Good Shepherd Food Bank is ready to launch a new project

Auburn – Maine’s largest hunger relief organization is about to expand its reach and role by creating a for-profit business to grow, process, freeze and distribute local produce.

Broccoli grows in rows on the farms of Circle B in Caribou. Submitted by Matt Chen

Good Shepherd Food Bank is launching Harvesting Good, a wholly owned, for-profit subsidiary this fall, but the concept has been in the works for some time. The company is based entirely in Maine and will launch frozen broccoli florets as the first of six products in late 2022.

Harvest Al Khair will build on existing infrastructure and capabilities of blueberry growers and processors and invest an estimated $2.5 million to purchase and install equipment to process frozen vegetables. The capital funding comes from part of a $25 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott to the Food Bank’s campaign to end hunger in Maine. Matt Chen, president of Harvesting Good, said 100% of the profits would benefit food banks in the Northeast.

Circle B farms in Caribou grow broccoli. It will then be water-cooled, then trucked for four hours to WR Allen in Orlando, where it will be cut into florets, blanched, and then frozen. One hour is the final step in the process, as the broccoli will be packaged and stored by Jasper Wyman & Son in Cherryfield. From there, the frozen broccoli will be sold to retailers and institutions throughout the Northeast and will eventually make its way into the Good Shepherd Food Bank system for distribution throughout Maine.

Chen told Food Bank News last year that they have an ambitious outlook for one million pounds in the first year, two million pounds in the second year, and up to five million pounds by the third. He also said they hope to announce and launch a second product in 2024. The long-term goal is to achieve sales of between $15 million and $20 million annually among the six frozen products.

Over 10 years ago, the Good Shepherd Food Bank created a network of farmers who grow crops for distribution through the food bank system, called Feeding Mainers.

“The program has grown rapidly with the food bank investing nearly $1 million in more than 80 farms in Maine that have grown 2.2 million pounds of food in the past year alone,” said Kristen Mialy, president of the Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine.

Mayali also points out that the new project will create good jobs throughout the year in addition to the inherent benefits for farmers, the food bank and its beneficiaries.

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