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Maine: First in Farms, and Food Insecurity, in New England

Maine farmers were busy this weekend, with a tractor parade in Augusta to help fight hunger. Maine has the most farms in New England, but is also tops in food insecurity. (NightThree/Wikimedia Commons)
Maine farmers were busy this weekend, with a tractor parade in Augusta to help fight hunger. Maine has the most farms in New England, but is also tops in food insecurity. (NightThree/Wikimedia Commons)
September 19, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine -- Maine farmers stepped up to help fight hunger this weekend with a parade from the Augusta Food Bank to the State Capitol.

There are just over 8,000 farms in Maine, and Alicyn Smart, executive director at the Maine Farm Bureau, said it's a cruel irony that more than 200,000 Mainers are still going hungry. She said many local farmers want to do their part to change that.

"Maine is fortunate enough that we are increasing the number of farms within the state,” Smart said. "But at the same time, we also have the highest number of food-insecure individuals within the state. "

Maine ranks first among the New England states and 12th in the nation for food insecurity - those who don't have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.

In addition to the fresh produce donated by the farmers, canned goods were collected along the parade route by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and 4-H Youth Development.

Smart said that Maine farmers have a long history of helping people in need. She said she hopes this first-ever parade will call even more attention to the issue of hunger in the Pine Tree State, and that it will become an ongoing event.

"I don't have any goals, because this is the first time we're doing this,” she said. "I’m just trying to get as much produce, and feed as many people as we possibly can - and then, trying to increase that, each time that we do this parade."

Smart said 8,000 pounds of fresh produce was collected from about a dozen Maine farms. The tractor-pulled convoy shined a spotlight on Maine-grown apples, squash, potatoes, beans, peas, beets, corn and tomatoes.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME