BIDDEFORD — Near the beginning of her more than 20-year career as the Health and Human Service director with the City of Biddeford, Vicky Edgerly worked with a general assistance client who was having a hard time managing her food budget.

The single mother, said Edgerly, was using her state food assistance allowance, which is supposed to last for a month, within only one week. When Edgerly urged her to budget her allowance by cooking more food at home, she learned that the woman only knew how to make one recipe.

Since then, she said, many have come across her office doorstep with a similar problem.

“Many of my clients have no idea how to cook,” said Edgerly. “They don’t know how to grocery shop.”

For years, she said, she has wanted to develop a recipe book that offered tips about cooking, shopping and other ways to use food more efficiently, however, neither she nor her staff had the time to do so.

But that problem will soon be solved.

Last year, medical student Benjamin Slocum, who is in his third year at the University of New England’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, approached Edgerly in search of a public health project he could complete.

“I have a lot of interest in community health,” said Slocum.

Edgerly “named the issue of hunger in the area as one of the biggest health issues,” said Slocum.

He spoke with people working at local food pantries and soup kitchens, and they said “they were constantly overwhelmed, struggling week to week to meet the needs of all the people coming in,” he said.

As a way to manage funds and food assistance, whether it be state or municipal aid or from food pantries, Slocum created the cooking guide “30 Days on $200 ”“ A Cooking Guide for Good and Healthy Eating on a Budget.”

The book, which is expected to be available this fall, features quick and nutritious recipes, cooking tips and information, how to plan for grocery shopping and much more.

The cooking guide is intended to provide money-saving strategies, and “help people utilize their resources more effectively,” said Slocum.

The medical student said he’s completed his part, and now it’s up Hannaford supermarket, which is partnering on the project, to print and distribute the book.

Mayor Alan Casavant, who is involved in the project, said he spoke about it with Biddeford Hannaford Store Manager Barrett Johnson.

Johnson, in turn, spoke with others at Hannaford, and the company has agreed to pay for the printing of the cooking guide and to distribute it.

The company is excited about the project, said Hannaford spokesman Eric Blom, because “it provides real value to the community and focuses on healthy eating ”“ two things we’re committed to.”

Hannaford cares “very, very deeply about hunger in the community,” he said, and provides food and monetary donations to help fight hunger.

The company is interested in the cooking guide developed by Slocum, said Blom, because “this was really a new idea.”

No decision has been made on how broadly the guide will be distributed, he said, but, at a minimum, it will be given to low-income residents of Biddeford.

For his effort, Slocum was presented with the first “City of Biddeford University of New England Volunteer of the Year Award” on Tuesday. Casavant said the city will continue to present a UNE volunteer award each year.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

        Comments are not available on this story.

        filed under: