Healthy Communities of the Capital Area is planning a series of community meetings in the coming weeks aimed at improving the flow of locally grown food to central Maine consumers.

The four meetings, the first of which is set for Thursday night in Wayne, are being held to generate feedback from growers, school, town officials “and anyone interested in increasing access to local foods to improve the economic viability of local food production and improve health,” said Renee Page, assistant director of Healthy Communities of the Capital Area.

The group is aiming to work with other towns to develop food councils, Page said. The councils first would identify local priorities, such as improving access to locally grown foods in schools or creating markets for growers. Each town would incorporate ideas for addressing those priorities into the town’s strategic plan.

The food councils would “think about food and how it impacts the community with the focus on health and economic development,” Page said.

Healthy Communities of the Capital Area also is considering the creation of a food hub that would store and market locally grown food. Ideally the hub would include places for community gatherings around food and perhaps would have a teaching kitchen.

“If we’re really promoting local food, we recognize there’s a need to help people learn about those foods,” Page said.

Healthy Communities, working with Winthrop-based Dyer Associates, is conducting a survey of the supply of and demand for locally grown food and assessing what is available at food hubs that are already up and running.

“We’re in the early stages of that process right now,” Page said. “We hope to have some next steps after the study is complete.”

Page hopes the forums will raise awareness about the study and reach more growers and buyers to provide input. She hopes to have a preliminary report on the findings by June.

For more information on the survey or the community meetings, contact Page at 588-5020 or rpage@mcd.org. Information also is available online at HealthyCommunitiesME.org.

Craig Crosby can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

ccosby@centralmaine.com