A bus provisioned with food has been driving through the streets of Lewiston, Auburn and Bath providing residents more opportunities to purchase fresh produce. The old fashioned Maine corner store has disappeared from city centers, replaced by supermarkets, nick-knack stores or upscale shops.
"There's often a disconnect between where people live and their transportation situation and can they get to a farmers market. Can they even get to a grocery store?" asked Karen Voci, president of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. "And this takes it to them and it's going to go to the same stop all the time."
The Foundation provided a $60,000 grant to the partnered non-profits: Cultivating Community and St. Mary's Nutrition Center for the bus.
"In 2013 we surveyed actually 64 stores in Lewiston where you could buy food to take home," said Kirsten Walter of the St. Mary's Nutrition Center. "And of those 64 stores, only seven offered a variety of healthy foods. And in fact, the ones that were easily accessible by walking and by bus were up to 40 percent more expensive for that same healthy food."
It’s difficult to find fresh fruits and vegetables downtown.
"A healthy community also has a robust economy, and much of the food is actually coming from Maine farms, and we're particularly excited about that synergy," said Craig LaPine of Cultivating Community during the inaugurals bus run in September. He said the food bus is an important step toward improving the community's health.
The bus will visit designated stops Wednesdays through Fridays through October, then will start back up in the spring.