Farmers’ markets and food cupboards

Suggestions and examples of how farmers’ markets and food cupboards can work together for each others’ benefit.

Food Cupboards, also called Food Pantries, are always on the lookout for food to distribute to their clients. Farmers’ Markets are gatherings of local small scale food producers offering an abundance of foods. Yet for various reasons, food cupboard clients and farmers’ markets seem misaligned for reasons of cost, schedules, location, product unfamiliarity, and a variety of other reasons. This section of the website is dedicated to providing ideas and examples of how this divide can be overcome.

For Market Shoppers

Offering your shoppers the opportunity to become donors. Many shoppers at farmers’ markets would like to help out, yet are often unclear how they could. Here are some suggestions and examples of how this is being done.

For The Whole Market

Getting market surplus to food cupboards.Often market members have surplus products as the market draws to a close. Sometimes these can be eaten by the producers family themselves, given to thier workers, fed to farm animals, or added to the compost pile. This section describes how this surplus can make its way to a food cupboard.

  • End-of-Market Gleaning program. This is a description of a process of how to develop a way that food cupboards will send someone to market just before closing to gather daily market surplus.

Resources to help develop a plan for your market.

If you are interested in developing a new plan to get some of your market’s food to a food cupboard, or if you want to simply copy an existing plan mentioned here, below are some resources that should make the task easier.

  • List of EXTENSION EDUCATORS will to help is here.
  • List of Maine Food Pantries by County, maintained by the Maine Dept. of Agriculture.
  • Good Shepard Food-Bank is an umbrella organization that collects food from various sources and delivers to food cupboards around the state. They have a Main map of food cupboards here.
  • Liability of donors. The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. On October 1, 1996, President Clinton signed this act to encourage donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to individuals in need. This law:
    • Protects you from liability when you donate to a non-profit organization;
    • Protects you from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient;
    • Standardizes donor liability exposure. You or your legal counsel do not need to investigate liability laws in your state; and
    • Sets a floor of “gross negligence” or intentional misconduct for persons who donate grocery products. According to the new law, gross negligence is defined as “voluntary and conscious conduct by a person with knowledge (at the time of conduct) that the conduct is likely to be harmful to the health or well-being of another person.”
  • A Donor’s Guide to Food Harvest and Storage . Although targeted at gardeners who make donations to food pantries, it does include useful info on taking care of food between harvest (or pickup) and delivery. A UMaine Extension publication.

About Tom Roberts

When I started attending the Brewer Farmers’ Market back in August of 1983, my sole concern was being able to sell the produce my farm was growing at a good price. After attending market for a year or two, I began to realize that how the market was organized had a great impact on my sales. And how the market was organized also influenced how it made decisions about dues, new members, what could be sold at market, and how it promoted itself—and this, too, had an impact on my sales. So I got involved in the market’s steering committee and began to understand how various market members thought the market should operate. Some wanted a market czar, some wanted everyone to be allowed to do their own thing. But everyone seemed to agree that if the market as a whole did well, then so did they.