The Downeast Gleaning Initiative

Maine’s Downeast region is characterized by significant levels of poverty and food insecurity. In Washington County, 1 in 4 children are food insecure, and in Hancock County, 1 in 5 children are food insecure or lacking access to enough healthy, nutritious food to support an active, healthy life. (Feeding America.)

To help increase access to healthy and nutritious food, Healthy Acadia, in partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, coordinates farm-based gleaning opportunities throughout Hancock and Washington counties through the Downeast Gleaning Initiative. 

We connect volunteers with farms, orchards, farmers’ markets, and community gardens to harvest or collect surplus fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste. We then manage the distribution of this fresh produce to food pantries, community meal sites, rehabilitation programs, school backpack programs, and other community organizations. 

Since 2013, the Downeast Gleaning Initiative has collected and redistributed 262,000 pounds of food to more than 30 food security programs and organizations across Hancock and Washington counties. We have developed strong partnerships with more than 40 farms and have engaged hundreds of community volunteers and students in the program.

By supplying food pantries with fresh, local produce, we help to ensure that community members and their children who are most in need have the opportunity to maintain a healthy diet, reduce diet-related disease, and achieve higher educational outcomes. We are committed to ensuring that all people have access to nutritious, affordable food, making the healthy choice the easy choice.

The success of the Downeast Gleaning Initiative has led to the adoption of similar programs in communities across Maine and beyond. 

Funding for the Gleaning Initiative is provided by the Anew Foundation, Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, John T. Gorman Foundation, Maine Community Foundation, Quimby Family Foundation, United Way of Eastern Maine, and the Wireless Zone Foundation for Giving. 

Join our Glean Team

The Gleaning Initiative offers a rich learning experience for students of all ages by providing interactions with professional farmers, markets, and community gardens, as well as an introduction to creative food waste prevention and food security. 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. 

Gleaning activities may include:

  • Harvesting or collecting surplus food on farms

  • Delivering fresh produce to food pantries and community meal sites

  • Providing administrative support at our Hancock or Washington county office

Through gleaning, we hope volunteers will develop new skills, increase their personal satisfaction, and broaden their community relationships.

To sign up, 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 or 667-7171

Stay Connected

  • Subscribe to our email list for gleaning updates and volunteer opportunities

  • Follow us on Instagram @downeastgleaning

  • The Downeast Gleaning Initiative is a participating member of the Maine Gleaning Network. Follow the Maine Gleaning Network on Instagram and Facebook

In the News - Downeast Magazine

An Introduction to the Downeast Gleaning Initiative

USDA SARE A Guide to Gleaning and Surplus Management

The National Gleaning Project - State laws pertaining to gleaning

Volunteer Systems Presentation

Food Safety for Gleaning Volunteers

Video: Save the Food (NRDC and National Ad Council)

Video: Expired (NRDC and National Ad Council)


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.

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.

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.