WISCASSET — One hundred and eleven students, community members and representatives from local organizations and businesses participated March 3 in the fourth annual Community Forum on Food Security in Lincoln County.

The event was co-convened by the Morris Farm and Chewonki at the Chewonki Center for Environmental Education and sponsored by Hannaford, the Maine Health Access Foundation, and Morning Glory Natural Foods. The theme for the day was Food is Medicine — Food Security and Health, according to a news release from Morris Farm.

The forum began with an introductory video by Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree from Maine’s 1st District welcoming participants to the forum by talking about the Local FARMS Act she helped introduce to the Senate. The bill includes a component that supports programs where doctors can prescribe fruits and vegetables to patients with diet-related diseases. The video was then followed by 12 sessions which included nutrition incentive programs, senior food insecurity, nutrition education in schools, gleaning and engaging youth in food security issues.

A session on child hunger and health in local schools, presented by Erica Davis of Wiscasset Elementary and Gretchen Burleigh-Johnson of Feed Our Scholars, drew a large audience.

“Children experiencing hunger are more likely to have problems with memory and concentration because they do not have the energy to carry out these functions. They show smaller gains in both reading and math and perform poorly on achievement testing. Hunger has also been shown to be a factor in childhood depression, anxiety and withdrawal. In short, food insecurity can impact a child’s day at school academically, behaviorally and socially,” said Davis, according to the release.

Another session, by Rachel Moyer and Laura Vinal of Good Shepherd Food Bank’s Community Health and Hunger Program and Nicole Ferm of New England Rehabilitation Hospital, described their work with health centers to implement food insecurity screenings for patients which are used to connect people to food resources.

The afternoon consisted of a panel on medical perspectives on food security presented by Dr. Chip Teel of Eldercare Network of Lincoln County and Dr. Tim Golz of Lincoln Medical Partners Family Medicine. Teel discussed health impacts on food insecure seniors, stating that they are 53 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 40 percent more likely to have congestive heart failure than seniors who are food secure. Golz discussed the health impacts of food insecure children and how they are more likely to have weaker immune systems, asthma, pre-diabetes and behavioral issues.

According to Good Shepherd Food Bank, more than 200,000 Mainers are food insecure, meaning they lack regular access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life. This includes one in four children. Lincoln County statistics are comparable to the rest of the state. This serious issue is largely invisible, but many local groups and individuals are working on solutions to different aspects of the problem. For more information, contact 882-4080 or [email protected]