REGION — The Maine West initiative announced this week that it is doubling its offer of support to area food pantries if local residents reach the goal of recording 300 outdoor adventures by October 12.

Since mid-July, the Second Nature Adventure Challenge (SNAC) has encouraged people to hit the trails in Western Maine and “give back when you get outside.” Each time someone records a Maine West area hike, walk, bike or paddle on Maine Trail Finder, it counts toward the community goal and the opportunity for $3,000 to be donated to food pantries serving the Maine West region.

With one month left in the Challenge, Maine West partners announced today that they are doubling the Second Nature reward to $6,000—$2,000 each to the Bethel Food Pantry, Servant’s Heart Food Pantry in Peru, and Agnes Gray Elementary School’s Foodstock Pantry in West Paris.

“We are thrilled and humbled that our Foodstock pantry has been selected as a beneficiary of funds earned through Maine West’s Second Nature Adventure Challenge,” said Beth Clark, principal at Agnes Gray Elementary. “All of our work in West Paris focuses on supporting our students to develop healthy bodies, engaged minds and kind hearts. This commitment dovetails into encouraging and providing outdoor experiences both during and after the school day.”

Over 100 people have signed up for the Challenge so far, logging more than 170 adventures on trails like the Bethel Pathway, Norway’s Ordway Grove, Buckfield’s Virgil Parris Forrest, Rumford Whitecap, and the Androscoggin River Trail. Over 50 trails are included in Second Nature, offering something for people of all ages and abilities, from leisurely strolls to rugged hikes to exhilarating mountain bike rides to gentle paddles.

“We want to encourage everyone to get involved in the Second Nature Challenge,” said Brendan Schauffler, coordinator of the Oxford County Wellness Collaborative and one of 14 Maine West partners. “Whether it’s a short walk on a nature trail or a hike up a mountain, every outing counts toward the challenge, and every outing helps keep people healthy—both physically and mentally.”

Everyone can take part in this Challenge. Visit ​www.secondnaturemaine.com​ to get started, find more information, or learn about Maine West (the group behind Second Nature). Participants are asked to sign up for a free account for Maine Trail Finder, a website that lets users find trails and to easily enter “trail logs,” so that trail adventures can be counted towards the Second Nature community goal of 300 trails. With hunger on the rise due to COVID-19, this is a great way to lend support to local food pantries and help them to meet the needs of our neighbors.

Fall is a great time to be outside in Maine, with cooler temperatures that prevent overheating, beautiful and vibrant foliage to enjoy, and virtually no bugs. The folks at the Second Nature Adventure Challenge encourage you to sign up, hit the trails, and give back when you get outside!

The SNAC Community Rewards Program is an initiative of Maine West, a partnership of local and regional organizations working to make western Maine more resilient and prosperous. In recent years this unique partnership has quietly worked to bring benefit to Western Maine by providing new computers and technology to area libraries, facilitating partnerships between municipalities and Internet Service Providers, and developing a strategic plan to advance connectivity and digital literacy. The group has also supported local teachers in their efforts to offer place-based, experiential education to students, funded recreational trail development, worked to develop a regional conservation plan, and over the past several months has allocated thousands of dollars to hunger relief efforts in school districts 17, 44, 10 and 56.

To learn more about Maine West, visit ​www.mainewest.org​.

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