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Agencies partner to launch Good Food Bus

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Pictured (l. to r.) are St. Mary’s Nutrition Center Director Kirsten Walter; Emily Horton, representing Congresswoman Chellie Pingree; Cultivating Community Food Access Program Manager Stephanie Aquilina; St. Mary’s Nutrition Center Food Access Coordinator Sherie Blumenthal; Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte; Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation President Karen Voci; and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Vice President Edward Kane.  

At the Police Athletic League (PAL) Center in Auburn recently, state and local officials joined St. Mary’s Nutrition Center of Lewiston, Cultivating Community of Portland, and the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation to launch the Good Food Bus – a colorful, repurposed school bus turned mobile food market.

As part of a three-year initiative called Good Food Moves, and thanks to a $60,000 grant from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, the bus will make stops across Lewiston-Auburn and surrounding communities this season through October 30 and resuming next spring. The goal of the project is to increase access in the community to fresh and local fruits and vegetables.

“Starting today, the Good Food Bus will sell fresh, local and fairly priced produce and other food items directly to people where they live, work and play,” said Kirsten Walter, Director of St. Mary’s Nutrition Center. “We are thrilled to work with close partners, passionate area businesses and community members to make this a lasting resource.”

The Good Food Bus will accept cash, credit, debit, WIC and SNAP/EBT, thereby increasing the purchasing power of SNAP benefits to bring more fresh fruits and vegetables into people’s homes. Many of the products sold from the bus will be sourced from farms in Androscoggin County and the surrounding the region.

During the initial phase of the 2015 harvest season, the bus will make the following scheduled stops through the month of October, all of which are open to the public except for the Bath Iron Works location:

Wednesdays: Noon to 2 p.m. at the PAL Center at 24 Chestnut Street in Auburn; 3 to 5 p.m. at the Knox Street Community Garden at 61 Knox Street in Lewiston

Thursdays: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Bath Iron Works’ West Gate (not open to the public); 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Central Maine Medical Center, 300 Main Street in location (exact campus location to be announced).

Fridays: 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Bedard Pharmacy and Medical Supply, 359 Minot Avenue in Auburn; 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, 100 Campus Avenue, by parking lot A, in Lewiston.

 The goals of the project were identified by a Community Food Assessment conducted by the Good Food Council of Lewiston-Auburn (GFCLA) and published in 2013. “The report found that healthy food remains out of reach for many people in Lewiston-Auburn, while other studies have shown this to be true for people across the state,” said Walter. “This multi-year initiative will make scheduled stops at neighborhoods, organizations and businesses serving the Lewiston/Auburn community and will make purchasing good food convenient and easy for all.”

“Having access to great, nutritious food is critical to community health,” remarked Craig Lapine, Executive Director of Cultivating Community. “And we are always particularly interested in strategies that involve local farmers and purveyors, because a robust food economy amplifies all the great community health impacts of good food.”

In addition to support from Harvard Pilgrim, other generous donations have helped make this project possible. The bus was donated by the William H. Jordan Farm of Cape Elizabeth, while Hudson Bus Lines is donating bus driver services for the project. Grants from the Quimby Family Foundation and the John T. Gorman Foundation have been instrumental in getting the project started, while a Community Food Projects grant from the USDA will support staffing and food sourcing for the next three years. Harvard Pilgrim will also support the development of a community garden on Webster Street in Auburn, in the same neighborhood as the PAL Center.

Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte highlighted the City’s support for projects that serve the community. “While it may be invisible to many residents, too many families and young people in our community are starting their days and going to bed hungry. I’m proud of the private and public partnerships that are working to expand access to good food while improving quality of life in our city.”

For more information about the Good Food Bus, call St. Mary’s Nutrition Center at 513-3848, email goodfoodmoves@gmail.com or see www.facebook.com/GoodFoodBus.

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