FARMINGTON — The 2nd Annual Greater Franklin Food Summit on Wednesday afternoon identified bright spots, challenges and opportunities facing the region’s food system.

United Way of the Tri-Valley Area and the Healthy Community Coalition coordinated the first summit a year ago.

UWTVA Executive Director Lisa Laflin said 73 percent of actions from that summit have been met, including creating the Greater Franklin Food Council.

Healthy Community Coalition’s Molly Clark said the council promotes a food system to provide affordable, easily accessible and nutritious food for everyone, while strengthening local farms and the community.

Dave Fuller, Franklin County Cooperative Extension, defined a food system as an interconnected set of biological, technological, economic and social activities essential to survival.

Keynote speaker Lynne Holland, Androscoggin and Sagadahoc County Cooperative Extension, said food insecurity is an issue for everybody, not just the poor.

“More people need to be engaged in the effort to combat food insecurity,” Holland said.

She said farmers should differentiate, and grow what they grow best.

“Maine is first in New England in food insecurity, seventh in the nation. One in five children go to bed hungry in Maine. 159,000 Maine seniors, or five times the population of Franklin County, experience food insecurity,” Holland said. “Hungry kids get the big wow factor, but hungry seniors. That’s huge.

“Food and nutrition aren’t the same. Lack of food, limited choices, distance to stores, transportation, limited programs for at-risk populations and a lack of education impact healthy eating habits at all levels of the population.”

At-risk populations include the elderly, the disabled, adolescents and young adults and parents with small children.

“Poverty goes hand in hand with food insecurity, which goes hand in hand with health care concerns,” she said.

Holland said farmers are busy people. Making it easy for them to engage in gleaning or growing food for food pantries is vital.

Breakout sessions then focused on specific food system areas. Challenges, bright spots and possible next steps were identified.

Food Insecurity   

Challenges: Transportation and education.

Bright spots: The Care and Share Food Closet works with farmers, the UMF composting program uses waste foods.

Next steps: Create an information center at the Grange, host classes there, have AmeriCorps and FoodCorps help with recovering food and farmland and develop marketing materials.

Policy/Advocacy

Strategies: Testifying at the state house, working to adopt town ordinances, supporting Maine tax credits for producers donating food and educating people about the laws and liability for donating.

Education/Local resources

Challenge: Thousands seek answers from Cooperative Extension, but few take the courses it holds.

Next steps: More participation in the Farm to School Program, teaching kids how to cook and holding cooking shows on Mt. Blue TV.

Farmers/Food producers

Bright spots: Strong customer loyalty, collaboration between farmers, Right to Farm law, wide variety of products available, Dept. of Agriculture farmer listings. Challenges: Lack of location stability of Farmington’s Friday Farmers’ Market, sharing data such as how far every dollar spent locally goes. Next steps: More marketing, promotion are needed.

GFFC will review the notes and determine action items. GFFC generally meets from 4 to 6 p.m., the fourth Monday of the month at the UWTVA office, 218 Fairbanks Road, Farmington. This month, the meeting is scheduled for the third Monday.

For information, call 207-778-5048 or visit www.uwtva.org.

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The 2nd Annual Greater Franklin Food Summit was held in Farmington Wednesday. The keynote speaker was Lynne Holland, Community Education Assistant, Androscoggin and Sagadahoc County Cooperative Extension. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser)

The 2nd Annual Greater Franklin Food Summit was held in Farmington Wednesday. Pictured from left are Patricia Millette of Chesterville, Erica Emery of Farmington and Ellen Foster of Avon during a discussion on what farmers and food producers need to be successful. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser)