The purpose of the project described in this paper was to assess and describe the food environment facing public assistance clients in a rural county in Maine. Using the concept of a "food desert" and an objective tool for rating participating food outlets, the research team developed a spatial model of client access to healthy foods. The final map shows that most rural residents are within acceptable distances of well-rated stores, though these may not be supermarkets. Research Highlights: "Food Deserts" are defined by distance to supermarkets as sources of healthy food. Stores of all types can be objectively rated for fresh, reasonably priced healthy food. Food deserts re-assessed through ratings may not be true deserts. Information campaigns based on ratings can identify local places and foods to meet consumer needs
Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy
Assessing the Proximity of Healthy Food Options and Food Deserts in a Rural Area in Maine
Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system
USM's Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy has been awarded a $600,000 grant to help young people raised in Maine's foster system to prepare for college and the workforce.
The money comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a $5.4 million national effort aimed at youth who are homeless or in either the foster care or juvenile justice systems.
"Many of these young people have suffered abuse or trauma and were raised in poverty and neglect," said Marty Zanghi, the Cutler Center's youth development director.
The money -- including an expected $400,000 more in matching funds -- will pay for contracted work with agencies in the target areas, starting with the greater Portland area and Penobscot, Kennebec and Somerset counties.
Nationally and in Maine, only about 3 percent of people who grow up in the foster care system achieve a college degree, he said.
"It's dramatically lower than the rate for the general population," Zanghi said. "It's a horrible outcome."
It doesn't have to be that way, though.
"There are young people that overcome these circumstances," he said. "I know people who have master's degrees and Ph.Ds."
The Casey Foundation's national effort is being called the "Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential" (LEAP) initiative.
The initiative is working on partnerships in Maine and nine other areas: Alaska, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York. In each case, people will adapt two evidence-based models to meet the needs of these youth, including support to address the trauma they may have experienced in their lives.
In Maine, the work will include a pair of successful programs, Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) and Jobs for the Future. Results will be carefully tracked, Zanghi said.
After the first year, the program is expected to grow.
"Eventually, the additional help will be available to all children, 14 and over, in the foster care system in the state of Maine," Zanghi said.