Food Security

All Maine people, regardless of where they live, deserve access to the opportunities that allow them to be healthy. Increasing numbers of Cumberland County families are having difficulty putting food on their tables. People are not deprived of food because food is unavailable in the market, but rather because access to that food is restricted, most often by limited income. In 2011, United Way of Greater Portland convened the Cumberland County Food Security Council (FSC). The mission of FSC is to increase food security for vulnerable populations in Cumberland County by facilitating information sharing, program coordination, innovation, and accountability throughout the food access system.

The Importance and Impact of Food Security

  • In 2011, 13.7% (or 38,480) people in Cumberland County were food insecure.
  • Almost one-third of all students are in families whose income qualifies them for free and reduced price school meals. In some districts, including Bridgton, Portland and Westbrook, more than 50% of students qualify.
  • In 2012, 13,923 children lived in households using SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) because their families did not make enough money to purchase adequate food.

Complex Issues Require Strategic Investments

Increasing food security is a complex challenge. Raw poverty may be apparent when we encounter it, but there are less obvious conditions that disrupt food security. Understanding the continuum from food security to more extreme situations helps us identify and target effective strategies and make sound investments to increase food access for all members of our communities. Doing so is essential given the serious education, income, and health consequences that result from lack of nutritious food.

Early Success

United Way of Greater Portland acts as a convener and process manager for FSC, providing facilitation and leadership to the collaboration. FSC initiated a Lake Region Community Conversation on food security, which brought together food providers, town officials, businesses, and other community members to discuss important food and poverty issues. FSC is creating a shared database to become more efficient in measuring our response to hunger and food access needs and to hold ourselves and the community accountable to address the problem. None of our partners alone can accomplish the results we are working toward together.

To get involved or for more information, contact Jim Hanna at jhanna@unitedwaygp.org or 207.874.1000 x2309.

Download the Food Security Datasheet: Food Security