Giving Back Nutritionally in Piscataquis County

Healthy Community Project is pleased to present an article submitted in this weeks edition of Seniors Matters. This was a collaborative piece with selections from Erin Callaway and Merrilee Schoen of Healthy Community, Meg Callaway of Piscataquis Thriving in Place (TiP) Collaborative and Alicia Mooney of Community Health and Counseling Services.


Giving Back Nutritionally in Piscataquis County

Many older adults struggle to get healthy, nutritious food. Living on a fixed income, losing a spouse, no longer driving, experiencing depression, being rurally isolated, and having a medical  condition all can affect how well or often seniors eat. Eating well is critical to good health, and poor nutrition can have devastating consequences, particularly as we age.

The Healthy Community Project, led by the Piscataquis Regional YMCA, and the Piscataquis Thriving in Place (TiP) Collaborative, led by the Charlotte White Center, both offer resources for seniors who could use a hand getting better access to healthy food.  The Healthy Community Project strives to increase access to healthy foods across the Piscataquis region, and TiP helps older and medically vulnerable adults to stay safe and well in their homes.

The FarmShare for Homebound Seniors project works with Wyman’s Farm in Milo and Stutzman’s Farm in Sangerville to ensure that qualified seniors get a free $50 share of fresh produce when they are not physically able to pick up their farms’ harvest.  To participate, an individual must be at least 60 years old, and meet the 2016 Maine Senior FarmShare guidelines (for a one person household a max. of 21,775/year and for a two person household 29,471/year). Individuals who qualify may not have reliable transportation, or they may have a physical disability that prevents them from leaving their house.  This pilot project is also available to caregivers who are unable to leave the person they care for in order to retrieve their produce.  The FarmShare for Homebound Seniors offers qualified individuals either a ride to the farm or home delivery.   The summer season isn’t over yet, so if you think you may qualify, or know someone who might, please give a call to learn how to sign up.

In partnership with Spruce Mill Farm, the TiP Collaborative helps to subsidize meals for medically vulnerable adults through a voucher program.  TiP can also connect eligible individuals with Eastern Area Agency on Aging’s 4-D Catering Service that provides home delivered meals. These organizations are working together to help decrease food insecurity, as there is a recognized understanding that, “Food Insecure” describes over 10 million people in the United States over the age for 50 according to the AARP. (AARP Bulletin, December 2015). The Piscataquis County Thriving in Place project understands that adults with chronic illnesses may be at higher risk for food insecurity. People are being discharged home from the hospitals and may not be able to prepare or secure food necessary to help them recover from the illness. Often times, people are seeking medical treatment from their family physicians without being hospitalized and are facing the same food insecurity issues. The Piscataquis TIP project has partnered with Dustin and Natasha Colbry of Spruce Mill Farm and Kitchen to help address the nutritional needs of those who have recently experienced an acute illness. Spruce Mill Farm and Kitchen, located on West Main Street in Dover Foxcroft, has a selection of fresh or frozen meals available for people who are at risk for food insecurity while recovering from a recent illness. A voucher program has been developed. The vouchers have been distributed to the Mayo Regional Hospital and C.A. Dean hospital to give to patients upon discharge. Each patient and his/her caregiver are eligible for 3 meal vouchers. The vouchers may be redeemed at Spruce Mill Farm any time that they are open. Physician offices in the county have also received the vouchers to assist patients that have been seen in the office with an acute illness. At the current time, the Piscataquis TIP program is subsidizing the meal program. The hope is that Spruce Mill Farm will be able to continue to subsidize the program as their own business grows. Dustin and Natasha are dedicated to helping the TIP program by meeting the nutritional needs of people with chronic illnesses or disabilities who are experiencing an exacerbation of their condition.

Healthy Community and TiP are both funded by generous grants from the Maine Health Access Foundation. Together they have formed a partnership called “Feel Good Piscataquis!” to help people in the region improve their health and quality of life.  For information about any of the services described in this column, call 564-0273. The Spruce Mill Farm and Kitchen can be reached at 564-0300.