Growing Roots summit looks at food insecurity, food waste

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FARMINGTON — Greater Franklin County has a collaborative spirit. It is with that spirit that the Greater Franklin Food Council is promoting Growing Roots, a week-long series of events that explore and celebrate food — ranging from reducing food waste and improving access to local foods at area food pantries; to celebrating the iconic spring-time fiddlehead. All activities are free and open to the public.

The council is an expansive network of individuals and organizations interested in promoting healthy food systems. It was established after the first Food Summit was convened in 2017. Organizers include the Healthy Community Coalition; United Way of the Tri-Valley Area; mainefoodatlas.org; Rustic Roots Farm; Catholic Charities SEARCH program; and the Care and Share Food Closet. Funding for Growing Roots is provided by the Natural Resources Council of Maine and The Maine Network of Food Councils.

The schedule of events is:

Catholic Parish Food Summit: 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 29. St. Joseph Table and lunch at 11:45 followed by Catholic Parish Food Summit from 1 to 3 p.m., St. Joseph Catholic Church Parish Hall, 133 Middle St. St. Joseph Table is a feast of gratitude and an opportunity for generosity with others. All are welcome.

More than 50 people will gather from Catholic churches in the region to share their food-related ministries, affirm what people are doing and explore ways to work more collaboratively to feed the hungry.

Greater Franklin Food Summit: 3:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, West Farmington Grange, 124 Bridge St.

During the welcome, Lisa Laflin, executive director, United Way of the Tri-Valley, and Ellen Thorne, program coordinator, Healthy Community Coalition will give opening remarks, and Dave Fuller, agriculture and nontimber forest products professional, Franklin County Cooperative Extension will answer “What is a Food System?”

The keynote speaker will be Lynne Holland, community education assistant, Androscoggin and Sagadahoc County Cooperative Extension, presenting “Engaging Our Local Food Producers in the Effort to Combat Local Food Insecurity.”

At 4:15 p.m., participants will have conversations. Discussion topics will be: “Food “insecurity,” focusing on how to use local food in addressing food insecurity in Franklin County?; “Policy and Advocacy,” focus, putting ideas into action — Regional Food Councils’ successes and state-wide perspectives — what has worked?; “Education and Local Resources,” focus, to make the community more resilient, people need to know about nutrition, education and advocacy resources, so what opportunities are there to spread the word and collaborate?; “Farmers and Food Producers,” focus, what do farmers and food producers need from the community to be successful? Conversation report outs will follow. 

Molly Clark of Healthy Community Coalition will wrap up the summit with, “Next steps, where do we go from here?” Those attending will have the opportunity to network and sample local food.

Resources will be shared throughout the evening at resource tables. Parking is available at the Whistle Stop Trailhead parking lot and along the street in front of the Grange.

“Just Eat It!,” movie: 6 p.m. Friday, May 4, Thomas Auditorium, Preble Hall, University of Maine Farmington.

Filmmakers and food lovers Jen and Grant dive into the issue of waste from farm, through retail, all the way to the back of their own fridge. After catching a glimpse of the billions of dollars of good food that is tossed each year in North America, they pledge to quit grocery shopping and survive only on discarded food.

Following the movie, audience members will answer “What does food waste look like in Maine?” The talk will be led by Todd Martin, Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Sustainable Campus Coalition representatives. This is sponsored by the Natural Resources Council of Maine and UMF Sustainable Campus Coalition.

Maine Fiddlehead Festival: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 5, Emery Community Arts Center, University of Maine Farmington.

Visitors will learn about responsible harvesting and safe preparation of fiddlehead ferns; meet local farmers and food vendors; learn things like homesteading skills, weaving and goat raising at various “tent talks”; and can check out antique tractors, supervised children’s activities, the farmer’s market and more.

Members of the Greater Franklin Food Council participate in a recent Mapathon. Food producers were added to the mainefoodatlas.org, a state-wide resource. The next initiative of the Greater Franklin Food Council is Growing Roots: An exploration and celebration of local food April 29 to May 5. Events include the second Greater Franklin Food Summit on May 2 at the West Farmington Grange, a free movie showing of “Just Eat It!,” which explores food waste in America, and the Maine Fiddlehead Festival on May 5.

Sue Jones inspires those gathered at last year’s first annual Food Summit.

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