By Kaitlin Haskins, Communications Manager (outgoing)

Posted February 17, 2016


UMaine Students Take Action for Real Food on Valentine's Day

Real Food Proponents Implore UMaine President: Don’t Break our Hearts

On President’s Day, students and community members gathered outside President Susan Hunter’s office in Alumni Hall at the University of Maine in Orono with baskets of Valentines to demonstrate support for real food — food that is local, ecologically sound, fair, or humane. This action follows the announcement earlier this month that Sodexo will now provide food service to every University of Maine System (UMS) campus but Orono, which is self-operated. Both Sodexo and Orono’s Dining Services will be required to procure 20% local food by 2020 by UMS policy, but students are concerned the local requirement is not enough.

“We want to avoid a situation like the one at the University of Kentucky where the well-intentioned local definition got diluted,” says Audrey Cross, a fifth-year student at UMaine. In 2015, The University of Kentucky dining contractor, Aramark, fulfilled half of its 20% local commitment by spending $1 million with the local Coca-Cola bottling plant. According to Sarah Fritschner, Coordinator of Louisville Farm to Table, “Local must be defined with a commitment to direct farm impact.” Cross says, “We want UMaine to have that direct farm impact, and a commitment to real food standards is the best way UMaine can accomplish that.”

The student group offered President Hunter a public choice between two baskets of homemade Valentines. One basket was labeled “Real Food for Mainers” and contained organic chocolate truffles and carrots from a local farm. The second basket labeled “Exploitative Food for Corporations” contained sarcastic Valentines such as “I love supporting giant food corporations that produce tons of toxic run-off and greenhouse gases," accompanied with highly processed sweets and bottles of Coca-Cola, signifying the consequences of the University of Kentucky’s loose definition of local. “We were reassured that President Hunter chose the real food basket. However we will be expecting that, based on her decision, she will put efforts into working with us to bring real food to UMaine by signing the Real Food Campus Commitment,” says Saird Mackie-Malcolm, a senior at UMaine.

The Real Food Challenge is a national, student-led effort to shift university food budgets away from industrial farms and junk food and towards local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound, and humane food sources. Real Food Challenge UMaine has operated the Real Food Calculator, a tracking tool for students to monitor food purchases, and has collected over 1500 petition signatures in support of Real Food. Students have been a part of the Maine Food for UMaine Coalition which made recommendations backed by 150 Maine producers and 50 individuals and organizations for the University of Maine System to commit to local and Real food in its system-wide foodservice contract. This January, students made the case for Real Food at the UMS Board of Trustees Meeting.

“We have been advocating for Real Food for a total of three years,” says Robin Pelkey, a junior at UMaine, “and we believe now is the time for President Hunter to recognize the widespread support for Real Food by signing a public commitment to 20% Real Food by 2020.”

For more information, contact UMaine Real Food Challenge student leaders: