Our GREENandSAVE Staff is pleased to inform our members and readers about organizations that are helping to promote sustainability. If you would like us to profile your organization please Contact Us.
Student Farmers is actively looking to recruit a student ambassador in Maine, as well as farm mentors in Maine that can help guide students. Overall, student farming is a great way to reduce the distance from farm to table and increase health for students as well as their parents.
Here is an overview on Student Farmers
Student Farmers is a growing group of students who are committed to in-home and in-school sustainable farming as a means to promote physical fitness and environmental stewardship.
Our Mission: To improve health and nutrition education, combat the challenges of climate change, and support each other in generating some revenue to help pay for college.
Our Vision: To increase knowledge about the advantages of eating more heathy and locally grown vegetables across the range of high school and college age students. We also hope that many of the parents of the students will learn from their children’s engagement in our organization and adopt a diet with less processed foods to reduce the growing cost of healthcare.
Here is an example of an agriculture education program in Maine:
AUGUSTA — A new initiative will soon bring locally grown broccoli into the dining halls of the seven schools in the University of Maine System.
The vegetable — one of the most popular in college cafeterias — will be grown in Aroostook County, then flash frozen and distributed to the schools, including the University of Maine at Augusta and University of Maine at Farmington, as soon as this fall.
The partnership between the University of Maine’s food supplier, Sodexo, and Harvesting Good, a for-profit subsidiary of Good Shepherd Food Bank, will also extend to some of Sodexo’s other large accounts, such as Central Maine Healthcare, which runs the Lewiston hospital.
Maeve McInnis directs the Sodexo program Maine Course, which first introduced local products — mainly whitefish — to the University of Maine system about five years ago. She said she and her boss at Sodexo chose to add broccoli this year because of how popular it is at universities. They saw it as a vegetable that also could be easily frozen and produced in Maine, benefitting the food supply economy.
“On college campuses, broccoli is probably the biggest-moving vegetable,” McInnis said. “Not only that, but having access to a frozen broccoli product would also help extend the ability to (serve) local products throughout the year.”
MORE LOCAL FOOD, LESS WASTE
Maine Course began in 2015 and is a statewide food-sourcing program for Sodexo’s accounts in Maine aimed at providing more Maine-produced food options and reducing waste. The program first partnered with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and made gains when it went from purchasing 20% “under-loved” whitefish in 2018 to purchasing 100% in 2020 for all University of Maine campuses.
Maine Course is unique to the state, but is the second program of its kind within the company. The first was in Vermont.
According to McInnis, similar programs are on their way to being started in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. But Maine and Vermont are the “catalysts in the show case” of what can be done through the program, she said.
To get the frozen broccoli initiative off the ground, McInnis connected with Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank, and realized there was a shared interested in finding and sustaining frozen fruits and vegetables. The pair kept in touch and together wrote a proposal for funding through the Kendall Food Vision Prize. They ended up winning $250,000 in seed money in 2019.
Sodexo spends around $1 million annually on state-grown food for its customers in Maine. The investments have allowed some Maine farms to expand from having staff primarily during harvesting season to employing people year-round to accommodate the demand.