October is Maine School Gleaning Month
The Maine Gleaning Network is a coalition of partner organizations working throughout the state to connect communities to their local farmers. Gleaning is a community activity that increases access to healthy fresh local food and, and this year, Maine School Gleaning Month will be focused on offering creative educational outlet for teachers to bring students out to farms, as well as increasing the amount of locally grown food available for all students.
Gleaning is an age old practice and tradition whereby people gather to harvest crops that farmers have either been unable to secure markets for, or for which the return cannot justify the investment in harvesting. Every farm, and every crop, is different. From apples to zucchini, farmers are often in a position where they leave marketable and edible nutritious food in their fields, unharvested. Our market pressures to avoid small cosmetic differences, like blemishes, or only accept products that meet particular shape and size specifications, and an increasingly volatile market, all result in food loss on farms. Unfortunately Maine is home to 83,000 food insecure students, who would benefit from that nutrition greatly. This year the Maine Gleaning Network is making new connections between farms and schools.
“There is nothing like the connection made in a child’s mind when she pulls a wonky carrot out of the ground and thinks it is funny, beautiful, and edible,” says Hannah Semler, founder of Whole Crops, and a major force behind the Maine Gleaning Network. “Getting students and volunteers out on farms, meeting and working with farmers to recover what would otherwise be lost, is a great chance to make those connections while addressing student hunger.”
Maine farmers do not like seeing the crops they have grown go uneaten. Farmers need more commitment from buyers. In the meantime, students can be a food recovery force, harvesting the product to stock their school pantry with fresh local food. This October, Maine School Gleaning Month is dedicated to connecting all of these dots to ensure Maine students learn about agriculture and nutrition, while developing a sense of solidarity, and learning about new ways to feed their communities and themselves.
The Maine Gleaning Network is comprised of the following groups: Androscoggin Gleaners, Cumberland County Food Security Council Gleaning Initiative, Central Maine Gleaners, FoodCorps Maine, Healthy Acadia Gleaning Initiative (Hancock and Washington Counties), Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, Lincoln County Gleaners, Merrymeeting Gleaners, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Western Waldo County Gleaners, and Whole Crops. Partners to the Maine Gleaning Network include countless local farms, statewide networks such as Maine Network of Community Food Councils, Maine Farm to School Network, and members of the Food Recovery Coalition, in Portland.
Visit us at www.mainegleaningnetwork.org/events
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