More than 100 community members, staff, youth, volunteers, supporters, and gardeners, attended the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center’s Annual Community Dinner on last week to celebrate all the hard work and community service that has been accomplished this growing season. This annual dinner highlights the Nutrition Center’s Lots to Gardens program; attendees included the Youth Gardeners and their families, some of the 115 families that garden in the community garden plots in downtown Lewiston and at Meadowview and Hillview housing complexes, and others who have participated in or supported the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center, Lots to Gardens, and the St. Mary’s Food Pantry over the year.
The evening was led by the Summer Youth Gardeners (SYGs). Much of the menu was locally grown and developed and prepared from scratch by the SYGs. It also reflected their diverse culinary backgrounds, including Chinese chicken and rice, Somali chicken and rice, Sahro’s cabbage dish, Fiston’s braised greens, green beans, blueberry banana smoothie, and beet raspberry brownies. True to
the Nutrition Center’s mission, the door prize, won by Community Gardener Kirk Jones, was a basket of fresh veggies and Lewiston Farmers’ Market gift certificates.
In addition, as a special treat this year, Cabot Cheese joined the fun with their Farmers’ Gratitude Grille, which is a traveling kitchen, conceived by the farm families who own Cabot, to thank volunteers and community-service-based organizations for the extraordinary work they do. They served pimento grilled cheese sandwiches, salad, and oatmeal raisin cookies from their mobile kitchen in the Nutrition Center’s parking lot.
The diverse group of Summer Youth Gardeners also developed and showcased a short presentation about their summer experience in the program. The presentation included skits about teenage experiences and how they are using their voices to speak up about injustices and to treat one another with more kindness. Several youth also told personal stories and gave thanks for all they learned in the program, including Mohamed Abdullahi. “Although I will not be working with Lots to Gardens anymore, the experiences, the laughter, and the learning I will take with me. I am grateful for learning how to cook healthy food, and food from other cultures, and for the gardening skills I will use later in life. I now pay more attention to how I treat people. I’m a better friend, better son, and a better person. I’m happy that Lots to Gardens is part of the community, and that the community is part of Lots to Gardens,” said Abdullahi.
Along with the youth, Kirsten Walter, Nutrition Center Director, explained that the Nutrition Center’s Lots to Gardens youth programs are open to Lewiston/Auburn area youth between the ages of 14-18. Through the program, they get job training and experience, learn about gardening, nutrition, and cooking, and participate in leadership development training. She thanked the individuals, businesses and organizations that provided youth sponsorships this year, including Agren Appliance; Lake Auburn Half Marathon; Luke Robinson and Wolfpack Fitness; Fred and Janet Bishop; Russ Donahue, Elizabeth Keene and employees at St. Mary’s Health System. “Sponsoring one youth position costs $1,200 and is a great way to give back and engage a young person in developing lifelong healthy habits and becoming an agent of change in their community,” said Walter. Interested individuals can contact Walter to learn more.
The St. Mary’s Nutrition Center promotes community health through organizing, advocacy, and education. It is home to the St. Mary’s Food Pantry, Lots to Gardens, Lewiston Farmers’ Market, and garden, cooking, and nutrition education programs for adults, teens, and kids. For more information, please visit www.stmarysnutritioncenter.org or call 207-513-3848.