The University of Maine System announced Tuesday that it already has surpassed the goal it set to source 20 percent of its food from local growers and producers by 2020.

A leader in sourcing local foods to feed its students and staff, the university system said it now is getting 23 percent of its food from local growers and processors. This represents more than $770,000 in sales for local growers and processors as of November 2017 and means the university system is on pace to spend approximately $1.5 million this fiscal year on locally sourced food from 134 different Maine food producers.

The leap to 23 percent represents a more rapid growth of local food purchases in one year than in the last five combined. Last year, the dining system at the University of Maine in Orono was at 17 percent local, according to Glenn Taylor, the director of dining services there and a recent winner of a Source award for his work.

“I said ‘Gee, we are close,’ ” Taylor said. “So we started to work toward purchasing more protein.”

He reached out to producers like Maine Family Farms and Central Maine Meats. Even with some farmers working year-round, produce is seasonal in Maine, and Taylor figured the way to get those numbers up was to focus on meat and poultry. It was indeed the tipping point, he said, and he started to think he might hit that 20 percent goal by this July. Instead he surpassed it.

“I’m proud of that because this has really been about working with the farmers, not the numbers if you will,” Taylor said.


For anyone who eats in one of the dining facilities in Orono, that might mean starting the day with sausage from W.A. Bean & Sons in Bangor, having a hamburger from Central Maine Meats at lunchtime and digging into a roasted pork loin from Maine Family Farms for dinner, he said.

Local meats cost more, even at an institutional level, but Taylor said savings in other areas, like a good bread contract with a company in New York, helps make up the difference.

Meanwhile, Sodexo Inc., which serves the other six campuses in the University of Maine System, has been making its own efforts. The company was awarded the contract in July 2016 and started the Maine Course Initiative as a resource for local producers and as a way to build stronger vendor relationships. It has organized farm tours to learn about products and connect students to sources.

“These farmers and small-business owners have fascinating stories to tell, and they are able to convey how important local food purchasing is,” Maeve McInnis, Maine Course Director for Sodexo, said in a statement.

The announcement was made during a luncheon attended by Walt Whitcomb, Maine’s commissioner of agriculture, at the annual Maine Agricultural Trades Show in Augusta. Whitcomb said in a statement that the announcement was proof “that food operations of all sizes and locations can put local food on the menu.”

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