Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 23, 2016 and Island Ad-Vantages, June 23, 2016 and The Weekly Packet, June 23, 2016
Magic Food Bus rolls out for season 6
On June 30, the Magic Food Bus begins its sixth season of offering free, fresh, local produce, health information, and books for children and adults. This popular project began in 2011 when Sedgwick Elementary School Librarian Margaret Bixby’s idea was a match for Healthy Peninsula’s Good Food Project, according to a news release.
In the past four years, the Magic Food Bus expanded to Deer Isle, Stonington, and Blue Hill and often serves more than 50 people weekly in each town. This year, Penobscot will have a stop as well. With an eye toward long-term sustainability, Healthy Peninsula has teamed up with several partner organizations and individuals to help with collection of produce, volunteer power, fundraising, and broader community involvement.
One natural and exciting fit for collaboration continues with the Healthy Acadia Gleaning Initiative. Hannah Semler, Gleaning Coordinator, organizes volunteers to harvest excess produce from farmers, orchards, farmers markets, and home and school gardens, and disperses them to local food pantries and community meal sites, including The Magic Food Bus program. Farmdrop, also newly operated by Healthy Acadia in partnership with Fairwinds Florist Shop, is a conduit to local farmers, allowing produce to be ordered from local farms directly and then distributed via the Magic Food Bus. Along with grabbing a book, visits to the stops may include taste-testing, socializing with friends and neighbors, and swapping recipes.
Healthy Peninsula’s island partner is the Edible Island Culinary and Ecological Center. Executive Director Wes Norton purchases local produce for his MFB run to Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School and drives the “bus” to four stops on the island weekly. Bixby continues to organize and drive the Sedgwick route. Anna Wind has joined the team as the local coordinator. Through funding from the Maine Community Foundation’s Hancock County Fund, she also will be making stops in Blue Hill and developing sites in Penobscot. Other partners include the Blue Hill Memorial Hospital, Mary Alice Hurvitt, the Deer Isle/Stonington and Sedgwick School libraries, and the Blue Hill Public Library for donating books.
Fundraising continues to be an important element in the sustainability of the program. Through Healthy Peninsula, Farmdrop customers can donate directly to the purchase of food by clicking on the Magic Food Bus link. Support also comes from Bar Harbor Banking and Trust, St. Francis by the Sea Episcopal Church, and TradeWinds, and other local businesses. The largest community fundraiser will be a benefit Flash! in the Pans concert on August 1 at Blue Hill Town Park.
Magic Food Bus, summer schedule: Blue Hill/Penobscot, starts Thursday, July 7, Harborview Apts., 2 p.m., other stops to be determined; Deer Isle/Stonington, starts Thursday, June 30, Elementary School, 11 a.m., Deer Run, 3 p.m., Stonington Manor, 4 p.m., Community Center, 5 p.m.; Sedgwick, starts July 1, Ridge Road, noon, Benjamin River Apts., 1 p.m.