Hungry for sustainable food? You’re not alone. People across Maine are working to recreate the state’s once thriving food infrastructure to meet the rising demand for higher quality, minimally processed food produced closer to home.
As a reflection of this trend, and just in time for Earth Day on Sunday, three different sustainable food events take place across Maine in the coming days that will explore issues related to local food, environmentally responsible food and food policy.
“What’s behind the burgeoning interest are concerns about food safety concerns about social justice concerns about obesity,” said Molly Anderson, a food and sustainable agriculture professor at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor and organizer of this weekend’s food conference at the school.
The conference, “Food Connections: Reconnecting Hands, Mouth & Mind through Food Systems Education,” will bring together national speakers and local experts to begin a conversation about where the gaps exist in Maine’s reviving food system.
The conference will also explore issues related to food systems education, food waste and food insecurity, and the connection between conventionally produced food and environmental degradation and illness.
“In the United States, we are really just starting to think about what sustainable consumption is,” Anderson said. “We need to change our consumption habits so we’re not pigging out at McDonald’s all the time, because it’s taking years off our lives.”
In Portland, Space Gallery’s fifth annual Food + Farm series starts Thursday and continues through Sunday. The popular event features film screenings, lectures and hands-on farming events.
“It is interesting working in a town like this where the foodie and food justice communities are so strong,” said Food + Farm organizer and Space co-founder Jon Courtney.
Courtney predicts that the talk and film screening on Saturday by chef and filmmaker Daniel Klein of the Perennial Plate will be one of the event’s big draws. Klein and his girlfriend, Mirra Fine, have produced short films focusing on sustainable food.
“Daniel Klein is finding these really interesting stories,” Courtney said.
Among the people profiled in the short films are a kelp harvester from Midcoast Maine, an entomologist who wants Americans to eat bugs, and a dumpster diver.
The pair have traveled the country to uncover these unique stories of sustainable food. As an interesting aside, Courtney said Fine became a vegetarian after she and Klein shot the first episode in the film series, which featured the slaughter of a turkey for Thanksgiving.
Also on Thursday, the first Portland Community Food Forum takes place at Woodfords Congregational Church. Sponsored by the city’s Healthy Portland division, the loosely structured event aims to connect various parties interested in making locally produced food more accessible in the city.
“The bigger goal is to take a first step to start a conversation in Portland about how we’re structuring our food system,” said organizer Jeremy Bloom, whose firm, Internet Farmer, provides online selling tools for farmers.
The gathering will include two panel discussions and networking events. Bloom declined to provide the names of panelists or a schedule of the day’s events, saying “we have a nice selection of people involved.”
“What we’re really talking about is everything from distribution to a compost program for restaurants to how we support the farmers that give us food,” Bloom said. “It’s really across the board and it involves the farmers, restaurant owners, cooks, gardeners and regular folks who eat the food.”
Bloom hopes the forum will lead to the creation of an official food group that would advise the Portland City Council in a manner similar to the Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
So whether you’re interested in making Portland a more robust local food community, learning about national sustainable food issues or improving Maine’s food infrastructure, you’re sure to find fodder to satisfy your hunger at one of these events.
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]