AUGUSTA — Kirsten Walter, director of the Nutrition Center of Maine in Lewiston, has recently been named as this year’s recipient of the Katherine O. Musgrave Public Service Award. The award is a prestigious honor bestowed upon an individual, organization or institution for outstanding work in nutrition policy, education or research. The Maine Nutrition Council presents the award each year at its annual spring conference.

Walter was nominated by her colleague Erin Guay for her advocacy to ensure the availability of safe and healthful foods for all Lewiston and Auburn residents and leading nutrition and food system education efforts statewide.

While a student at Bates College, Walter established Hilltop Community Gardens at Hillview Apartments, a low income housing complex, as a model for community development and bringing a diverse population together.

After graduation in 1999 and with backing from Saint Mary’s Health System, she spent the next seven years transforming the gardens into a larger, community-wide project called Lots to Gardens. The project now includes 15 gardens and green spaces, programs for children, youth, adults and senior citizens, apartment-side gardens, neighborhood vegetable stands, weekly community meals, monthly cooking and nutrition classes and community nutrition education trainings.

She has also spearheaded an effort to assess Lewiston’s food system by identifying barriers to obtaining healthy foods, leveraging new resources to solve identified problems and determining how to involve the community in each and every aspect, from assessment to solutions.

In collaboration with the Maine Nutrition Network, the United Somali Women of Maine and other community organizations, Walter has taken a leadership role in the Somali Nutrition Education Project, which empowers Somali women to spread nutrition messages to others in an oral-based culture.

She helped to create the Nutrition Center of Maine and since 2006, the center has promoted healthy communities through advocacy and education.

Her work in community health also includes participation on the boards of the Maine Public Health District Coordinating Council and the Androscoggin County Five-Year Physical Activity and Nutrition Strategic Planning Committee.

For more information about the Maine Nutrition Council or becoming a member, visit the website at

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