Campus Highlight: The University of Maine Machias hits 31% Local!

by Maine Course

Posted on April 09, 2018

Today's post has been written by Tanesha Pottle, an environmental studies student at the University of Maine Machias and our wonderful sustainability and marketing intern. She has written about her experience working on with the team at Machias.

Over the course of this spring semester, I have had the privilege to work with Sodexo Dining Services at University of Maine at Machias (UMM) as a sustainability and marketing intern. During this time, I have learned of Sodexo’s initiative to purchase Maine grown, harvested, and produced products. Today, UMM dining services has become the leading local purchaser within the six University of Maine System accounts Sodexo manages, supplying students, staff, and community members with 31% local products. To reach this purchasing goal, General Manager Matt Ensworth and Executive Chef Gail Gordon composed a purchasing monitor to manage their local spent percentage. From the help of this strategy, UMM’s local purchasing surpassed its initial goal of 20% set for 2020, three years early. Sodexo’s initiative towards local purchasing has not only provided fresh sustainable foods to the public, it seeks to improve the economic well-being of our community. Currently UMM dining has supported over 30 regional food distributors. Matt & Gail hopes this is creating local wealth and jobs. 

To honor Sodexo’s commitment to responsibly harvest underutilized seafood, UMM dining has partnered with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI). This partnership is focused on the health of Maine’s seafood, with plans to provide 100% responsibly harvested Maine whitefish to customers by 2020. As of December 2017, UMM has utilized approximately 78% of Maine’s responsibly harvested under-loved fresh whitefish. UMM has extended their menu to include most of the five under-loved Maine fish including Atlantic pollock, red fish, and mackerel. According to head Chef Gail Gordon, “the success of the dish depends on the seasoning and type of cooking involved. The faculty, staff, and students enjoy our fried Pollock fish and chips, grilled Cajun-seasoned red fish, baked hake with a four-herb gremolata, and our fish chowder featuring pollock or hake.” Kyle Little, a student here at UMM emphasizes that he loves how Sodexo purchases Gulf of Maine caught seafood. His favorite seafood dish served is the pretzel coated salmon a dish using True North salmon from their coastal farm off the coast of Jonesport, Maine. The range of fish species offered at UMM has provided a variety of meal options for community members while supplying additional income opportunities for local fishermen. 

To mitigate the volume of food that enters landfills, UMM dining has donated discarded food waste to Nina Perna, owner of local farm Pine Ridge. This food waste has reduced Pine Ridge’s dependence on chemical fertilizers to improve soil quality. In addition food waste has also contributed in helping feed the farms livestock, including their chickens, and pigs. According to owner Nina Perna, by utilizing discarded waste from UMM has cut Pine Ridge’s grain bill by two-thirds! 

Working with Sodexo at UMM has been an enlightening experience that I’m pleased to be a part of. This internship has allowed me to engage and interact with fellow students through information tabling and tastings of locally produced products. Connecting with fellow students and community members has been a gratifying process to bring awareness of Sodexo’s ingenuity to support both local agriculture and the economy through regional purchasing. Currently we are organizing a local vendor event on Saturday April 28th to bring further recognition to Maine products implemented here at UMM.