High school and college student projects awarded Maine Hunger Dialogue mini-grants

Fourteen student-led projects addressing food insecurity on college campuses, in high schools and in communities statewide have been awarded mini-grants from the Maine Hunger Dialogue, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension-led initiative that mobilizes the power of higher education to end hunger in the state.

The recipients of mini-grants of as much as $500 are: Mt. Ararat High School, Kennebec Valley Community College, York County Community College, University of New England, University of Maine, University of Maine at Fort Kent, University of Maine at Presque Isle, University of Maine at Machias, University of Maine at Farmington, University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) and UMA Bangor, and University of Southern Maine (USM) and USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College.

The new Maine Hunger Dialogue-funded projects:

  • Kennebec Valley Community College: Team members plan to open a food pantry called Campus Cupboard, as well as a “grab-and-go bar” on the Fairfield campus. The team plans to donate a portion of fresh garden vegetables grown on the college-owned farm to the pantry. They also hope to extend their reach into the surrounding community.
  • York County Community College: Team members will open a resource cabinet called the Coyote Den that will be stocked with food and personal hygiene items. It will be located in a shared teacher/student lounge. In the near future, the team envisions a larger office space to accommodate a campus food pantry.
  • Two grants to the University of Southern Maine: The student-led Husky Hunger and school-sponsored Wellness Center are exploring ways to end hunger. Both organizations are co-sponsoring a free weekly “Wellness Breakfast,” consisting of day-old bread items donated from Panera Bread. The ultimate goal is to open the Husky Wellness Food Pantry. In addition, USM team members will raise awareness about hunger and homelessness in the Portland and Gorham communities, and mobilize students to take action through service projects during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in November 2016.
  • University of Southern Maine Lewiston-Auburn College: The LAC Resource Hub was established several years ago and then revitalized last year with funds provided by the Hunger Dialogue. The resource hub provides meals, clothes and personal hygiene items for students. The hub is located in the student lounge.
  • Mt. Ararat High School: Team members opened the Eagles Food Pantry, which can be accessed through the Guidance Office. They are also in communications with the community action group Partners For a Hunger Free York County, exploring ways to engage students and parents to build awareness of the free/reduced lunch program.
  • University of Maine at Augusta: Social science faculty created the course SSC 334: Cultivating Community: The Garden Seminar, with the goal of revitalizing the community garden. Partnering with the student government, the social science class will grow vegetables and donate bounty to area food pantries.
  • University of Maine at Augusta Bangor: Team members will continue their project from last year and print copies of the student penned cookbook, Hungry Moose Cookbook: A College Students Guide to Cheap Healthy Eating, which will be donated to the campus library, Maine State Library and surrounding local libraries. Team members are planning a mini Hunger Dialogue to explore steps needed to open a campus-based food pantry.
  • University of Maine at Machias: The Food Recovery Network (FRN) student club will resume food production at UMM’s greenhouse and community garden. As part of its service requirement to graduate, UMM students will tend to the gardens with the help of community volunteers. Vegetables will be donated to local food pantries. FRN also is sponsoring a student cooking class in the residence hall kitchen. The goal is to demonstrate how to buy and prepare nutritious food on a budget.
  • University of Maine at Farmington: Team members will establish a resource hub called Commuter and Community Commons. The goal is to bring social service information to students in need, offer gardening classes and provide a food pantry.
  • University of Maine at Fort Kent: Team members propose to open the Bengal’s Outreach Food Pantry at the Learning Center, home of the university’s TRiO program. TRiO program students and staff will volunteer to maintain the pantry. The local community food bank board meets quarterly and has offered to involve student volunteers to establish a productive partnership between campus and community in the fight to end hunger.
  • University of Maine: University of Maine’s Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism sponsored a multi-campus pack-out for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. An estimated 120 volunteers came together, raised $5,880, packed 23,520 meals in 73 minutes, and distributed meals to 10 different food pantries in two Maine counties.
  • University of Maine at Presque Isle: To build hunger awareness on campus and in the community, team members will sponsor a campuswide pack-out. Organizers plan to reach out to the local community college and area high schools.
  • University of New England: University of New England will expand its community garden and continue to donate vegetables to its Food Recovery Program and local food pantries. UNE also is establishing a Resource Hub to connect at-risk students with service information and distribute food weekly.

The goal of the Maine Hunger Dialogue is to inspire students to take action to address hunger on their campuses and in their communities. To help in that effort, Hunger Dialogue campus teams can apply for as much as $500 in startup funds to implement a new project, or expand/strengthen/build sustainability for an already existing hunger-related project. Projects could include activities such as a new campus food pantry or expansion of an organic garden to provide larger quantities of fresh vegetables for local homeless shelters.

Funding for the mini-grants comes from generous support from corporate sponsors, including Sodexo, Bangor Savings Bank, Performance Food Group North and Allagash Brewing Co.

The second Maine Hunger Dialogue was held at UMaine last November, with 150 students and staff from 19 universities and colleges statewide packing 10,000 nutritious, nonperishable meals for food pantries, and reporting on hunger-alleviation projects implemented in the inaugural year.

The event grew out of the UMaine Extension Maine Harvest for Hunger (MHH) program. Since MHH’s inception, participants have distributed more than 2.19 million pounds of food to people in Maine experiencing food insecurity. In 2015, record-breaking donations of over 318,000 pounds of food went to 188 distribution sites and directly to individuals. Nearly 500 program volunteers in 14 counties collectively logged more than 5,000 hours. The value of the produce was over $537,000, based on an average $1.69 per pound.

The Maine Hunger Dialogue is part of a national movement to raise awareness of hunger on every U.S. campus of higher education. A goal is for participants to be inspired, educated and connected to resources to help some of the 48 million Americans estimated by Feeding America to be living in food insecure households.

The next Maine Hunger Dialogue is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 4–5 at Colby College. More information on this year’s dialogue is online.

Past recipients of Maine Hunger Dialogue mini-grants in the first year were:

  • Mt. Ararat High School: Since 2007, Mt. Ararat High School students from the National Honors Society and Interact Club have led an annual food drive called Cram the Van. Members of the community are asked to help the two clubs fill both a van and a bus with nonperishable food items for the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. Mt. Ararat students who attended the 2014 Hunger Dialogue applied for a mini-grant to sponsor a bake sale called “Let’s get ready to crumble” to benefit Cram the Van. In addition to raising funds for the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, students participated in a pack-out event with Bates College students at a local church, packing more than 10,000 mac and cheese meals for local food banks.
  • Southern Maine Community College: A 2012 survey at SMCC found one in six students go without nutritional food for themselves and their families. In response, the Captain’s Cupboard food pantry opened its doors in November 2013, serving as many as 30 clients by distributing a few hundred pounds of food a week. Captain’s Cupboard applied for and was awarded a $500 mini-grant to purchase a refrigerator and freezer to offer fresher perishable foods. Plans are in the works to establish a second cupboard on SMCC’s Brunswick campus.
  • University of Maine at Augusta Bangor: The vision of students and staff from UMA Bangor was to open a campus-based food pantry. To aid in this potential project, student campus visionaries invited Good Shepherd Food Bank (GSFB) to participate in a community food project called Rock the Truck. April 7, UMA students and a staff adviser distributed 953 pounds of food to 130 households located within half an hour’s drive of campus. Rock the Truck was such a success GSFB asked to return this fall with double the food to distribute.
  • University of Maine: September 2014 saw the state’s first-ever edible park break ground at Manna Ministries in Bangor. Once home to a community farm, the land will again be used to provide native fruits, herbs and nuts for local citizens. Students from UMaine helped initiate the Bangor Edible Park and the mini-grant was used to help develop the website bangorediblepark.squarespace.com as a capacity-building measure.
  • University of New England: In February 2015, UNE students established a national chapter of the Food Recovery Program. Student volunteers recovered more than 1,500 pounds of food from three UNE dining halls during the first semester of operation and then donated the food to the Bon Appetit food pantry in Biddeford. Together, with the help of the UNE AmeriCorps VISTA member, students also expanded a six-plot community garden. Faculty, staff and students planted flowers and vegetables for members of the university community. A portion of the garden was used to grow fresh vegetables for Bon Appetit.
  • University of Southern Maine Lewiston-Auburn College: The USM LAC Resource Hub was revitalized with funds provided by the Hunger Dialogue. The resource hub provides meals, clothes and personal hygiene items for students as needed. The hub is located in the student lounge.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745