WISCASSET — Morris Farm, a nonprofit providing food and educational programming, is asking for donations after the COVID-19 staunched its income, putting its programs and new free farm stand at risk of collapse.

Without any fundraising events or programs to provide income, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the nonprofit will last about a year before its endowment will run out, said Madelyn Hennessey, Morris Farm board chairperson.

Though the organization is known for summer camps and educational programs for children and adults, its newest venture is an anonymous take-what-you-need farm stand. The stand offers fresh local produce to anyone in need. Although the stand is nothing more than an uninsulated shed, Hennessey said an estimated five people take food daily.

Liza Goss, an Americorps volunteer at Morris Farm, said she began the take-what-you-need farm stand to fight food insecurity in Wiscasset as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened. Photo courtesy of Liza Goss

Veggies to Table, a Newcastle-based organization that gives local organic produce to food banks, supplies the farm stand. In total, Veggies to Table has given about 300 pounds of food to the table since it began in late August, said Veggies to Table Founder Erica Berman.

Liza Goss, an AmeriCorps volunteer at Morris Farm, said she began the take-what-you-need farm stand as a way to safely serve the Wiscasset community as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened throughout the state.

“When I learned more about the community, it became apparent that this would be a good model that would allow farmers to donate their surplus,” said Goss. “It’s beginning to be much more widely used within the community. It’d be heartbreaking to see that resources vanish just as it’s becoming more widely used.”

About 12.5% of Lincoln County was food insecure in 2018, according to the most recent data from Feeding America, a national hunger-relief organization.

Food insecurity can have more serious effects than bare shelves and empty lunchboxes. According to a 2019 Lincoln County needs assessment report, chronic diseases and health conditions associated with food insecurity include asthma, low birth weight, diabetes, mental health issues, hypertension and obesity.

Shannon Coffin, vice president of community partnerships at Good Shepherd Food Bank, said Morris Farm’s free food stand is unique for two reasons: it is open seven days per week while being entirely anonymous, and it provides fresh produce.

“There’s two needs being met with those efforts: access issues to food itself and the stigma that can be associated with needing help,” said Coffin. “Plus, having access to healthy local produce can help people feel like a part of their community and nourish their soul.”

Although the farm stand is small, those combined factors make it an essential piece in combating local food insecurity, said Coffin.

“Eliminating hunger in Maine requires meeting people where they are,” she said. “For people who face food insecurity, a lot of planning goes into getting access to food, so more low barrier food access points are essential to fighting food insecurity.”

Within Wiscasset, Good Shepherd Food Bank works with St. Philip’s Church Food Pantry and Wiscasset Nazarene Outreach Food Pantry, among others, but Coffin said those organizations only meet about 60% of the local need.

“In total, we anticipate distributing over 100,00 meals in Wiscasset in the coming year, but that will still leave a meal gap in the area,” said Coffin. “Our pantries do an incredible job, but no one organization can solve food insecurity, it takes a network of food resources. The Morris Farm helps close that meal gap.”

Statewide, one in five children in Maine are food insecure, according to the Good Shepherd Food Bank, and that number is expected to rise as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Before the pandemic, 12% of Maine households were food insecure, and the Good Shepherd is expecting that number to grow by 25%, according to Jessica Donahue, marketing and communications manager for the food bank. One year ago, 180,000 Mainers were food insecure, but the food bank expects that number to grow to 215,000 after the pandemic.


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