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.

 

MEDIA RELEASE: Organizations needed to feed hungry children this summer

AUGUSTA — With the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Maine public schools have long offered a nutritious breakfast and lunch meal program to thousands of income eligible children in Maine during the school year. To extend this program, the Child Nutrition team at the Maine Department of Education (Maine DOE) is seeking organizations who would like to participate in the federally funded Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which provides children healthy meals when school is not in session.

“It is imperative that we continue expanding this tremendous program to ensure that children have the benefit of free and healthy meals from the program all year long, no matter where they live in our state,” said Maine Education Commissioner Robert G. Hasson, Jr.

In 2017, 120 sponsors participated in the program, serving meals at 438 sites throughout the state. Although the program continues to grow in Maine, there is still a long way to go towards feeding all eligible children during the summer. Community partners are working to maximize the number of sponsors utilizing the availability of funds under the SFSP.

The Summer Food Service Program may be offered statewide in areas or at sites where more than 50 percent of the children are eligible for free or reduced meal benefits under the National School Lunch Program or census track data supports the need. Organizations that provide services in rural communities or near migrant farm workers and American Indian populations are urged to participate. Eligible sponsoring organizations include schools, nonprofit residential summer camps, government agencies, and tax-exempt organizations including faith-based organizations.

Maine DOE encourages any eligible organization to consider providing this much-needed service to Maine children. The agency will begin accepting applications to participate in February. Approved sponsors will be reimbursed for eligible meals served to children during the long summer break.

Interested organizations should begin planning now for a successful summer. Potential sponsors are required to attend training sessions. For a complete schedule of trainings, please visit http://www.maine.gov/doe/nutrition/resources/events.html. Maine DOE is available to attend meetings or consult by phone and email to answer questions regarding summer meals.   For more information about the Maine DOE’s Summer Food Service Program, contact adriane.ackroyd@maine.gov, call 624-6726 or visit http://www.maine.gov/doe/nutrition/programs/sfsp/index.html.

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In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity, in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.) should contact the Agency ere they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, heard of hearing, or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program discrimination complaint, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, AD-3027, found online at How to File a Program Discrimination Complaint and at any USDA office or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;
(2) fax: (202) 690-7442; or
(3) email: program.intake@usda.gov.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. In accordance with State law this institution is prohibited from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation or disability. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs)

To file a complaint of discrimination, write Maine Human Rights Commission, 51 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333-0051. Maine is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

School Meal Benefits

The School Lunch Program can help families that are struggling financially with their food costs.  Households can apply anytime throughout the school year for meal benefits that are offered by school districts. A family may apply for any reason: a change in employment, household size, gaining guardianship of a child or simply applying for the first time.

In accordance with federal regulations, schools must provide hard copies of application materials to families, electronic availability can be offered as well. (7 CFR §245.6(a) General requirements-content of application and descriptive materials., 7 CFR §245.6(a)(3) Electronic availability)

USDA Federal regulations require that information obtained from families must be held in strict confidence.  If the student’s eligibility status is released to staff, the district will receive penalties for breaking the family’s confidence.

Your Food Service Director with administrative support, may want to send information home regarding the program to encourage families to apply for meal benefits, which will in turn increase the district’s free and reduced percentages.  Districts have realized some success in application returns by including a self-addressed envelope to the Food Service Director.

Students who are eligible for free or reduced price meals at the end of the school year will remain eligible for the first 30 operating days of the next school year (typically mid-October.)

For more information, please call Child Nutrition Director, Walter Beesley at 624-6875 or email walter.beesley@maine.gov.

Schools across Maine celebrate Maine Harvest Lunch Week

 

Picking Carrots at the greenhouse in Trenton, Maine

Maine Baked Fish Vera Cruz, meatloaf made with locally raised beef and school garden grown rainbow carrots were “on the menu” for schools across Maine who celebrated Maine Harvest Lunch Week. Each year this Maine DOE sponsored event designates one week in September to educate students on where their food comes from by serving up Maine grown foods on the menu and promoting Farm to School in the wider school community. This year the celebrations took place the week of September 18-22, 2017, and while most schools participate on the selected week, other schools chose to highlight Maine grown foods on a week of their choice.

Events from southern to coastal Maine took place with a different Farm to School focus. At RSU 21, the focus was on getting students in the kitchen and serving up some local Maine fare. Kindergarten students at Kennebunkport Consolidated School got some hands-on experience shucking local corn and preparing fresh Maine kale in the school kitchen. At Kennebunk High School a delicious local lunch featured fish, broccoli and corn on the cob. Middle school offerings included slider sloppy Joe’s made with local beef and oven baked local red potatoes.

Kale @ Kennebunk!

At Trenton Elementary School, their Food Corps Service member worked with the school nutrition program to incorporate produce from their own school garden and greenhouse into school meals. Second graders got their hands dirty harvesting rainbow carrots, which were offered on the lunchtime salad bar. Sixth graders used their muscles to harvest 55 pounds of zucchini, which was used to make fresh, homemade zucchini muffins! A “harvest of the month” taste test also took place where the entire school sampled school greenhouse grown spaghetti squash with a side of marinara sauce, yum yum! A Maine map of farms who contributed local produce during the week was displayed in the cafeteria to connect students to where their food came from. Food Corps service member, Nicole Gurreri, remarks “Harvest Lunch Week has been a perfect kick off to a year of farm to school activities!”. The school plans on harvesting spinach, kale, Chinese cabbage and other crops from their school greenhouse throughout the winter months.

 

RSU 3, based out of Unity, planned a week of harvest lunches district wide but also wanted to involve parents and community members in their Harvest Day Celebration. Hundreds of family

Friends and Family Enjoy the Harvest at RSU 3.

members joined their elementary students for a harvest lunch meal at the Mt. View Complex in Thorndike. The menu featured meatloaf made with local beef raised in pastures across the street from the Mt. View school campus, as well as local red potatoes, apples, and Maine wild blueberry crisp. You can’t get more local than that! The cafeteria featured harvest décor, including posters and other decorations proudly made by Mt. View Elementary students.

Maine Harvest Lunch Week is celebrated district-wide at RSU 17 each year; however this year a new resource was introduced to encourage families to

Ms. Gloria Serving locally sourced meatloaf with a smile! -RSU 3

eat local foods well beyond the one week celebration. The “Western Foothills Harvest Map” shows a map of the surrounding area featuring farms and markets where parents and students can visit and experience local food. Members from Healthy Oxford Hills introduced the map in classrooms while using the “Maine Foods for Maine Kids” curriculum. This partnership between Healthy Oxford Hills and RSU 17 resulted in creating the harvest map for families to use. They hope that parents and students will discover, explore, learn, meet and eat fresh local foods from farms and markets in the community. A link to the harvest map can be found here.

Lot’s of Color and Yummy Options. -RSU 3

Maine Harvest Lunch Week is a celebration of local foods that many school districts across Maine take part in. Although it is only designated one week out of the school year, it is a jump start for more Farm to School activities to take place throughout the year. For more information on Maine Harvest Lunch Week please contact Stephanie Stambach, Child Nutrition Consultant at the Maine DOE at stephanie.stambach@maine.gov or 624-6732.

Yarmouth takes grand prize in Farm to School Cook-off

Whole grain crepes, a wild blueberry kelp smoothie, granola encrusted French toast and fish tacos were featured on the menu as the top two teams of school food service staff faced off at Freeport High School on April 26. This was the final round of the 2nd Annual Maine Farm to School Cook-off, sponsored by the Maine Department of Education, Child Nutrition department. The cook-off aims to promote local products in school meals while showcasing the skills of school food service staff.

Pictured L to R: Stephanie Stambach (Maine DOE), Nikki Dovoren, Blaire Currier (Yarmouth School Department Food Service)

Each team prepared a breakfast and lunch meal that was presented to a panel of judges including a culinary arts student, chef and school nutrition director. The judges scored the dishes based on presentation, taste, creativity and food cost, as well as food safety and time management.

For breakfast, Yarmouth whipped up whole grain crepes with a strawberry topping and Maine maple syrup. This was paired with a wild blueberry kelp smoothie. The judges were impressed by the flavor and texture of the smoothie and commended the team for introducing a less common food to students in an appealing way. RSU 52 created a granola encrusted French toast and wild blueberry compote paired with a strawberry smoothie. Each team was tasked to incorporate wild Maine blueberries as a challenge ingredient in their breakfast dishes.

For lunch, Mexican fare was featured by both teams. RSU 52 cooked up chicken quesadillas with a fresh fruit salsa and grilled potatozana. Yarmouth prepared fish tacos using Gulf of Maine fish with a side of roasted potatoes and apple salsa. The judges commended the teams for a creative twist on a traditional salsa. Maine potatoes were used as the challenge ingredient for lunch.

Congratulations to Yarmouth who took the grand prize and was named the 2017 Maine Farm to School Cook-off Champion! All recipes from the cook-off will be shared in a Maine farm to school cook-off recipe book to be compiled this summer.

For information on how you can be part of next year’s Farm to School cook-off, contact Maine DOE’s  Child Nutrition Consultant Stephanie Stambach at Stephanie.stambach@maine.gov.

Maine DOE kicks off 2nd Annual Farm to School Cook-off

The Maine Department of Education is holding its 2nd annual Maine Farm to School Cook-off this month. The cook-off showcases the skills of local school food service staff, while promoting locally grown products in school meals.

School food service teams representing Falmouth, Yarmouth, RSU 14 – Windham/Raymond, Lewiston, RSU 52 – Turner, and RSU 54 – Skowhegan, will be participating in the event this year.

Last year’s participants were from Lewiston Public Schools, RSU 38 – Maranacook, Portland Public Schools, and RSU 61 – Lakes Region Schools, with the winning team from Five Town CSD/MSAD 28 & RSU 13 –Rockport, Camden, Rockland and surrounding towns.

For the competition, each team must prepare a breakfast and lunch meal within a specific time frame using at least two ingredients that are grown, raised, caught, or manufactured in the State of Maine and meet National School Breakfast and Lunch Program requirements as well as one USDA food. As an added twist Maine wild blueberries and Maine potatoes will be used as “challenge” ingredients in the competition. All recipes will later be shared in a Maine farm to school cook-off recipe book.

This year, the regional cook-offs will be held on the March 27 at the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center and on March 31 at the Capital Area Technical Center in Augusta.

The final cook-off on April 26th will be held at the Freeport High School’s newly renovated kitchen and dining area.

Westbrook and Augusta CTE centers are returning hosts for the cook-off, while Freeport High School joins in for the first time. The locations were chosen as cook-off sites for their well-equipped kitchens and cooking and presentation areas.

A panel of judges for the two regional cook-offs will consist of a CTE culinary arts student, school nutrition director, and professional chef. The dishes will be scored based on presentation, taste, creativity, and feasibility to be used in a school breakfast or lunch program. Other criteria will include food safety and time management.

Judges for the final event will include a Freeport High School student, a school nutrition director and a professional chef. The winning team will be awarded a plaque and have the opportunity to be spokespeople for the second annual cook off in 2018.

The cook-off is part of the State’s child nutrition projects and follows legislation to support healthy meals in schools. For more information on Maine’s Local Foods to Local Schools program, visit www.maine.gov/doe/nutrition/programs/localfoods/.

Members of the media are welcome to attend any the events. We ask that you confirm you are coming ahead of time by contacting Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov or call 624-6747.

Maine DOE Child Nutrition Announces Change to the USDA Food Program Ordering

Maine DOE Child Nutrition announces the annual order opening date for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Program for School Administrative Units (SAU) is March 7, 2017. The SAU must order their USDA food products beginning on March 7, 2017 to March 20, 2017.  The deadline date has no flexibility.  This is the first year the annual order has been moved to March.  This federally required change allows the SAU to order the items they want and the amount they want, up to their entitlement level.

Once the SAU orders, Maine DOE Child Nutrition will place the order with USDA based on local orders. USDA will ship product to Maine’s contracted warehouse for distribution to the local SAU.  It is imperative the SAU order their product for next school year by the deadline date.  This will be the only time period the SAU can order product for the annual order.  There will be opportunities to pick up some limited items monthly, but 95% of the product will be ordered for the specific SAU.  The new March annual order has been promoted to SAU food service program staff at meetings, weekly updates and training over the last year.  This is a very tight schedule for ordering on the local and state level.  Maine must have all orders into USDA in March.  Different products have different USDA deadline dates, but all are in March.  Products are ordered in the Maine DOE NEO system as in prior years, but in March not August.  The deadline date to order is close of business on March 20, 2017.

Additionally, there will be changes to the USDA fresh product offering for School Year 2018.

For more information, contact Child Nutrition Director Walter Beesley at walter.beesley@maine.gov or call 624-6875 or Terri Fitzgerald at terri.fitzgerald@maine.gov or call 624-6882.