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Maine Food to Portland Tables: Building a Healthy and Sustainable Food System for Portland

Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative and the Cooperative Development Institute have developed a report aimed at strengthening the local food system in Portland. Funding for this report was provided by the Portland Development Corporation’s Portland Economic Development Plan Implementation Program (PEDPIP), the USDA’s Local Foods Promotion Program, and the John Merck Fund. PEDPIP provides grant monies to invest in projects and programs that carry-out Portland’s Economic Development Vision and Plan. This study was conducted to provide institutions and businesses in Portland with resources about incorporating local foods into daily use in order to reduce the City’s reliance on food imported from around the country and around the world.

The overarching vision of this report is to build a healthy and sustainable food system featuring local foods grown and harvested across Greater Portland and the surrounding areas of Maine. Despite the growth of direct-to-consumer local food distribution and the restaurants that have gained fame for Portland, the food processing industry in Portland has fallen on hard times as the fish harvesting and processing businesses have declined. The opportunity arises now to add value to Maine agricultural products and under-utilized fish species.

This report stems from an intense investigation into local food procurement by the Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative. The Cooperative works to create more sustainable food system by maximizing the amount of local foods being used in Maine institutions in order to not only provide fresh, healthy foods, but to provide an economic benefit to local agricultural businesses as well.

With over 90% of Maine’s food imported, the market is vulnerable to disruptions from uncontrollable outside sources. In addition, use of local foods in institutions is low due to accessibility issues and systematic barriers. Increasing the amount institutions spend on local foods will, in turn, support more jobs in food aggregation, supply, and ultimately restore food processing jobs that have been lost. This report will provide innovative solutions and cooperative action to help institutions and producers address the barriers associated with providing more local foods to institutions.

Read the Executive Summary here.

Future discussion groups will refine the guide and make recommendations for further actions. Keep checking out our blog for more information.

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