Following a similar story with Iowa State University last week, a fresh farm-to-table effort is being proposed for the University of Maine system of campuses that would see locally grown food served in university dining halls.
Per a report from the Portland Press Herald, starting in 2016 the university is likely to include more Maine-grown foods, following strong interests from local food advocates and a receptive board of trustees.
Maine’s university system maintains a reported $12.5 million annual contract with food-service provider Aramark. The contract has been in place at six branches of Maine’s university system for the better part of a decade, with a renewal expected to be signed this coming March. Coinciding with that contract renewal, a group of Maine farmers and food organizations have been lobbying the University of Maine to include a full range of locally produced foods, including greens, produce, meats and grains, at university cafeterias.
The group of farmers — Maine Food for the UMaine System — is pushing for 20% of the food on cafeteria trays to come from within the state by the year 2020. Promisingly, the University of Maine System’s board of trustees voted in May to make local foods a priority, though the board is yet to put a concrete number on how much farm-to-table produce makes it into cafeterias.
Despite the lack of specifics, the report suggests that the university’s board is showing strong support for the initiative.
Dining services at University of Maine’s Orono campus has already climbed on board with locally grown food. That campus provided meal plans for nearly 4,000 students in the fall of 2014, and the rest of the university system includes nearly 3,000 students on a meal plan. University system officials expect to use Orono as a model for other Maine campuses implementing farm-to-table initiatives.