Upcoming Summit focused on local foods for schools, hospitals, colleges and more

Maine Farm to Institution and the Maine Farm to School Network will be hosting the 2018 Maine Farm to Institution Summit in Belfast’s UMaine Hutchinson Center on February 9, from 7:30 am to 5 pm. This all-day event for those interested in cultivating an equitable and resilient Maine food system is open to everyone.

MEFTI Steering Committee member and Summit lead organizer Riley Neugebauer said, “We’re excited about the range of presenters and the variety of topics that will be covered. Since there will be over 60 presenters at the event, we think that there will be something for everyone, from those who consider themselves beginners in the field, to those who understand or have participated in farm to institution efforts at an advanced level.”

Renee Page, involved in the leadership of both MEFTI and the Maine Farm to School Network (MFSN), and Assistant Director of Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, said that this is a new initiative for the organization; in previous years, the Maine Farm to School Network took the lead on facilitating similar conferences that focused solely on farm to school. In order to reflect a broader vision of farm to institution efforts across the state and to ease the financial/organizational burden on the volunteer-led farm to school network, MEFTI joined with MFSN to organize the upcoming Summit, and to expand the program and outreach into additional sectors such as healthcare, colleges & universities, and prisons.

At the Summit, the planning committee members will gather institutional food service staff, farmers, fishermen, distributors, government agency staff, nonprofits and others to inspire and energize the network through sharing best practices and innovative strategies; and to strengthen collective impact by engaging food producers, educators, decision makers, leaders, and policymakers in shared problem solving.

Page said, “We see the Summit as an opportunity to expand the ongoing conversation around the farm to institution vision and hope that it will forge stronger and more comprehensive relationships among stakeholders, as well as lead to statewide business partnerships and strategic policy change.”

Organizers anticipate that attendees will leave with new skills, new perspectives, new partnerships, the inspiration to set and achieve bolder goals for Maine’s food system, and a clear understanding of the need for and relevancy of farm to institution efforts in Maine.

The welcome and opening remarks for the event begin at 8:45 am, with the event closing at 5 pm. Registration is $40; to register, or for more information about the event, please visit www.mainefarmtoinstitution.org/registration. Organizers encourage attendees to register online before the event at this link, but will accept walk-in registrations as well. The UMaine Hutchinson Center is located at 80 Belmont Avenue (Route 3) in Belfast.

In case of inclement weather, a snow date is set for Monday, February 12th at the UMaine Hutchinson Center. To find out if the event has been postponed, information will be posted on the website www.mainefarmtoinstitution.org and on the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/534118093604257/.

Planning committee members would like to thank the following major sponsors of the event: Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Maine Agriculture in the Classroom, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Sodexo, Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, MaineHealth, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, Farm to Institution New England, and UMaine Cooperative Extension. Additional sponsors include: Maine Farmland Trust, Let’s Go!, HealthCare Without Harm, USM Food Studies Program, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, MOFGA, Lakeside Farms, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Fedco, Farm Fresh Connection, Heiwa Tofu, PFG Northcenter, Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative, Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, Native Maine Produce & Specialty Foods, Healthy Acadia, Maine General Medical Center, Oakhurst Dairy, PJ Merrill Seafood, Crave Food Services, Maine Grains, Grandy Oats, Bates College Dining, VitaminSea, and The Maine Meal. Event partners include FoodCorps Maine, Maine School Garden Network, Maine Department of Education, and the Maine Network of Community Food Councils.

For further information contact Renee Page, Maine Farm to Institution/Maine Farm to School Network/Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, r.page@hccame.org (207-588-5347)

Maine Farm to Institution is a multi-sector network of people from across the state interested in increasing institutional purchasing of local foods.