Kudos: Androscoggin Gleaners provide healthy food for those in need – Lewiston Sun Journal

Kudos: Androscoggin Gleaners provide healthy food for those in need – Lewiston Sun Journal

Healthy food
Jeff Newell of Durham spaces begonias at the Whiting Farm in Auburn. Newell is retired and volunteers at the farm with members of the Androscoggin Gleaners, a group that works with farms to provide surplus produce to people who can use it. Newell said volunteering at the farm is his way to give back following the farm’s commitment to providing food to such organizations as the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center.
Sun Journal file photoLEWISTON — As the Androscoggin Gleaners gear up for another season, they are hoping people are as excited as they are to get back outside. The network of volunteers takes excess produce from local farms and distributes it to regional nonprofits, and the network is growing.The Androscoggin Gleaners, a relatively new organization of just two years, delivered more than 14, 000 pounds of fresh produce to local sites last year, doubling its take from its first season. .


The amount of produce they are able to pick ties directly to how many volunteers they can muster.The group has partnered, so far, with eight regional farms and roughly 10 distribution sites, such as Hope Haven Gospel Mission and the Trinity Jubilee Center in Lewiston.Its biggest goals are reducing food waste while increasing access to nutritious food.According to the organization, 15, 890 residents in Androscoggin County live with food insecurity. Of those, 37 percent do not qualify for food assistance programs.The group describes itself as a network, given its planning team is composed mostly of employees from area nonprofits.Lynne Holland is a community education assistant for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and through the extension trains volunteers to become master gardeners.Holland said the concept of gleaning came from a cooperative extension program, Harvest for Hunger, and the already-existing Merrymeeting Gleaners group in Sagadahoc County.She said while the program helps local food pantries, it also benefits farmers.“A farmer really wants their food to be eaten, ” she said. “They don’t want to see it become compost, and they certainly don’t want to see it become garbage.”As the organization moves forward, it is trying to attract and retain a solid core ....

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