Earlier today, the University of Maine System Food Service Management Contract was awarded to Sodexo. We are disappointed that the whole contract went to one out-of-state vendor but applaud the UMaine System for their commitment to local foods. We are proud that Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative was selected as a finalist, competing against two goliath food service providers, and that we were able to push our competitors to make stronger commitments to local foods. Sodexo adopted Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative’s stated goal of 20% local food in the first year, a challenge we had made to all vendors bidding. Unfortunately, as a small Maine company we were not able to offer the $14 million dollar investment promise that Sodexo, a $26 billion French company, was able to offer.
Currently Sodexo’s other food service operations in the state are not operating at 20% local, so we are hopeful with this new commitment at the UMaine System that they will now extend this goal to all their operations. While we were a competitor in this current contract process, Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative will look at ways we can engage further with the University of Maine System, including UMaine Orono, and Sodexo to integrate the changes and best practices that we are currently implementing elsewhere.
Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative continues to work with institutions, educational and healthcare settings, and producers connecting them with the benefits of healthy local food, developing strong local economy, creating livable wages, and strategically maximizing local food. Our next event is a February 25th workshop with institutions in Portland to present Maine Food to Portland Tables, a manual for using local foods in institutional settings. We have also become a national model as more communities, regions and institutions look at ways to relocalize ownership of their food service with local control and local economic development.
We thank all of our owners, funders (the John Merck Fund, USDA, City of Portland, Impact Assets, Norway Savings Bank and RSF Social Finance), the Cooperative Development Institute which supported the development process, and many collaborators, for your support in helping launch this groundbreaking project.