The Star-Herald

Maine produce could ease food insecurity

To the editor:

The issue of hunger in Maine is not an unfamiliar dilemma, and statistics confirm that it will not be going away anytime soon.  According to the Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine, 14.4 percent of Maine households are considered “food insecure,” far higher than the national average of 11.8 percent. Maine also ranks 9th in the U.S. for food insecurity and 16th for child food insecurity. The poverty rate in Maine is at 13 percent, and child poverty is at 18 percent. These statistics are as recent as September 2018.

With that in mind, there are plenty of opportunities to encourage change, decrease those numbers and support children and families facing food insecurity. As a graduate student from the University of Maine School of Social Work, I am advocating for a proposed bill from the current legislative session, LD 292, An Act to Feed Maine’s Residents by Allowing Dairy Dealers and Producers in the State to Donate Fresh Milk to Food Banks in the State.

The bill would exempt a dealer or producer-dealer from the Maine Milk Commission’s minimum price requirement when donating milk to an incorporated nonprofit organization with the purpose of providing fresh milk to people who cannot afford it. Many food banks receive donations of non-perishables, as they last longer and are cost-effective. However, they do not provide such nutritional value as fresh foods or produce provide, such as milk.

While working with individuals who struggle with poverty, food insecurity is typically at the top of their list of many challenges. It is a prevalent issue across the state, especially in Aroostook County, where 17.1 percent of the population are food insecure. Even though hunger relief organizations were created as an emergency service for people of need, they have been utilized as an ongoing source of support because food insecurity still impacts so many.

With all of this in mind, my goal is to educate and gain support for the passage of LD 292, with the hope that with one Maine fresh-produced product being donated to food banks across the state, more fresh-grown Maine produce will be donated to support those struggling with food insecurity and malnutrition.

Megan Doody, MHRT-C, CADC

Caribou

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