Committee Aims to End Hunger in Maine by 2030

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Maine’s government has set a goal to end hunger by 2030. The date is new, but they are words we’ve heard before in America and never seen achieved.

Enacted in 2019, the 70-page Roadmap to End Hunger by 2030 was passed by the Legislature, with goals that extend beyond simply feeding people, like improving food security at home, economic security in life, and education and employment opportunities in the future.

Dana Eidsness chairs a new 40-person committee, tasked with turning words into action. She said 153,000 Mainers are food insecure and one-in-five children.

“If we eliminate the silos and work together, we can fast-track some of the solutions,” she said of the organizations involved. They are the who’s who of nonprofits, advocacy groups, and government agencies; including Preble Street, the Maine Immigrants Rights Coalition, and Good Shepherd Food Bank. 

Anna Korsen, from Full Plates Full Potential, made a point to say Mainers experiencing hunger and poverty would have prominent seats at the table.

“Centering the voices of people who are food insecure is really the only way to end hunger in Maine,” Korsen said.

“They don’t need a go-between, and I already see that as a huge step toward greater equity,” added Alex Carter, from Maine Equal Justice.

“The more people that are at the table, together in alignment on policy and buy-in on how to do this and building community will make a difference,” Amanda Marino, from Good Shepherd, said of the committee.

Ending hunger won’t be done with one broad action. In some places, it happens one person at a time.

Heather Pelletier runs Fish River Rural Health in Aroostook County, an area so remote, poverty and hunger can go on far from available services. Pelletier’s medical staff screens patients during check-ups, and if they show signs of hunger or food-based conditions like high blood pressure, they take them to a massive pantry — converted from an exam room — talk about good food options; then give them food discretely.

“When somebody’s sitting in our lobby, their neighbor, in a very small town, doesn’t know, ‘Are they here for counseling? Are they here to see the doctor? Are they here to see the dentist? Or are they here for food?’ Nobody knows what they’re there for, so, there’s your privacy. There’s your discretion. And it takes away the stigma of seeking food assistance,” Pelletier said. 

She added that the program is working, and she hopes it can be replicated across Maine and beyond.

When it comes to feeding kids, the state gave itself a head start; funding free school lunches for a second time in the newly-approved budget.

“Right off the bat we’re able to able to offer these kids meals at school every day,” said Jane McLucas, Maine’s child nutrition director. She believed it was a massive hurdle already cleared, and she can focus on other important issues in the committee.

“It takes a village. And, this time, it’s gonna take a state to solve these problems,” McLucas said.

Source: News Center Maine