Robert Heinlen’s classic science fiction novel, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,” tells the story of a future in which humans have colonized the moon.
By 2075, the moon has become a penal colony where criminals from earth are sent to work in hardscrabble conditions on a barren moonscape. They harvest ice and grow hydroponic grains to export back to earth. Moon dwellers are known as “Loonies” and the protagonist, Manny, is from a multigenerational Loony family whose forebears were among the moon’s earliest settlers.
Manny is an ace mechanic, and, unbeknownst to the hapless moon authorities, has befriended the station’s mainframe computer, an artificial intelligence named Mike. During a casual conversation, Mike shares with Manny that, by his calculations, the moon’s natural resources can no longer sustain both the Loonies and exports to earth. If things carry on this way, Mike predicts, the people of the moon will soon go hungry.
Manny, who routinely reminds the reader how much smarter he is than everyone else, isn’t surprised. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch!” they agree, and that sentiment becomes the refrain of the whole novel.
Manny, Mike, and a small handful of their friends form a revolutionary cell to foment rebellion on the moon. After they stage their coup, and forces from earth threaten to retake the territory, this small band of revolutionaries seizes a giant catapult meant for launching grain shipments back to Earth and modify it to hurl giant boulders instead of grain. Essentially, they hold Earth hostage by threatening to rain down indiscriminate death on the innocent civilians of the world.
To me this is terrifying, but in the story we are meant to accept it as the necessary cost of freedom.
The double meaning of the word “free” strikes me here. There’s free as in “has no cost” and there’s free as in “has no constraints.” We all want to live without constraints, but most of us also recognize cost as a significant restraint.
It’s not that the Loonies have a problem with the idea of a free lunch. They just don’t think it exists, like the Easter Bunny. They believe that people on Earth are simply lazy, getting fat off the moon’s harvest while Loonies toil and subsist in poverty. In that metaphor, it’s not so much the Earthlings are expecting a handout, as they are stealing someone else’s lunch. Sometimes it feels like we are free to take, and free to give, but we are not free to receive.
I’m not sure if that line, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” began with Heinlen’s book, or if it was already a cliché in the American mindset, but the sentiment is certainly familiar by now, and deeply ingrained in our national conscience as a symbol of work ethic and exchange.
While no one around here has any problem with the idea of hard work or commerce, we also recognize that these concepts don’t exclude the idea of sharing food with a hungry neighbor. Most of us know that a neighbor could be working hard and still go hungry. We know that same neighbor might feel shame at the thought of accepting a free lunch.
A more recent book, “Free Lunch,” by Rex Ogle, follows the sixth-grade career of young Rex, whose family lives in poverty. At the beginning of the school year, Rex learns that he is enrolled in the National School Lunch Program, which ensures that all public-school students below a certain economic threshold don’t have to pay for school lunch. On the one hand, this is good news to Rex, who often spends too much energy worrying about what his next meal will look like. On the other hand, much of the story ends up being about how stigmatizing the experience of accepting free lunch turns out to be.
The program is both the source of a full belly that helps him concentrate in school, but also the thing that isolates him, at least in his own mind, from his peers. The lunch might be free, but his mind is not free to enjoy it.
The National School Lunch Program is not free. It costs billions of dollars a year. The Loonies are correct that there are downstream effects to everything we do, and all the stuff we have and use and eat does come from somewhere, but the national program isn’t new either. President Harry Truman signed it into law in 1946.
The money it costs taxpayers is a sound investment in the future of our country. Free lunch is there for the taking, and the students of tomorrow should feel free to take a bite.
Broad Arrow Farm, 33 Benner Road, Bristol, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday
Chase Farm Bakery, 333 Townhouse Road, Whitefield, open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday
County Fair Farm, Route 32, Jefferson, open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., year-round, self serve.
Fuzzy Udder Creamery, 35 Townhouse Road, Whitefield, open 24/7, self-serve
Morris Farm Store, 156 Gardiner Road, Wiscasset, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Goranson Farm Store, 250 River Road, Dresden, open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., year-round
High Hopes Farm, 777 Bristol Road, Bristol, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Spear’s Farm Stand, Atlantic Highway in Waldoboro, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday; and Center Street in Nobleboro, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Sunset Hill Farm, 98 Cross Point Road, Edgecomb, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (cash, checks, or Venmo only)
Swallowtail Farm, 98 Main St., Whitefield, open daily using the honor system from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Switchback Farm, 195 Morgan Hill Road, Nobleboro, open for self service
Straw’s Farm, 30 Brick Hill Road, open 2-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Wanderwood Farm, 79 Sidelinger Road, Nobleboro, open 3:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday
Boothbay: A 24-hour community fridge with free food for all has opened behind the Boothbay town office. Stop by any time to take items you need or leave items to donate. The Boothbay Harbor Library share table will be stocked on Fridays.
Bristol and New Harbor: Enclosed food stands with produce and dry goods are located outside the fire station in Bristol Mills and outside the fire station in New Harbor. The Bristol Area Library share table will be stocked on Wednesdays.
Damariscotta: A share table with fresh produce and dry goods is located inside the lobby of the Watson building at LincolnHealth’s Miles Campus, CLC YMCA, and Skidompha Library. There is also a share table located outside Young’uns
Newcastle: Share table located at Faith Baptist Church. Salt Bay Area Head Start will have vegetables for families on Wednesdays.
Wiscasset: At the Morris Farm, there is an enclosed free food stand outside the farm store at 156 Gardiner Road.
Boothbay: Thursdays, May 18 through Oct. 5, 9 a.m. to noon, 1 Common Drive, Boothbay
Damariscotta: Fridays, May 26 through Oct. 27, 9 a.m. to noon, 3 Round Top Lane. Accepts SNAP/EBT
Somerville: Pumpkin Vine Farm, Sundays, May through October, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 217 Hewett Road
Waldoboro: Sundays, May 21 through October, noon to 3 p.m., 1600 Atlantic Ave.
Wiscasset: Fridays, May 26 through Oct. 6, 9 a.m. to noon, 51 Bath Road
Maine Harvest Bucks is a program that doubles SNAP/EBT benefits when you buy food from local farmers. When you shop with your EBT card at farmers’ markets you earn vouchers to spend on fruits and vegetables. This program is currently offered at the Bath Farmers’ Market, the Damariscotta Farmers’ Market, and at the Pumpkin Vine Family Farm-hosted market.
What is SNAP? Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a federally-funded program traditionally known as “food stamps.” SNAP-eligible food items include baked goods, breads and cereals; jams, jellies, pickles, honey, maple syrup; fruits and vegetables; meats, fish and poultry; cheeses, eggs, dairy products; seeds and vegetable plants which will produce food to eat; edible pumpkins, cider.
The following local farms accept SNAP benefits: The Byre at Piper’s Pond, Bristol; Goranson Farm, Dresden; Pumpkin Vine Family Farm, Somerville; Lakin’s Gorges Cheese, Waldoboro; East Forty Farm, Waldoboro; and Sheepscot General Farm Store, Whitefield.
Need help navigating the various food programs in Lincoln County? Call the food security hotline at 350-0536, and leave a message with your contact information. A representative will call you back and discuss local options with you.
Senior Commodity Boxes: People at least 60 years of age may be eligible for monthly food boxes. The boxes include nonperishable items like peanut butter, pasta, and instant mashed potatoes. Call Spectrum Generations at 563-1363, ext. 1, for more information and to sign up.
Meals on Wheels: Older adults can sign up for Meals on Wheels by contacting Spectrum Generations at 563-1363, ext 1. Adults in the Boothbay Region should contact Pat Wheeler at 633-4370 to sign up.
Food donations are always accepted at Healthy Lincoln County, at 281 Main St. in Damariscotta. For more information, call or text 350-0536.
CSA farm customers commit early in the year to buy a farm’s harvest by purchasing a farm “share.” Throughout the growing season, CSA members receive boxes of the farm’s harvest. Participating farms in Lincoln County include:
Bristol: High Hopes Farm, 380-3197; Pemaquid Falls Farm, pemaquidfallsfarm.com/csa
Damariscotta: Clark Farms, clarkfarmsme.com or 549-3363
Dresden: Goranson Farm, goransonfarm.me or 737-8834
Newcastle: Morning Dew Farm, morningdeworganic.com or 350-5075
Nobleboro: Spear’s Farm, 832-4488
Westport Island: Tarbox Farm, tarboxfarm.com or 522-0840
Boothbay Harbor: Brady’s Restaurant, at 25 Union St., hosts community lunches every Monday at 11:30 a.m. All are welcome.