Alfond Youth Center's State-of-the-Art Greenhouse Will Feed Central Maine Children

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WATERVILLE, Maine (WABI) It took only four days to build a solar-powered biodome at the Alfond Youth Center in Waterville.

The greenhouse will give kids the opportunity to plant, tend, and harvest their own fruits and vegetables, even in winter.

"It's got these great vents up top that are run on beeswax so that when it gets hot, it expands and pushes the piston out, lets air in. When it gets cold, it contracts and closes, all automatic, don't have to do a thing," said Crista Lavenson, Marketing and Communications for the Center.

The Alfond Youth Center's Sustainable Gardening Program is a hit with Central Maine kids, and will soon be available year-round.

"Kids love it! They go out and grow all this great stuff. They plant the seeds, they pull the weeds, they water, they harvest, they take it into our kids kitchen and do a lot of taste testing," said Lavenson.

Despite taking less than a week to build the Growing Spaces Biodome, the project has been in the works for more than two years.

The children of a longtime volunteer at the Center, Mary Nash Beaupre, helped spearhead the project following her death in 2014.

This 42 foot state of the art greenhouse will provide fresh fruits and vegetables for at-risk youth in the greater Waterville area with produce expected to be harvested as early as this November.

Equipped with hydroponics and aquaponics learning labs, the biodome is expected to remain 55 degrees, even in the coldest of winter months and will also be wheel-chair accessible.

"We'll be paving a lot of this floor so that wheelchairs can get in and out easily, some ramps," said Lavenson.

The Center feeds about 200 kids a day, a large majority of which qualify for free or reduced lunch at school.

"And for about 60% of those kids, it's the last hot meal they get before going to bed at night. So we feel that's very important not only to give hem a healthy meal, but teach them about where it comes from and let them have a part in feeding themselves by tending this garden," said Lavenson.

The Mary Nash Beaupre Greenhouse is expected to have its grand opening next month.