Tuesday mornings are vegetable packing days at Healthy Lincoln County, where we sort fresh food, pack boxes, and distribute to our share table partners. Our wheelhouse is food procurement; we pick up donations from local farms and partners, but the real magic comes once the food leaves our hands.
This week our spotlight is on LincolnHealth employee Kristina Verney, the coordinator behind the successful share table at the Watson Center, on the Miles Campus in Damariscotta.
Kristina coordinates the “5-2-1-0 Let’s Go!” nutrition program through LincolnHealth, and heads up various wellness initiatives. If you’ve been on their campuses and seen raised beds blossoming, then you’ll recognize some of her work. Creating new and innovative opportunities for people to access healthier foods is her modus operandi.
Each week, she tirelessly hits the road with her colleague Gabby Tilton, to pick up food. HLC is not her only stop; she drives all around the county sourcing food for their share table and mini-pantry, which started as a table used to distribute fresh food from the campus gardens.
Once she saw the frequency with which people were taking food, she looked for ways to expand their offerings. That led to a partnership with the Ecumenical Food Pantry in Newcastle, which has made the Watson Center a satellite pantry site, allowing them to distribute dry goods like pasta, rice, and canned vegetables. Once Kristina had a steady source of dry goods, she added a shelving unit in the lobby of the Watson Center, next to their produce stand.
Kristina’s next partnership was with the Lincoln County Gleaners, an HLC program where volunteers work with local farms to harvest food from the fields that would otherwise lay fallow. This allowed her to start offering produce consistently every week, and for the first time, throughout the winter months, too.
I asked her what her favorite part of her share table/mini pantry was, and she answered, “The variety of different produce we get from week to week. It allows people to try new things they maybe never have before like fresh rosemary and micro greens, or pick up some traditional produce like oranges, apples, or potatoes that they know they will love. The ease of access to our shelves allows people to take their time in picking out whatever they would like to take home with them, or snack on while they wait for their appointment.”
Whether it’s a young mother who needs a snack for their child, or a client who can’t afford fresh vegetables, everyone is welcome to grab from their stands. There’s no monitoring who takes the food, and the area is a warm, welcoming, judgment-free zone.
As we spoke, a young mother exited the elevator and stopped at the produce stand, grabbing a few fresh vegetables before leading her kids to her car.
The system Kristina put into place is working, right before our eyes.
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