Food Insecurity in Lewiston and Auburn
During the impromptu extension of winter break, I had the opportunity to be an A/RT (Action/Research Team) Fellow through the Harward Center. Each participant created different resources for community engagement, with the hopes that these resources can act as educational and informative resources for the Bates community in years to come. I, along with my partner Kate Loughlin, worked on a project that attempted to provide a comprehensive summary of food insecurity in the Lewiston/Auburn community. I put together a StoryMap that included some background information on what food insecurity is, why it is prevalent within Lewiston/Auburn, and the federal and local programs that are in place to help provide community members access to healthy foods. My partner, Kate, created a complementary StoryMap that detailed the agricultural aspects of food insecurity in Maine, and we worked closely to put these resources together throughout January.
Putting this project together was a really eye-opening experience for me; although I’ve been doing food-related work within the Lewiston community for a while, I gained a lot of perspective on how local organizations work to break down barriers that prevent individuals and families from having consistent access to healthy foods. Additionally, working alongside Kate was definitely informative for me as a person who had previously had limited knowledge of agricultural programs within Maine that work to provide community members with local “good food.” One notable intersection between our two StoryMaps was the Lewiston Farmer’s Market, which is a place that many Bates students frequent throughout the school year. The Farmer’s Market benefits both local farmers and Lewiston residents; the model of the Farmer’s Market serves to make it accessible to all individuals because vendors are able to accept payment through programs like SNAP, allowing even low income individuals access to affordable, healthy, and local food. By breaking down financial barriers, farmers benefit as well, because they are able to sell more of their goods. Even though I have previously visited the Farmer’s Market a few times, it was really interesting to learn more about its initiatives during my research for the StoryMap.
Looking back on my experience trying to get engaged in Lewiston as a first-year student, I remember knowing little about the community prior to becoming immersed in it through different programs. I think that a resource like the StoryMaps we created could potentially be a helpful introduction to doing food-related volunteer work in the community. As the current Community Outreach Fellow for Blake Street Towers, I know that I have a lot of volunteers who come from very different backgrounds, some of whom are unfamiliar with issues such as food insecurity. I hope that my StoryMap can provide students with a strong foundation about the nature of local food programs, and perhaps inspire students to become engaged with some of these same programs.
– Annika Mirchandani ’23