Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP) recently launched its “Farm to Pantry” initiative designed to provide critical support for local farmers and hungry Maine families.

MCHPP has committed $40,000 to purchase fresh produce and protein directly from Maine farmers—who are facing significant economic challenges due to the coronavirus—as a way to help address the surge of food insecurity amongst Mainers. This program is made possible thanks to donor support, including a generous grant from The Elmina B. Sewall Foundation.

Local farmers donate tens of thousands of pounds of food to MCHPP annually, which enables the food pantry, soup kitchen, and other programs to serve approximately 5,000 clients per year. “We are so fortunate to be part of a community who values supporting neighbors in need,” said Ryan Ravenscroft, food bank coordinator at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. “Because of food supply chain issues and increased consumer demand, we’ve experienced some disruptions in acquiring the volume of food we need to serve our clients, especially gaining access to fresh produce and protein. The Farm to Pantry initiative enables us to provide consistent hunger relief to our community, but of equal importance, it allows us to step up and support local farmers, whose livelihoods have been hard hit by the pandemic’s impact on the Maine restaurant/hospitality industry.”

Through the first phase of the Farm to Pantry initiative, MCHPP will work with two local farms, Crystal Spring Farm (Brunswick) and Six River Farm (Bowdoinham), who will provide MCHPP’s food bank and soup kitchen with carrots, tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes and other produce. The targeted produce purchases can be stored for future use or can be readily processed into a form that can be stored. Camp Chewonki, another key partner to MCHPP, whose programs were suspended due to COVID-19, has donated their time and kitchen to produce food for MCHPP and other local pantries. For example, in mid-May, Chewonki prepared 200 lbs of chili—with ingredients provided by MCHPP—that could be served immediately in the soup kitchen and stored for future use.

“Over the course of the pandemic, members of our community have generously stepped up their commitments to MCHPP in order to help feed the increasing number of Mainers who need nutritious food,” said Executive Director of MCHPP Karen Parker. “Thanks to their contributions, we’re able to invest in local farmers and ensure that we continue to have access to food for our clients and support valued farm partners as we continue to navigate these challenging times.”

Food from Crystal Spring Farm, Six River Farm and others farms, as funds are available, will be distributed to anyone in need of food residing in communities ranging from Brunswick, Harpswell, Lisbon Falls, and Topsham as well as share food with other local food pantries throughout midcoast Maine.

“As the effects of the coronavirus continue to ripple through our community, MCHPP is trying to plan ahead for our community’s needs five to six months from now,” added Ravenscroft. “In order to do that, we need to be able to count on steady food sources to feed our clients and we need to find ways to support our farmers.”

“Maine farmers operate on razor thin margins and, typically, compete with imported products from larger farms who can offer cheaper prices,” said Ravenscroft. “Yet, our local farms have always made donating food to our community a priority because they care about their neighbors. Now, they need our help and we are excited that we have the funds, made available to us by our donors, to pay them for their produce, help support the sustainability of their farms, and share their delicious products with more Mainers who will appreciate them now more than ever.”

Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program provides hungry Mainers with access to healthy food, works to improve the quality of their lives by partnering with others, and serves them in a manner that recognizes their dignity. Services include prepared meals, grocery distribution on-site, at local schools, and satellite locations in Harpswell and Lisbon Falls. The MCHPP food pantry–located at 12 Tenney Way, Brunswick–is open to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Friday from 11 am–2 pm; Tuesday evenings 4-6 pm; and Saturdays from noon–3 pm; the Soup Kitchen serves freshly made to-go meals on Mondays–Fridays from 11 am–12:30 pm and Saturdays noon–1:30 pm. MCHPP is a recipient of the Service Enterprise Certificate, in recognition for its strong volunteer base who work seven days a week to ensure that our neighbors are well fed.