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Innovative grower campaign helps the hungry

By Fran Gonzalez | Jul 12, 2020
Courtesy of: Waldo County Bounty Waldo County Sheriff’s Office picks up over 300 melon plants donated by SongBird Farm of Unity for the County Garden, which grows food for the food pantries in Waldo County.

A new effort in Waldo County is quickly making inroads with a network of community leaders, farmers and growers, local artists, small businesses, and creative thinkers working together to tackle food insecurity.

Waldo County Bounty reached a major milestone recently by raising over $50,000 in cash and donations in just over a month. With a goal to reach $100,000, WCB strives to get ahead of current challenges by working with organizations and businesses on the front lines of the food system.

Launched in early May, WCB is a community fundraising and resource-sharing initiative. Growers can bring their excess crops to Give and Take Tables set up by WCB in prominent locations across the county, and anyone who needs food is welcome to pick up whatever is on the table at that moment at no cost. The tables will also offer information on WCB and other resources that support food security.

WCB is also calling on home gardeners and homesteaders to share the bounty of their gardens with their neighbors facing food access issues through its Grow a Row initiative. Growers are asked to pledge an extra row in their home garden for this effort.

Anyone can bring excess crops to the table closest to them, whether or not they have pledged. WCB volunteers offer assistance with especially large deliveries that may have special requirements, such as refrigeration or storage.

Hannah Hatfield, coordinator of the Give and Take Tables program, said, “Folks who love to garden and want to lend a hand have a place to give.”

The Give and Take Tables will begin in mid-July and will be located at the Montville Grange Hall; Liberty AMVETS Hall; Unity Barn Raisers Community Center; Islesboro and Morrill Community Halls; Lincolnville Beach Post Office; Brooks, Palermo and Troy Municipal Buildings; and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension office in Waldo.

While most locations will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, some will have specific hours. Complete details are available at wcbgardens.org and on signs placed in town offices.

As a whole, WCB will move its financial resources into the following channels, with as few impediments as possible, to address emergency food system and hunger relief:

Direct purchases from local farms for food pantries and soup kitchens. This helps farmers and food assistance clients, to be orchestrated by Daybreak Growers Alliance in partnership with Waldo County farmers.

Funding to food pantries and soup kitchens so they can buy nonperishable foods, sanitary items, safety materials, cleaning supplies, and keep up on operating costs.

Support for the gleaning effort. Unity Barn Raisers’ Veggies for All will redirect surplus food from farms and food businesses and distribute it through established hunger relief programs.

And support to gardeners, seeking to improve personal food security, share with their neighbors, or donate excess to hunger relief programs. This coordinated effort includes educational material and other resources from Waldo County Cooperative Extension, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and Mainers Together.

WCB campaign manager Sara Trunzo said, “The response from local people has been generous and impressive. Our initial momentum demonstrates that rural Mainers are independent yet interdependent, innovative, and compassionate — and that is no surprise.”

To date, WCB has distributed more than 2,000 plants and 750 pounds of seed potatoes, donated by such local businesses as Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Fedco, to six food pantries in Waldo County. Starting in July, WCB will buy $1,000 worth of food from local farms every week and distribute it to hunger relief programs countywide.

Interested parties can donate funds or sign up to volunteer on the Unity Barn Raisers website, as well as share the campaign's message by liking its Facebook and Instagram feeds.

A volunteer through Mainers Together works in the greenhouse labeling seeds for WCB’s Seedling to Pantry project. (Courtesy of: Waldo County Bounty)
An employee at Johnny’s Selected Seeds prepares to give WCB leftover cucumber seedlings from his trials, which were donated through the Seedling to Pantry project. (Courtesy of: Waldo County Bounty)
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