There are many community-based organizations that provide Lewiston-Auburn residents with food, skills, knowledge, and tools that increase access to nutrition. Each organization is an important piece of the community food puzzle. The challenge is how to knit these valuable programs together to make a more efficient overall system.
The list below includes many, but not all of the community-based programs serving the area. Please be in touch if you’d like to be added to this list.
New American Sustainable Agriculture Project: Run by Cultivating Community and partially supported by USDA grant funds, this program works with refugees and immigrants who want to start farming in Maine. The greater Lewiston and Portland-based project teaches these new farmers sustainable farming practices as well as business and marketing skills. The result is improved access to healthy and affordable food for immigrants, refugees, and the greater community. The Kennedy Park Farmers’ Market serves as a space for participants with less marketing experience to build that experience while also providing a marketing opportunity for them.
Seniors Plus: The local Area Agency on Aging, Seniors Plus, executes the Meals on Wheels program and Congregate Dining, which provide meals to eligible seniors and adults with disabilities.
Meals on Wheels targets homebound residents who are unable to prepare their own meals. The program offers nutritionally balanced meals delivered to a participant’s home. The service area is broad and serves more than 230 people across Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. With a growing senior population and increasing food costs, need has risen, and there is a waiting list for the program. A $3 donation is requested for each meal.
Congregate Dining is offered to seniors aged 60 and older, and adults with disabilities. For a suggested $3 donation seniors and adults with disabilities can gather for a nutritious mid-day meal and socialization at three locations in Lewiston and two locations in Auburn. Resources from Congregate Dining have been recently shifted toward the Around Town Program, which offers seniors approved meals in participating restaurants for a suggested donation of $5. Registered dieticians check menus, and approved meals provide a minimum of a third of daily nutrition needs.
The St. Mary’s Nutrition Center (NC): The NC houses Lots to Gardens, which has built community gardens and green spaces in Lewiston since 1999. Today there are 12 community gardens for more than 115 families and seniors; vegetable stands providing affordable organic vegetables to neighborhoods in Lewiston; and regular community meals and garden events throughout the growing season. The program contributes thousands of pounds of fresh food to Lewiston each year. It also helps young people in Lewiston become leaders and build skills for shaping their community. Through cooking classes the NC teaches children, teens, and adults cooking skills and healthy food tips. Classes are free or donation-based and open to the public. The center also runs St. Mary’s Food Pantry, and is a FoodCorps site, supporting school gardens and garden-based nutrition education in Lewiston and Auburn.
Double Value Coupon Program: In 2010, with funding from the Wholesome Wave Foundation, St. Mary’s Nutrition Center started the Double Value Coupon Program, which matched $1 for every $1 a person spent with an EBT card or WIC coupon at Lewiston Farmers’ Markets. As the program evolved (becoming the Market Dollar Program and using multiple funding sources) it shifted to a $1-to-$2 match in order to sustain the program. There is a $10 per week limit.
Fruit and Veggie Prescription Program (VegeRX): St. Mary’s Nutrition Center piloted this program in 2011 in an effort to increase the consumption of fresh produce among overweight or obese families. The Lewiston Farmers’ Market partnered with the St. Mary’s B Street Health Clinic to enroll eligible families who receive “prescription” coupons ($1 per family member per day) to be used at local farmers’ markets to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. Wholesome Wave Foundation and Maine Health Access Foundation provided funding for this pilot.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension: University of Maine Cooperative Extension, which has an office in Lisbon serving Androscoggin and Sagadahoc counties, is a resource for local residents to access research and expertise on nutrition, food, sustainable agriculture and business management. The extension teaches a Master Gardeners program and offers youth development programs, such as 4-H.
Healthy Androscoggin (HA): The organization empowers people to live healthy lifestyles and to improve the public health of the communities it serves through ongoing planning, community action, education, and advocacy. This community health coalition provides nutrition and cooking education to low income community members and connects people to local food through the Androscoggin County Farm Guide. HA also provides education to food pantry directors, staff and clients about accessing and preparing healthy foods. In order to promote exercise and aid in transportation, HA also works to create more walkable and bikeable communities.
Androscoggin Land Trust: Through land conservation and stewardship, the Land Trust protects natural areas, traditional landscapes, and outdoor experience in the Androscoggin River watershed. Preserving valuable farmland and working farms is part of the organization’s mission. The trust works with landowners throughout Androscoggin County to conserve approximately 1,000 acres of farmland through lands it owns and conservation easements on lands it leases. Trust-owned farmland is leased to local farmers to ensure that active prime and statewide significant agricultural soils continue to be worked. The group works closely with the statewide farmland conservation group Maine Farmland Trust to conserve additional farmland, including the 650-acre River Rise Farm in Turner.