AUBURN — State leaders have agreed to continue providing $1 million in annual funding for a hunger relief program that buys fresh produce from Maine farms and distributes it to needy Mainers.

Watermelons are stored in the cooler at Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn in May. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

The Mainers Feeding Mainers program, a partnership between local farms and food banks to reduce food insecurity, “presents a great opportunity to reduce hunger while supporting our local farms and food producers,” Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said in a prepared statement.

Jackson, who sponsored the bill, said the program, initiated in 2010, “exemplifies how when Mainers come together, we can tackle some of our most pressing challenges.”

The program is overseen by the Good Shepherd Food Bank, which works with more than 70 farms across the state to buy fresh, local food for hunger relief efforts throughout Maine.

Last year, it distributed more than 2 million pounds of local food and pumped $750,000 into  the state’s farms.

Legislators had hoped to increase the program’s annual funding, but in the end agreed to maintain it. Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill into law Friday.

“Hunger persists as a devastating problem across Maine, with nearly 15% of households experiencing food insecurity, including one in five Maine kids,” Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd, said.

She said the food bank, which aims to eliminate hunger in Maine, “is committed to increasing access to nutritious food for our neighbors who are struggling with hunger, and Mainers Feeding Mainers is a crucial part of our strategy.”

“We are so happy,” she said, “to have the state’s continued support for this program.”

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