Food finds the needy

Maine is using the Web and a database — along with lots of extra time and

effort by state employees — to provide nearly $770,000 worth of fresh food

to low-income senior citizens, all the while getting more business for Maine

farmers.

Maine is the furthest along of some 30 states that received grants from

the Agriculture Department for food supply programs. However, because the

grants come with little or no administrative funds, Maine has had to put

its existing funding into the program.

That burden, and the fact that the state had just weeks to get the program

going, led Maine to the Web.

"We heard in January that this was a go, and then we had to get everybody

set up and running almost immediately," said Deanne Herman, marketing manager

in the Maine Department of Agriculture's Market and Production Development

Division. "We couldn't have done it without the technology."

Farmers use the Web to register for a program that provides meals to

elderly people, and senior citizens with Web access can see what farmers

are participating. In the program, senior citizens can buy single "shares"

worth $100 each that are bought in bulk by government agencies. The agencies

then turn to the registered farmers to redeem the shares for produce.

The real importance of the Web-enabled database is to the government

agencies that provide meals to seniors from several sites around the state.

They use the Web to find out such things as who is signed up to provide

the food, and they let senior citizens who don't have Web access know about

how and where to get the food.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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