FARMINGTON — Helping Maine College students fight hunger is a critical issue throughout the state. With that in mind, the University of Maine at Farmington, in collaboration with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Campus Compact, is proud to host the 2021 Maine Hunger Dialogue.
Since 2014, the Maine Hunger Dialogue has made it their mission to provide a platform to help college students and campus communities fight hunger by raising awareness of the issue and providing opportunities for students and organizations to work together to address hunger in their communities.
This year’s event will be held on Friday, Oct. 22, from 10 a.m.to 3 p.m., in the North Dining Commons in the Olsen Student Center on the Farmington campus. It is free and open to the public.
Individuals interested can register at https://extension.umaine.edu/hunger-dialogue/registration/.
The event invites participants both in-person and remotely via Zoom and is expanding the program to include high school students and youth involved in 4-H. Face coverings are required indoors for in-person events for all participants, regardless of vaccination status.
Featured presentations at this year’s event will include: “Ending Hunger in Maine by 2030” by Sen. Craig Hickman and “Food Insecurity in Maine Higher Education” by Frank Wertheim, associate Extension professor of Agriculture with the UMaine Cooperative Extension, plus many more, ending with an optional tour of the UMF Garden with Professor Gretchen Legler.
The program will focus on student hunger by examining the issues, creating networking opportunities, and reviewing the use of the UMaine Extension Mini-Grant program to support student led programs and projects to fight food insecurity back on their campuses or in their communities.
The UMF Thrifty Beaver, a student-run food pantry and clothing exchange whose mission is to help provide food and other essentials to students in need, received a $500 Mini-Grant in 2015 through the efforts of two dedicated students, interested in helping it expand.
The grant helped to purchase a refrigerator that to this day enables the pantry to store fresh food that can then be distributed to students. According to Mark Pires, UMF campus sustainability coordinator, the pantry recorded more than 250 students served during just eight months last year.
“The Maine Hunger Dialogue is a remarkable effort by so many people concerned with the growing problem of food insecurity,” said Pires. “This program allows us to collaborate as a caring community and empower our young leaders to find innovative solutions to this complex problem.”
The Maine Extension Mini-Grant program offers a limited number of grants of $500 each to campuses to provide programs and projects with funds to address immediate food insecurity needs. Since 2014, the Maine Hunger Dialogue has been able to sponsor 55 Mini-Grants ($500 each) on campuses across Maine with generous support from fiscal sponsors Sodexo and the Maine 4-H Foundation.