Gardening With Purpose

From the Piscataquis/Penobscot County Extension Newsletter

Did you know that summer, the time that all of us look forward to enjoying the bountiful harvest of fresh fruits and vegetables, is also the time that many Maine families experience an increase in food insecurity? For many low-income families, the end of school signals the end of the school-based free and reduced lunch programs. So, rather than being a season of abundance, summer can be a season of scarcity.

Statewide, 15.1% of Mainers (198,790 people) experience times when adequate, nutritional food is limited or uncertain. Moreover, of this population, 43% do not qualify for any government support and rely on charities to make ends meet when an unexpected expense arrives.

Food insecurity is everyone’s problem. As this recession has shown, hunger is not swollen bellies and withered limbs, rather it is the newly unemployed, underemployed or chronically low-paid workers who struggle to pay the bills and have enough left over to buy nutritious food.

So what can you do? The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is encouraging everyone to get involved in combating local hunger by enrolling in the Maine Harvest for Hunger Program. The goal of this program is to connect people with excess, high quality produce to those in need of fresh fruits and vegetables. There are many ways to participate: dedicate part of your garden harvest to a soup kitchen or pantry, become part of a team to harvest excess crops from farmers’ fields or help coordinate pick-up and deliveries from participating farm stands to food pantries. There is lots of work to be done and many different types of skills are needed. To learn more about the program, you can contact Kate Garland (942-7396), or Donna Coffin and Thomas Goodspeed (564-3301) or go to http://umaine.edu/harvest-for-hunger/.

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