Maine’s Downeast region is characterized by significant levels of poverty and food insecurity. In Washington County, 19.4% of residents and 31.2% of children are living in poverty, and 28.8% of children are food insecure. In Hancock County, 13.2% of residents and 19.3% of children are living in poverty, and 23.7% of children are food insecure. (U.S. Census 2012, Maine Kids Count, 2013, Feeding America.) Healthy Acadia partners with the region’s community meal sites and food pantries, or Food Security Organizations (FSO’s) to provide a significant boost in the nutritional quality and quantity of food that they are able to distribute to their clients through the Downeast Gleaning Initiative.

What is Gleaning?

The Downeast Gleaning Initiative

Partner Farms

Becoming a Volunteer

Contact Us

Stay Connected

In the News


What is Gleaning?

Gleaning is the simple act of collecting quality food that would otherwise go to waste and redistributing it to benefit the common good. It is a multi-faceted approach that reaches many audiences simultaneously, including FSO’s, providing a significant boost in the nutritional quality and quantity of food that they are able to distribute to their clients.

The Downeast Gleaning Initiative

Through the Downeast Gleaning Initiative, Healthy Acadia, in partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, works to address food insecurity in the region. We cooordinate gleaning opportunities throughout Hancock and Washington Counties, connecting volunteers with farms, orchards, farmers’ markets, and other food producers and vendors to collect food that would otherwise go to waste. We then manage distribution of the collected food to community meal sites and FSO’s.

Since 2010, the Downeast Gleaning Initiative has collected and redistributed over 80,000 pounds of food throughout Hancock and Washington counties.  We have developed new relationships with more than thirty farms and engaged over 200 community volunteers in the program.  Our Gleaning Coordinators have established occasional and regular distribution systems with the fifteen food security organizations of the Hancock County Food Security Network, as well as the ten food security organizations of the Washington County Food Pantry Network. Our efforts have contributed to statewide appreciation and adoption of gleaning as a strategy towards improving healthy food access.


The University of Maine Cooperative Extension has coordinated the Maine Harvest for Hunger Program in Hancock County since 2006, recruiting and training Master Gardener Volunteers to grow and donate food to their local FSOs. In 2010, additional organizations working to address hunger in our communities came together to harvest apples from Johnston’s Pick Your Own Orchard in Ellsworth, starting a yearly tradition of gathering an average of 3,500 pounds each fall and distributing them to the Hancock County Food Security Network.

In 2012, Healthy Acadia, in partnership with the city of Ellsworth, was awarded a Community Development Block Grant to expand the Gleaning Program, enabling us to hire a Hancock County Gleaning Coordinator and significantly increase our efforts in spring of 2013. We have since expanded the program to Washington County with great success.

Funding for the Gleaning Initiative has generously been provided by Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Quimby Family Foundation, Anew Foundation, Larry Flood, EMHS, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Broad Reach Fund, USDA SARE, United Way of Eastern Maine and a Community Development Block Grant with support from the City of Ellsworth and the Hancock County Planning Commission.

Partner Farms

Our community farmers are working hard to make food accessible and available to their communities on a daily basis. Sometimes they need the extra support to go the last mile and make donations of what is no longer of commercial value to them, to those who are in need of food. Gleaning allows farmers to create mutually beneficial relationships with community members and institutions through an organized distribution system.

As a volunteer-based program, the Downeast Gleaning Initiative strives to serve as a professionalized service for farmers seeking community connections. Our gleaning team and pool of volunteers often provide labor, transportation and marketing on behalf of farmers. In turn, many farmers are willing to harvest and distribute what we are not able to get to with volunteers. Our experience is that generosity breeds common interests, and that the more gleaning farmers allow, the more return they get for their hard work; the more return they get, the more they donate food; it is a win-win situation!

Becoming a Volunteer

Downeast Gleaning Initiative volunteers have the opportunity to work with Hancock County and Washington County Gleaning Coordinators to establish sustainable gleaning systems in their communities. Activities include:

  • working with food producers to harvest or collect surplus food,
  • delivering fresh produce to food pantries and community meal sites,
  • supporting the market relations and food access needs of the local food system by providing occasional labor, marketing and transportation services to farmers,
  • providing administrative support through our Hancock or Washington county office

Volunteer contributions can also include more loosely-defined roles, such as supporting the coordination of community gleaning volunteer teams. Gleaning volunteers can expect to give between 2 and 4 hours of their time per week, according to individual availability and the seasonal needs of the program.

The Downeast Gleaning Initiative offers a rich learning experience for students of all ages, providing interactions with professional farmers, markets and community gardens, as well as an introduction to creative food waste prevention, management and reduction. It's a great option for schools, colleges and other groups seeking volunteer opportunities as part of community service or service learning programs. We welcome your participation on a regular or one-time basis, any time of the year. Summer is a busy time for gleaning, but winter can be exciting too!

Through gleaning we hope volunteers will develop new skills, increase their personal satisfaction and broaden their community relationships. To sign up to volunteer, please complete our Volunteer Form.

Contact Us

Rachel Emus, Food Programs Coordinator, Hancock County or 667-7171


Regina Grabrovac, Food Programs Manager, Washington County or 255-3741


Katie Freedman, Food Programs Director



University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Marjorie Peronto, Extension Educator

Maine Harvest for Hunger & Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator or 667-8212

Stay Connected

Like Maine Gleaning Network on Facebook

Connect with the Gleaning Volunteers in Washington County on Facebook

Follow us on Instagram #gleaning

Subscribe to our Hancock County Coordinator’s Gleaning Blog!

In the News

Check out some great coverage of the Gleaning Initiative by these local, state, and national media outlets:


Downeast Magazine


Bangor Daily News

We build on our tradition of sustainable agriculture and fisheries to assure healthy local foods are an easy, affordable and popular choice in Hancock and Washington Counties.
Organic spinach that would otherwise have gone to waste makes its way to ten food pantries.





Our partner UMaine Cooperative Extension, recruits Master Gardener Volunteers to help pick thousands of pounds of apples every year.





Bushels of beans gleaned from local farms were distributed to food security organizations throughout the region.





The Gleaning Initiative delivers fresh produce to the Bar Harbor Food Pantry.





Creative food waste prevention equals fresh healthy local foods for our community members.





Local carrots can be gleaned from mid-summer to mid-winter and are always a favourite amoung our community members.





Gleaning coordinators and champion volunteer work together to rake and sort cranberries before Thanksgiving.