St. Mary’s Nutrition Center                        
                  Lots to Gardens
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Name:           St. Mary’s Nutrition Center

                      Lots to Gardens

Address:       208 Bates Street

                      Lewiston, Maine  04240

Mailing Address:

                      P.O. Box 7291

                      Lewiston, Maine 04240

Phone:          207-513-3848




Products and Services:

-sustainable urban gardening

-youth leadership programs

-nutrition education

-children’s garden

-elder garden

-food pantry

What Makes Lots to Gardens Unique?

For fifteen years the Lots to Gardens program has reached out to the youth and community members of Lewiston and provided opportunities for sustainable urban gardening.  The program is headquartered in the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center at 208 Bates Street in Lewiston, where a food pantry and a nutrition center are also located.  Unique Maine Farms had the pleasure of checking out many of the gardens participating in the Lots to Gardens program this past October. There is no question that the Outstanding Dedication Award that the program recently received from the Maine Association of Interdependent Neighborhoods was certainly well-deserved.

If you decide to head over to Lewiston during the growing season to explore the urban gardens that have been established through the Lots to Gardens program, make sure that you leave plenty of time. There are fourteen gardens to visit!  Each garden has its own personal layout and selections of fruits and vegetables. 

There is a garden that has been planted at the Meadowview Park which is a senior housing

option located at 1 College Street in Lewiston.  A children’s garden has been established at Knox Street as well as at Franklin Pasture Community Garden. Bates College students participate in the garden and hoop house program at the Wood Street garden.

Involving youth in the Lots to Gardens program has always been a chief priority. Young adults are encouraged to participate in cooking and nutritional classes.  There are youth leadership programs and job training programs for teens and over forty teens participated in these programs during the past year. Youngsters involved in the program enjoy several perks including the opportunity to enjoy various arts and crafts projects; taste delicious healthy recipes; and take advantage of a free bicycle and helmet on loan. 

Volunteers play a huge role in the success of the Lots to Gardens program.  Many service learning and work experiences are available. Young adults associated with the Food Corps program have offered much appreciated assistance with the gardening and provide cooking and nutritional classes. Healthy recipes have been shared on a regular basis.  Over 180 children participated in hands-on cooking and nutrtition education classes. Individuals interested in volunteering can contact the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center by calling 207-513-3848 or by email:

The Lewiston area, where the gardens are located,  is a very culturally vibrant and ethnically diverse location.  Over 5,000 Somali refugees have settled in the Lewiston area.  Refugees from other locations in Africa such as Sudan, the Congo, and Ethiopia, have navigated to Lewiston. Because many of the new residents escaped war and famine and fled refugee camps, they face critical economic challenges.  St. Mary’s Nutrition Center offers a food pantry to help low-income area residents access food. 

The St. Mary’s Food Pantry is open Monday through Friday from 9 to 11 a.m. A three-day supply of emergency unprepared food is distributed to an average of 2050 people per month.  Over 12, 350 food boxes were distributed through the Food Pantry in the past year. The Nutrition Center offers cooking demonstrations of low-cost, simple meals.  They also offer thousands of nutritious snacks to daycares and school-based health centers in the area. Homeless youth at Lewiston High School receive food from this program, as well.  For additional information on the Food Pantry, it is recommended that Joyce Gagnon be contacted between 8 and 11 a.m. from Monday through Friday at 207-513-3841, or by email:

To address the need for food, St. Mary’s Nutrition Center also provides garden spots in community gardens for over one hundred low-income families and individuals.  These gardens are especially appreciated by many of the refugees who now live in apartments.  Before fleeing their homeland many were involved in agricultural pursuits in their home country. The community gardens have ended up providing much-needed food but also contributing in many other ways.  The gardens offer a chance to connect with the natural surroundings, to unwind and make new friends, learn about other cultures, and develop gardening skills.

Several of the Somali refugees who have become advanced farmers through the Cultivating Community Program have chosen to participate in the Lewiston Farmers Market  along with other farmers and artisans.  The Farmers Market is sponsored by St. Mary’s Nutrition Center.  The Summer Market is held from June through October at Bates Mill 5 on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m at the corner of Lincoln Street and Main Street in Lewiston.  Over twenty vendors participate and there is a festive feeling with the live music that is provided. The Lewiston Winter Farmers’ Market is held on the third Thursday of the month from 5-7:30 from November through April at St. Mary’s Nutrition Center.

Underlying all of St. Mary’s Nutrition Center’s programs is the belief that healthy food should be accessible to every single individual.  It is their hope that their work with children and young adults will foster future leaders who will have firsthand experience with growing food and who will become agents of change.  A Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program was implemented to encourage increased consumption of healthy, fresh food among high-risk consumers.

Harvest dinners are conducted at the Nutrition Center.  Monthly newsletters are distributed. Weekly veggie shares are offered.  An EBT machine and incentive programs are in place at the Farmers’ Market.  The Nutrition Center formed a partnership with Cooking Matters of the Share our Strength program.  Several cooking and healthy eating classes were offered to both students and adults.  So many programs are happening at the Nutrition Center that it is a challenge to be able to document all of them. Unique Maine Farms hopes to be able to return to the gardens this coming summer when everything is in bloom and when it is a bright sunny day to take optimum photos.

The Outstanding Dedication Award recently

given to Lots to Gardens that was mentioned in the beginning of this profile is just one of the many recognitions bestowed on the program and St. Mary’s Nutrition Center.  They have been recipients of the Katherine O. Musgrave Public Service Award; the Bates College Harward Center Award for Outstanding Community Project; the Western Maine Community Action’s Community Partner Award; the Maine Community Foundation’s Social Capital Award; the American Hospital Association’s NOVA award; the Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service; the Catholic Health Association’s Achievement Citation for Community Involvement; the Maryann Hartman Award; the William Stringfellow Award for Peace and Justice; and the Maine Community Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Community Building Award.

Hats off to all the staff, students, volunteers,

and supporters of the Lots to Garden program.

In a city that is home to almost 37,000 people, it is gratifying to know that St. Mary’s Nutrition Center and the Lots to Gardens’ program have dedicated their efforts to making sure that everyone in the Lewiston area has access to food.  Their mission has garnered many well-deserved awards, and Unique Maine Farms is pleased to include their efforts in this project.  Their work gives validation to the concept that everyone has a right to access food and that hunger is simply unacceptable.