Veggies For All, a project of Maine Farmland Trust, has received a $1,000 award from Jumpstart Our Youth (JOY), a youth grant-making program, established by the Unity Foundation.

Veggies For All is food bank farm located in Unity that works to relieve hunger by growing vegetables for those in need, while collaborating with partners to distribute and increase access to quality and nutritious food. Founded in 2007, VFA has grown and distributed more than 100,000 pounds of vegetables and engaged hundreds of volunteers in thousands of hours of community-based hunger relief.

Along with providing much-needed assistance to valuable organizations and projects like VFA, Jumpstart Our Youth is designed to teach the next generation of leaders how philanthropy supports community needs and goals.

JOY achieves this by allowing students to act as grant-makers. Students enrolled in the Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) program research local needs, learn about the nonprofits that address those needs and invite organizations to apply for grant funding. As they review applications, students analyze budgets and examine program effectiveness. Each class determines its own process for awarding grants — generally through a combination of discussion, voting and debate.

This year, RSU 3's Mount View Middle School JMG chapter chose to support Veggies For All in its continued work of providing fresh vegetables to food pantry clients throughout central Maine.

“Veggies For All is a program that is truly committed to providing our communities here in RSU 3 with great services. It is programs like this that help keep our communities strong," said Amy Kate Spaulding, a Mount View eighth-grader who assisted with the grant-making process.

Chad Larrabee, Mount View Middle School JMG specialist, worked with Veggies For All Director Sara Trunzo to identify opportunities for students to volunteer with Veggies For All as the growing season kicks off, so they can see the on-the-ground impact of their grant-making.

"The Jumpstart Our Youth program teaches kids the importance and power of giving back to our communities," Larrabee said. "These life-long lessons help youth develop an understanding of the responsibilities and rewards that come with being a contributing and giving member of the community. It is critical that these young people learn about the value of philanthropy and the value of giving back at this early age, so they can be the model for their peers and others."

“We’re grateful to the students for recognizing our good work and to the donors who made this grant possible,” Trunzo said. “It’s especially rewarding to know that the young grant-makers from Mount View had the vision and compassion to support a program that serves their peers, as kids in our community are disproportionately impacted by hunger."

Veggies For All serves approximately 1,500 people in rural central Maine through a network of 10 food pantries; one third of those clients are children.