Unity Barn Raisers, in partnership with Veggies For All, will launch a Western Waldo County Gleaning Initiative to support hunger relief programs and provide a waste-reduction service to farmers, according to a news release from the organization.

The Initiative aims to enhance community health through gleaning. Gleaning is the redirection of surplus or unmarketable food products — such as fresh fruit and vegetables — into local hunger relief programs. Gleaning may be done on farms or in gardens, from stores or restaurants. Product will be distributed through key hunger relief partners: Volunteer Regional Food Pantry, The Open Door soup kitchen, and M.O.S.S. lunch program.

This Initiative is supported by Eastern Maine HealthCare Systems (EMHS) through the Partners to Improve Community Health Grant (PICH) program. Last year during the Initiative’s pre-launch phase, more than 5,000 lbs of food was rescued and redirected into the hunger relief food stream.

“This key support from EMHS is allowing us to formalize and resource the Western Waldo County Gleaning Initiative, which has already proven to be a practical, effective effort. It is a perfect fit for our engaged, resilient community,” Mary Leaming, Unity Barn Raisers Programs Director, said in the release.

Growers and producers can participate by donating extra, leftover, or second-quality crops. UBR can arrange a time to drop-off, can facilitate pick-up, or even provide trained and supervised volunteers to come harvest from your fields.

Interested volunteers are invited to join our “glean team.” Support is needed to harvest, transport, wash and pack produce, and perform quality control. Farm and garden experience are a plus, but not required. Volunteers will be contacted as gleaning needs arise.

Volunteers and growers are sought to make this project possible. Those that have extra, leftover, or second-quality crops you would like and are able to donate or are interested in volunteering should contact Mary at [email protected] or 948-9005.

Unity Barn Raisers works pro-actively to enhance small-town character and rural environment, while nurturing a thriving community-based economy. UBR believes that a community working together can shape its own future, and in so doing, significantly advance the quality of life of its people, both now and for generations to come.

Veggies For All, a project of Maine Farmland Trust is a food bank farm that works to relieve hunger by growing vegetables for those in need, while collaborating with partners to distribute and increase access to quality nutritious food. Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide organization that protects farmland, supports farmers, and advances farming.