Letter to the editor: Mattie John Bamman

COVID-19 increases need for nutritious food for Waldo County families

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 4:15pm

A campaign to address food insecurity in Waldo County during the coronavirus pandemic, Waldo County Bounty launched in May 2020 and has since raised more than $60,000 and climbing. After a busy summer, Waldo County Bounty announces its impact in Waldo County through the following programs from July to September 2020:

·  FOOD-TO-PANTRY PROGRAM: Waldo County Bounty purchased approximately $10,000 of produce from 13 local farms and distributed the food through 16 hunger relief channels, including food banks, across Waldo County, reaching around 3,600 individuals. The farm-fresh produce totaled about 6,400 pounds and cost $1.50 per pound on average. With expert facilitation from Daybreak Growers Alliance, we have been able to provide flexibility to our hunger relief channels, furnishing food supplies that typically complement what they have already received, on a week-by-week basis. We are now expanding our spending in the Farm-to-Pantry initiative to bring more nutritious food to those who need it this autumn.

·  GLEANING PROGRAM: Waldo County Bounty gathered 21,073 pounds of food from 15 farms and producers, as well as homesteaders and gardeners, through Veggies For All gleaning and distributed it to hunger relief agencies around Waldo County. The produce ranged from peppers and tomatoes to squash, carrots, and corn from such local businesses as Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Songbird Farm, and the Ecovillage of Belfast. The Veggies For All gleaning program will continue to operate in this capacity through the end of the 2020 growing season.

·  GARDENING PROGRAM: Waldo County Bounty established ‘Give and Take’ produce exchange tables in 10 sites in Waldo County and coordinated donations from home gardeners and hand-painted signage from Waterfall Arts. On average, each table brought in 15 pounds of food per week, and, in total, the 10 sites distributed approximately 1350 pounds of food while in operation. Select tables will continue to operate through the end of October.

In addition to these initiatives, Waldo County Bounty took the lead on the distribution of 52,000 pounds of local food though the USDA’s Farms to Families commodity box program in partnership with WaldoCAP, WaldoEMA, and the schools.

Our efforts are made possible by a team of food system partners including Daybreak Growers Alliance, Unity Barn Raisers/Veggies For All, Waldo County Emergency Management and Dept. of Corrections, MOFGA, and University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Moving forward, Waldo County Bounty will continue to collaborate with Waldo County hunger-relief agencies, farms, and gardeners. It is currently coordinating a group discussion by Zoom and telephone to identify the areas of Waldo County that most need hunger assistance and to develop new partnerships.

The need for nutritious food for local families in Waldo County is increasing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Data from numerous reports suggests this trend will continue across the nation for the foreseeable future. As Mainers, we know the importance of maintaining strong communities. Please consider making a donation to Waldo County Bounty today by visiting its website, waldocountybounty.org.

You can also share the campaign's urgent message by liking its Facebook and Instagram feeds.

Mattie John Bamman and Unity Barn Raisers are based in Unity