‘You can’t see hunger’

Wed, 03/15/2023 - 12:00pm

Veggies To Table, a Newcastle-based non-profit grow-to-donate farm, has increased their grow space for the upcoming season by adding a new caterpillar tunnel and more fields, said founder Erica Berman.

Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, expects food insecurity in Maine to increase in 2023 coming off pandemic years, facing inflation, higher food prices and the end of extra federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, a COVID-19 relief measure that ended last month.

Since its inception four years ago, Veggies To Table has donated 44,500 pounds of produce, which is 37,083 meals, to those experiencing food insecurity in Lincoln County and the surrounding area. Food is distributed to thousands of people at over 35 sites across Lincoln County including pantries in Boothbay, Alna, Newcastle, Waldoboro, Wiscasset, Jefferson, Friendship and Cushing, and through local YMCAs, Rotary Clubs, Morris Farm, Healthy Lincoln County, LincolnHealth and other locations, according to Berman.

“With our large choice of nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits and herbs grown on the farm, Veggies to Table aims to restore dignity to those who have lost the most basic of life functions – the ability to feed themselves. We work to ensure universal access to nutritious, organic, culturally appropriate food for all, and promote the well-being of everyone involved in the food production and consumption process,” the organization’s website states.

The organization also provides food through Wiscasset Middle High School and Lincoln Academy, and to local summer lunch and after school programs, as well as educational programs including an Earth Day event set for April 22 at Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library and Healthy Kids Day at the Damariscotta CLC-YMCA April 29.

Each fall, the farm donates pumpkins to children for Halloween carvings.

“Flowers create joy,” Berman said. Over 40 types and 100 varieties of flowers are grown and donated through the same channels as the vegetables. “If you can’t afford food, you most likely can’t afford flowers, and we work to make sure as many people as possible in our community have access to gorgeous bouquets,” she said. To date, the Flower Joy program has donated over 43,000 flowers to brighten people’s day.

A few pop-up flower event will be held this summer at East Boothbay General Store and other locations in the community as fundraisers for the organization. The nonprofit depends on individual donors, grants, corporate sponsors, events, and merchandise sales to fund operations.

A popular fundraiser, and garden club favorite, is the Dahlia tuber sale, available year-round at veggiestotable.org/dahlias. Information will be available at Veggies To Table’s Boothbay Farmers Market stand this summer.

The organization is now raising funds to build employee lodging for farm crew and interns. “We’ve lost many qualified employees because they can’t live nearby or on a farmer’s salary,” she said.

In addition to a small staff, the farm relies on volunteer labor throughout the growing season. The farm has welcomed over 350 volunteers to experience nature and create lasting relationships. Said Berman, “There are so many ways to get involved, so many ways to work toward the solution, and we want to get to know you.”