Lifelong Communities Food Security Guide
why it matters
Maine continues to be the oldest state in the US, with a larger percentage of 65+ adults compared to its overall population than any other state (PRB's 2022 World Population Data Sheet, 2022). Maine is also the most rural state in the nation; half of our land is completely or nearly uninhabited; two of every three Mainers age 65+ live outside an urban area (America's Health Rankings, 2023). Although there are many advantages to rural living, people with lower incomes or who no longer drive may face challenges getting healthy, fresh, affordable food in their own or a neighboring community. Overall, Maine has more food-insecure older residents than the U.S. average. In 2020 (the most recent data we have), about 38,000 experienced food insecurity and 54,000 faced the threat of hunger. While food security is just one component in the health services and community supports domain, it is a fundamental and basic human need.
Throughout Maine, Lifelong Communities are working together to improve overall health and increase the resources available to their residents. Through local partnerships, foundation funding, AARP grants, support from local farms, community centers, churches, libraries, and grassroots networks of volunteers, Maine's Lifelong Communities are building on the strengths in their community and taking action to address food security for all of their residents. The Lifelong Maine Food Security Checklist can help your team identify local resources and form an approach to food security that fits your community.
Six communities were interviewed to learn more about the work they are doing to promote food security. Read on for a summary of the approaches developed in South Portland, Berwick, Danforth, Georgetown, Limestone, South Portland, and Sullivan. After reading their work, click on the "Call to Action" links for ideas that you can use in your community.
Note: Below, and throughout our site, underlined text indicates a live link.
Examples from the Field
Six communities across the state were interviewed to see what they are doing to address food insecurity. Below, you will find a summary of the approaches developed in South Portland, Berwick, Danforth, Georgetown, Limestone, South Portland, and Sullivan.
It is important to note that while the following information describes initiatives and programs that these communities have been involved, it may not include all of the programs currently in place.
Limestone: Many Paths to Engage the Community in Food Security
Purple Ladle Program
Patio Garden Project
Northern Light Health and The Maine School of Science and Mathematics Initiative
Hint from the field:
The Age-Friendly leaders in Limestone get programs started, running smoothly, and then pass them off to local groups/organizations to continue the work.
Danforth: Breaking Bread with Others
Free meal program, began in fall of 2022 - officially named in February 2023
Gone from serving 6 people to 79 people (and counting)
Meals can be delivered if a resident requests but the program was created for nutritional nourishment and socialization
People are starting to return to the center for meals and social engagement - while there, they can hear about activities and meet others
Marketing is done in several ways, including flyers, cards mailed by the social and crafting group, Facebook posting with the weekly menu, and word-of-mouth
Funding and support for BBWO is provided by UMaine Center on Aging's Lifelong Maine AmeriCorps program in addition to a Gorman Foundation grant
Hint from the field:
In small, rural Danforth, residents who need help were identified in two age-friendly assessments and through an ongoing relationship with the Food Pantry and Municipal Office. However, the most popular referral source remains word of mouth and neighbors looking out for each other.
Sullivan: Partner, Create, and Share
Partner with Regional and State-Wide Organizations to Increase Awareness and Access of Residents
Outreach for Meals on Wheels program
Attend community health and wellness fairs
Commodity food boxes are delivered to older residents
Promote availability of the senior farm share program
Community Garden, "Take it Or Leave it Table"
Community garden at the town office was started by Age-Friendly Sullivan four years ago
Raised beds that people can rent for their own use and/or commit to working on the garden for everyone else
In 2023, added hoop house
All community produce is available at a "Take it or leave it" table in the town office. Home gardeners and organic farmers also contribute to the table
Three families per week at the K-5 school receive a backpack filled with food
The Age-Friendly leaders in Sullivan are proud to share that every project that they have ever started, continues, through community collaboration.
Georgetown: Building on Community Values
From spring to fall, volunteers work with local farms to glean fresh produce that is not economical for the farms' harvest
Georgetown receives 3 to 4 crates of freshly picked local vegetables and fruit from the gleaning program
In addition, residents share liberally from the produce in their home gardens
Age-Friendly Georgetown adds staples purchased from local markets
Produce is offered at the Town Office Gleaning table and is delivered to 12-15 families
Georgetown Community Outreach (GCO)
The committee raised funds to purchase groceries and basic household supplies
More than 60 community members and organizations contributed over $8,000
Seed grant received from the New England Grassroots Foundation
Age-Friendly Georgetown rallies support from community members, local organizations, farms, and secures small grants to increase food security for all residents.
South Portland: Maine Senior Farm Share Program +
Age-Friendly South Portland matches the Senior Farm Share stipend from the Maine Dept. of Agriculture for eligible residents
Program has run for 3 years, 25 people were served last year
Collaboration between Maine Dept. of Agriculture and Alewives Farm
Additional funding comes from grants
Currently working with local food cupboard to get them on the municipal bus route for increased access
Age-Friendly South Portland leaders utilize current state-funded programs, grants, and, partnerships with local farms to provide locally grown, fresh produce to older residents who qualify for the Senior Farm Share Program--a win for farmers and for the people who benefit.
Berwick: Neighbors Helping Neighbors
The library oversees a community garden that has been around since 2011, supported by a grant and a second garden at another location is in the works
Community garden distributes produce to food pantries
Free meal boxes provided to those who sign up, organized through library
Quick action projects show that you are committed to making change and excite the community with what is possible.
Start by learning about the resources in your community and the region that you can deploy and then build a strong collaboration.