Locally procured food is kept outside Curtis Public Library in Brunswick as part of Sharing Tables program. Harriet Van Vleck

The Merrymeeting Gleaners’ Sharing Tables program, which provides fresh produce for those facing food insecurity, will now be operated year-round.

The Gleaners volunteers harvest and distribute surplus produce from local farms for year-round distribution to 30 recipient organizations around the southern Midcoast via Sharing Tables. The program started in 2016.

Sharing tables are open to anyone and recipients are anonymous. The tables are stocked with fresh produce and some prepared items.

During the pandemic, the Gleaners increased the number of partner sites from 45 in 2019 to 59 sites across 20 communities in 2020.

Initially, the organization operated the program only in the summer due to wider produce availability in those months.

“We have always gleaned through the winter,” said the Merrymeeting Gleaners Program Coordinator Julia Nelson. “This year we are continuing to run our Sharing Tables year-round because of the willingness and interest from our partners at the Topsham and Brunswick Public Libraries and the Bath YMCA.”


The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.

According to a report released by Feeding America, the food insecurity rate in Androscoggin, Sagadahoc and Cumberland counties declined in 2019 compared to the previous year.

While the food insecurity rate in Androscoggin County was 12.8% in 2019, it was 13.5% in 2018. Similarly, Cumberland County’s food insecurity rate was 10.1% in 2019 and 10.7% in 2018, and Sagadahoc County’s food insecurity rate was 10.2% in 10.5% in 2018.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hefted financial insecurity on many families, and inflation on the store shelves has made it more difficult to get food on the table.

At least 569,000 Maine households — or 11.4% of the population — were food insecure at some time during 2020, which is higher than the national average of 10.5%, according to the food insecurity report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“There is definitely a lot of need in our community for food assistance, especially fresh quality vegetables,” said Nelson. “We hear a lot of positive feedback about the program, and our understanding is that through our wide distribution network, we can reach a broad range of individuals who could use some extra veggies.”


Topsham library has been hosting the Sharing Tables program on Wednesdays for the past few years.

Library Director Susan Preece said the program is a way to support people who have difficulty getting what they need.

“All I have to do is put out a table, and a volunteer comes in with food by noon on Wednesdays and sets it up,” said Preece. “Mostly everything is gone by the end of the day, so it is an easy way to support people experiencing hunger, and it is part of our commission as a community center.”

Merrymeeting Gleaners was part of the Merrymeeting Food Council until the Gleaners joined Midcoast Prevention Hunger Program in 2021.

“We ran our first Sharing Tables in 2018, and based on community feedback, we expanded to have tables in six communities in the Southern Midcoast region during the summer of 2019,” said Merrymeeting Food Council Coordinator Harriet Van Vleck. “We ran these only in the summer due to the greater availability of produce in the summer months.”

Vleck added that they have always felt it was essential to glean food year-round if farmers in the region had a surplus.

She said they worked with Goranson Farm in Dresden for years to ensure that they can offer healthy produce through the winter months.

The volunteer group has gleaned 49,000 pounds in 2021 and 52,000 pounds in 2020 from local farms and home gardens.

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