Happy ten-year anniversary Magic Food Bus! In 2011, Margaret Bixby shared an innovative idea to introduce Sedgwick families to fresh, healthy produce and inspire a student summer reading program. Ten years later, the Magic Food Bus has blossomed into a welcomed and dependable healthy food and reading resource, delivering books for kids and adults of all ages, and an average of 400 pounds of free, farm-fresh local produce each week, from June through September, to fourteen locations in nine towns—more than 5,000 pounds last summer alone!
The real magic of this story is the team that works year-round to develop and sustain the collaboration— the network of local farmers, gleaners, home gardeners, community organizations, volunteer drivers, funders and patrons—that makes the Food Bus run. Led by Healthy Eating Coordinator, Anna Wind, Healthy Peninsula ‘holds’ the project and does the complex work of obtaining funding and coordinating all the pieces of the puzzle. Roughly half of the distributed produce is purchased by Healthy Peninsula weekly from Peninsula farmers with locally raised funds, while the other half is contributed by generous community gardeners and Healthy Acadia’s Gleaning Initiative.
Although providing accessible healthy produce and good books is the primary goal of the Magic Food Bus, the broader benefits have evolved to include expanding people’s interest in new foods, how to grow, prepare, and use vegetables, a supportive relationship with farmers, educational opportunities for students and seniors, and participation and leadership in local food security activities. Vanessa Cater, Kate Mrozicki, Molly Blake, Healthy Island Project, Margaret Bixby, and Anna Wind make up our incredible team of ‘Bus’ drivers, and several school gardens provide abundance to the Food Bus sites in their towns. Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital has been an integral partner in hosting the refrigerated trailer where produce is stored and supporting Healthy Peninsula’s reinvigoration of the Simmering Pot, helping to provide free weekly meals to local residents during the Covid crisis in addition to our usual seasonal produce distribution.
Who visits a Magic Food Bus stop? Anyone who wants to. We especially enjoy connecting with our friends at Harborview, Deer Run, and Benjamin River Apartments, as well as elementary school aged kids and their families. There are no financial or age requirements, no forms to fill out or hoops to jump through. Want to try and grow your own? Take a donated seedling home in the springtime. Excited to try a garlic scape or kale for the first time? Now is your chance! Need to supplement your social security check and round out your groceries? We have you covered. Recipes, tips, ideas, health resource materials and friendly conversation also come free of charge. Donations are welcome, and often folks will drop what they can into the jar. And, stop by our community garden on the lawn of the Healthy Peninsula office across from the Blue Hill Public Library on Parker Point Road for a radish, pea pod, green bean and for more information about our garden and other projects.
This year, Magic Food Bus stops and activities may look different, shaping distribution to mirror the needs and resources of each town. Although each stop will feature the usual tables filled with fresh, almost-too-beautiful-to-eat produce, Castine and Penobscot families can also benefit from home delivery by a Community Compass Navigator, Sedgwick will sport a new school farmstand, and the Brooklin and Surry School PTFA members will include Food Bus produce in conjunction with their student backpack programs. As an added service in this COVID-19 time of physical distancing, anyone needing a produce delivery can call the Healthy Peninsula office at 374-3257, leave a message with their contact information, and they will get a response within 24 hours.
Visiting the Magic Food Bus this summer will take a little more care for staff, volunteers, and patrons—six-foot distancing will be required by anyone approaching the tables of produce, following Maine CDC guidelines. Staff and volunteers will handle produce and bags responsibly with clean hands, while offering ‘free choice’ of produce and placing food into bags. Conversation and questions are still welcome and encouraged. Our faces might be hidden, but our eyes will still smile.
To kick off our Ten Year anniversary, look for our fun new logo, generously and artfully crafted by local artist Annie Poole. For more information or for a Magic Food Bus delivery to your home, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 374-3257. To read more about the Magic Food Bus over the years, check out www.healthypeninsula.org
This Magic Food Bus 2020 schedule: All stops follow CDC guidelines and last about 40 minutes. The Magic Food Bus will run from June 25 until the end of September, 2020
Blue Hill—Thursdays—Harborview Apartments 2:15 pm
Penobscot & Castine—Friday Delivery (September: Penobscot Community School 2:30 pm)
Brooksville—Thursdays—Elementary School 4:30 pm (September 2:30 pm)
Deer Isle—Thursdays—Lily Pond / Deer Run 3:00 pm (September: DIS High School 2:30pm)
Stonington—Thursdays—Island Community Center 4:30 pm
Surry—Thursdays—The Gatherings at 2:30 pm (September at Surry School)
Brooklin—Thursdays—Brooklin School 3:00 pm
Sedgwick—Fridays—Sedgwick School 10:00 am (September 3:00 pm), Benjamin River Apartments 11:00 am