FARMINGTON — A team from state universities in Farmington and Presque Isle, and Sodexo, a food service provider, has won a $250,000 New England Food Vision Prize Award to develop, with partners, a vegetable freezing facility in the state, according to a release. The team is one of six winners in New England.

The money will go toward increasing the amount of locally sourced food on campus menus, according to a release. It is an effort to create a sustainable food solution.

The 2019 awards are given by the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, which invites food service leaders from the region’s 200 college and university campuses to apply for the prize. The foundation is a New England philanthropic enterprise that is part of a strong and rapidly expanding network aiming to create a resilient and healthy New England food system. The winning projects are listed at kendall.org/prize.

The $250,000 prizes to each the six teams represent 16 campuses and will support innovative ideas among New England colleges and universities designed to improve the health, sustainability, and vitality of the region’s food system by increasing the amount of regionally produced food on campus menus, according to the foundation’s website.

“We are immensely proud of being selected as co-recipients of the 2019 Food Vision Prize by the Henry P. Kendall Foundation,”  UMF President Edward Serna and UMPI President Raymond J. Rice said in a joint statement. “This initiative brings our universities and our strategic partners to the table for a vital, common purpose, to increase access to sustainable, locally produced food year-round, and in doing so, improve the quality of life for Maine citizens.”

The university team, led by Sodexo and in partnership with the Good Shepherd Food Bank and Maine-based food producer Jasper Wyman & Son Wyman, will endeavor to develop a vegetable freezing facility in Maine, which represents a first-in-the-area opportunity to meet the demand for locally processed product at a price the local market can afford. The facility will sell products into the institutional market and provide product through hunger relief channels, capitalizing on the food bank’s network as well as distribution routes to the kindergarten through grade 12 market.

“We are excited by the possibilities and the opportunity to expand access to Maine-grown products throughout the year,” Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank, said in the news release.

The New England Food Vision Prize is designed to accelerate progress toward the, a bold vision that calls for “our region” to produce at least 50% of our food by 2060, while supporting healthy food for all, sustainable farming and fishing, and thriving communities, according to a UMF news release. The prize is designed to support ideas that result in higher procurement of regional food by institutions, more regional food on campus menus, and increased demand for regional food by students while on campus and beyond the campus as alumnae.

“Sodexo is committed to partnering with our clients to identify and create sustainable food solutions that will benefit our customers and communities in which we serve,” according to Phil Harty, senior vice president, Sodexo Universities North America. “We are excited to partner with UMF, UMPI, Good Shepherd Food Bank and Wyman’s in seeking to provide fresh vegetables year-round,” Harty said in the release.

Ideas for the prize were required to be collaborative, meaning winning ideas had to represent two or more campuses working together. Ideas also had to be replicable and sustainable, applicable outside of the specific contextual factors of one campus or one period of time. Applicants also had to demonstrate how they would measure impact, and include elements of movement-building, such as growing demand or knowledge around regionally produced food.

“We are thrilled to have sparked such interest and creative thinking within just two short years,” according Andrew Kendall, executive director of the foundation.

The winning teams and partners are leveraging the purchasing clout in the marketplace together with engaging their students to create the consistent, long-term demand that local farmers, fishers, and ranchers need to sustain and grow their operations.

“We believe that the ideas represented by this year’s winners reflect the kind of ingenuity needed to build a healthier, sustainable food system in New England,” Kendall said in the release.

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