeting Gleaners with funding from Bowdoin College and The New England Grassroots Environmental Fund. The trailer will allow for proper storage of produce between gleaning and distribution.

Maine Gleaning Week ended with an event at the Portland Public Library celebrating World Food Day. Kristen Miale, President of the Good Shepard Food Bank, and Steven M. Finn of UPenn and LeanPath were both keynote speakers. Following that, audience members were able to share their experiences with gleaning and then there was a screening of “WASTED! The Story of Food Waste”. This event was hosted by Food Recovery Coalition, Portland Public Library, and Maine Gleaning Network, and sponsored by Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, Healthy Acadia and The Quimby Family Foundation.

For more information or to get involved with the Merrymeeting Gleaners contact Merrymeetinggleaners@gmail.com