The Maine Farm Bureau is concerned that although Maine has the highest number of farms of any New England state, it also ranks the highest for the number of food-insecure residents in New England, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA defines someone as food-insecure if they have limited or uncertain access to adequate food.
In response, Farm Bureau has asked its members to contribute fresh produce this summer to help combat hunger within the state. Farm Bureau members have responded, and while many of them have quietly contributed to their local food banks, on Saturday, Sept. 17, they will make a public show of support for ending hunger, by loading fresh fruits and vegetables onto trucks and tractor-pulled trailers for a food convoy from the Maine State House to the Augusta Food Bank. The convoy begins at 10 a.m. and will travel by way of Sewall St.
“If there is one thing Maine farmers are, it’s that they are giving, no matter the size of their operation or the practices they use. Even in a season of harsh drought conditions that may have affected their yields, our members are still willing to give back to their community that need their help in gaining access to fresh, safe, nutritious produce,” said Dr. Alicyn Smart, Executive Director of the non- profit, Maine Farm Bureau.
The general public is invited to participate by coming to watch the parade carrying Maine-grown apples, squash, potatoes, beans, peas, beets, corn and tomatoes. All are welcome to participate by coming with canned goods, which will be collected along the parade route by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development members during the parade.
“This is a great example of a creative collaboration around a significant issue in our community,” said Sarah Miller, Executive Director of the Augusta Food Bank which provides groceries to eligible residents of Augusta and Manchester. “We saw a record number of people come through our doors in August and it is wonderful to be able to offer large quantities of fresh produce to families that might otherwise go without.”
The latest census of agriculture provided by USDA shows 8,172 Maine farms, the largest number of farms per state in New England. (https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/New_England/).
USDA also reports that 208,000 people in Maine had experienced food insecurity in 2015. It lists Maine as having a rate of food insecurity higher than the national average. (http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics.aspx)