UMaine Extension, in collaboration with the Maine Campus Compact, offered the first Maine Hunger Dialogue (MHD) on Oct. 16-17, 2014. All Maine colleges and universities were invited to send students and staff to learn about hunger on local, national, and global scales and to leave with ideas and action plans for ending hunger in their regions. The event was purposefully designed to allow for inter- and intra-campus networking in order to capitalize on the diverse group that was convened.
Representatives from 16 campuses and 1 high school developed new partnerships with participants from their own school and other schools, spent time assessing community needs and assets, and set goals and determined steps to reach them.
Six teams went on to successfully apply for $500 grants offered to participants. Grants supported new and existing initiatives and inspired teams to more fully organize their project. Teams were assigned a mentor and were required to report the impact of the grant at the 2015 MHD. Groups used the funds to obtain a refrigerator and freezer for their pantry, develop a website for an edible park, build leverage towards establishing a campus pantry, expand a community garden, purchase items for a resource hub, and sponsor a bake sale to raise food drive funds.
Additionally, one team used their new MHD connections to start a chapter of the Food Recovery Program, recovering over 1500 lbs. of food for a local food pantry during a single semester.
Here is what a few of the participants had to say about the event:
“The first Maine Hunger Dialogue, although this sounds cliché, truly changed my life. The dialogue not only made me realize my true passion for helping others, but provided the means to do so! This is one thing I absolutely LOVE about the conference – the focus on ACTION. It’s one thing to have simple and even very inspiring presentations about the issue of hunger in Maine and the United States; however, the Maine Hunger Dialogue Conference takes this one step further by designating times for students and experts to collaborate on what we are doing fight hunger and food insecurity in Maine, and how we can build upon these programs or create new projects at our colleges.
The first Maine Hunger Dialogue conference was incredibly inspirational and provided me with the initial access to create a Food Recovery Network chapter on our campus at the University of New England. After attending the second Maine Hunger Dialogue conference and seeing how much it has grown, I’ve only become more inspired. Our next endeavor at UNE is to create a “UNE Resource Hub” in which students, faculty, and staff can receive food, beverages, small household utilities, and other necessities to lead happier and healthier lives. The Maine Hunger Dialogue has inspired me to reach outside my comfort zone and take action in promoting my passions and standing up for my values and beliefs.”
– Samantha Cottone, University of New England student
“I can’t believe this is the first time we’ve done something like this!”
– David Patrick, University of Maine student
“For a first year event, the Maine Hunger Dialogue was very effective in bringing people together to address a critical need. Listening to others who confronted a myriad of “no’s” and “it can’t be done”, and learning what they found worked and what didn’t was extremely helpful. Those like Gavin and the iron fish, or Alex and the D.C. Central Kitchen, inspired attendees to not take no for an answer and keep on pursuing food justice. While something as seemingly simple as food might be a constant in the lives of many, to others, food can very well be a defining factor in the ability to make it to class or work, let alone concentrate on those tasks. The success of a student and their families is dependent on covering the basics. Food is a commonality among all living beings; food is power, food is political, but hunger is a solvable problem that needs to be addressed today.”
– Colleen Coffey, Nottage Library staff member, UMaine Augusta – Bangor Campus