Back in November of 2018, Jimmy DeBiasi from the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets joined Noami Brautigam from Dickey Hill Farm at the Community Health Needs Assessment meeting for Knox County. They were on a mission to forge a new community partnership to re-launch the Maine Harvest Bucks program at the Rockland Farmers’ Market.
The Maine Harvest Bucks program increases the purchasing power of people using SNAP. Maine Harvest Bucks give people matching bonus bucks for all of their SNAP purchases. Many people only receive $4 a day to buy food with SNAP. Maine Harvest Bucks helps stretch limited food budgets and make healthier food options more affordable.
In Knox County, more than 1 in 7 residents participate in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) to purchase food—that’s more than 4,000 people.
The Maine Harvest Bucks program is a valuable tool to fight food insecurity and hunger in Knox County. But it has been a struggle for the Rockland Farmers’ Market to secure a local partner to help run the program and do the community outreach needed to make it a success.
At the November meeting, Noami and Jimmy were fortunate to connect with Rachael McCormick, the Health and Wellness Program Manager for Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockland. Over the course of a few meetings, the group devised a plan to support the Maine Harvest Bucks program in Rockland for the 2019 farmers’ market season and beyond. “Our market members are committed to food access for all. However, we are all too busy during the growing season to see the program run successfully,” says Noami Brautigam. “With this partnership from Pen Bay Medical Center, I think our program can have a major impact in the Rockland community.”
To further enhance the project, the team from Pen Bay Medical Center (PBMC) secured grant support from the Maine Health Access Foundation. The PBMC team plans to promote the Maine Harvest Bucks program throughout the network of Maine Health healthcare provider sites in Knox County.
Jimmy DeBiasi, the Director of Programs at the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets, feels confident about positive potential of this project. “Just up the road in Belfast, the Maine Harvest Bucks program is thriving and helping hundreds of families and seniors eat healthier food,” says DeBiasi. “In Rockland, Pen Bay is the best partner we can have for this program to reach the most people and improve the health of the community.”
The Rockland Farmers’ Market is in a convenient and accessible location in downtown Rockland, within walking distance to many neighborhoods. The market runs every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Harbor Park. You can find staff and volunteers operating Maine Harvest Bucks at the market information booth every week. To learn more about the program, visit maineharvestbucks.org