Raised Garden Bed Project
At Food AND Medicine, we believe that access to local food is a right, not a privilege.
According to a 2015 report from the USDA, food security is defined as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” The average rate of food insecurity (lack of food security) in 2015, according to the USDA, is 12.7% (15.8 million households) of American households; the average rate of very low food security (food insecurity with hunger) is 5.6%. State by state data uses averaged rates from 2013-2015. Maine’s rate of food insecurity is 15.8% and the rate of very low food security is 7.4% – which are both significantly higher than the national rates. Maine’s rates are the worst in New England; nationally, we are tied with Arkansas for third worst in the country, behind Mississippi and Louisiana. Nationally, rates of food insecurity are improving, while Maine’s rate is deteriorating.
Our agriculture work is focused on making local food accessible to low-income and working-class Mainers. It began in 2003 when a committee of laid-off workers decided to use aid funds donated by union workers to purchase food from local farmers. This began our Solidarity Harvest, which in 2016 purchased over $45,000 worth of local food from over 40 farmers and food producers for 1,300 families in hard times throughout Maine. In 2004, we began a community supported agriculture program called Union Supported Agriculture (USA) which has steadily grown over the years and now accepts EBT benefits at a half-price discount.
In 2016, we added a new program to help provide more access to healthy, local food to the community. We partnered with three organizations to build raised vegetable garden beds at their locations: Bangor Area Recovery Network (BARN) and Crestwood Place, subsidized low-income senior housing, and Eastern Maine Labor Council. The gardens are teaching valuable new skills to low-income people, particularly people in substance abuse recovery, and also gives us a way to reach people who have had their SNAP (food stamps) benefits decreased or cut completely. Cooking, canning and shopping on a budget classes are also part of this program. We are already planning beds at additional partner locations for 2017.