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Maine Immigrant Green Collaborative

A partnership delivering culturally appropriate foods

to Maine's food pantry system


The Maine Immigrant Green Collaborative, is led by Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative, Farms for Food Equity, and Wayside Food Programs. It was established with a pilot project grant provided by the Elmina Sewall Foundation in 2022 to address a specific concern articulated by Maine’s immigrant community in Southern Maine regarding access to healthy, hearty nutritious greens in the emergency food system.  

Upon arrival in Maine, many immigrants need to rely on food pantries to meet the food security needs of their families. Many experience what has been deemed “Food Shock”, as the products offered do not culturally align with their diets, and the products available are not consistent with what is required to prepare culturally appropriate meals for their families. Healthy, hearty greens, such as kale and collards, are key components, and often, they are not available. 

Conversations with Maine’s immigrant communities confirmed the demand for healthy food choices to counter the overabundance of unhealthy food, and the need to give agency to Maine’s ethnic communities to determine local alternatives to the foods they no longer can access. Maine’s immigrant communities desire high quality products and consistent availability of fresh greens, vegetables, and fruits for their home cooking traditions. 

The pilot confirmed that with education provided by respected community leaders and immigrant cooks, we can expand hearty greens utilization by showing how Maine-grown staple and underutilized/upcycled produce can be effectively substituted for ingredients used in their countries of origin. Underutilized crops such as collards and kale are used in staple meal preparation, and other brassica leaves, such as broccoli and cauliflower, if harvested and processed correctly, can be upcycled, and are also effective substitutes. Brussel Sprout crowns and sweet potato leaves can also be harvested, upcycled and incorporated into culturally appropriate alternatives. 

Through Farms for Food Equity, the pilot purchased 1,000 pounds of produce from local Maine farmers, which was distributed to Maine pantries with coordination provided by Wayside Food Programs. The pilot project proved successful, and in 2023, the Elmina Sewall Foundation awarded the Collaborative a two-year implementation grant award which will scale up our ability to deliver 30,000 pounds of locally grown, nutritious produce to Southern Maine’s charitable food system in both fresh and processed forms. The award also builds the Collaborative’s capacity to partner with additional organizations such as In Her Presence, St. Mary’s Nutrition Center in Lewiston, and the Mid-Coast Hunger Prevention Program to address the food security needs of Maine’s immigrant communities. 

With support from Henry P. Kendall Foundation in 2023, the Collaborative is able to expand its efforts to meet the culturally appropriate food security needs of Maine’s immigrant families and their children, by partnering with three school districts, South Portland, Westbrook, and Lewiston to offer culturally appropriate meals in Southern Maine schools. This expansion to school meals builds on prior efforts of the Food Fuels Learning initiative supported by Full Plates Full Potential, Cultivating Community, and the Cumberland County Food Security Council.

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