By Kaitlin Haskins, Communications Manager (outgoing)

Posted September 1, 2015


UMaine System’s ‘Local’ Requirement in Food Service RFP a Great First Step

Farmers and food advocates still pushing for sustainability and fair labor standards in July 2016 contract

On August 31st, the Office of Strategic Procurement for the University of Maine System released their request for proposal (RFP) for food service at six of the seven University of Maine Campuses.

“Maine students, farmers, and community leaders have spoken and the UMaine System has responded with an RFP that includes a 20% commitment to local foods,” said Riley Neugebauer of Farm to Institution New England, and a member of the Maine Food for the UMaine System Coalition. “We’re glad to see this clear statement from the public University System, which will greatly benefit Maine’s producers and processors. The UMaine System has come a long way from their last food service contracting process ten years ago, and we look forward to working with them in the next few months, and throughout the next contract period to implement these goals and more.”  

The recent release of the RFP reflects months of effort on behalf of many stakeholders in Maine and New England who were advocating for language and metrics supporting local, sustainable, humanely-raised, and fairly produced foods. The University System’s commitment to local food is well-articulated in the introduction, and again in Section 7.0 and Appendix B-4 of the RFP. The coalition notes that the RFP would be stronger if it more clearly defined the method that vendors and the University System will use to track and benchmark their progress towards not only local foods, but also sustainably produced, humanely-raised, and fairly produced foods.

On April 22, 2015, students from UMaine Presque Isle marched across campus to encourage the university to make a committment to buy 20% of their food from local producers by year 2020

“It is certainly exciting that the Maine Food for the UMaine System Coalition and our recommendations have made a notable impact on both the RFP process and the product,” said Audrey Cross, a senior at UMaine. “In my two years of working on Real Food Challenge, when I speak with those in the Procurement Office and in UMaine Auxiliary Services, I continue to be impressed at the dedication of individuals to sustainability and serving the state. However, there is still much work to be done. The UMaine System needs to take additional steps to provide clear tools for transparently tracking purchases, institutionalizing student and stakeholder engagement with seats at the table, and developing clearer commitments to issues such as fair labor, humane treatment of animals, and sustainable production methods--in Maine and beyond. Though 20% ‘Real Food’ is not in the RFP, it is still a goal that our campuses will work towards, and it takes students to make sure these commitments happen.”

In July, the Maine Food for the UMaine System Coalition released a comprehensive set of recommendations backed by more than 150 Maine farmers and fishermen, 1,500 students and community members, and 50 additional influential individuals and organizations, including Maine Farmland Trust and MOFGA. The Coalition’s top recommendations focus on community engagement and collaboration:

  1. A commitment to purchase a minimum of 20% Maine Food and 20% ‘Real Food’ (which preferences sustainably grown, humanely-raised and fairly produced foods in addition to local) by 2020, as well as a preference for New England grown food
  2. Creation of a University System-wide Food Working Group, comprised of students, staff, admin, faculty, and important community stakeholders to monitor and hold the new contractor accountable to their commitments as well as help with supply chain development efforts
  3. Use of the Real Food Calculator to track Real Food and Maine Food purchasing, which includes the hiring of students on each campus to run these assessments
  4. A commitment to collaborate with community partners to identify strategic production needs, including holding an annual growers meeting for potential local suppliers and offering transparent pricing and volume information

Bobbi-Jo Oatway, a student at UMaine Presque Isle comments, "Laying out a vision for local foods in the UMaine System is a positive first step. But to make it really happen, the final contract is going to need to have teeth. That is, explicit language on issues of transparency, tracking, and accountability--not to mention guarantees that the men and women who serve our food daily won’t be laid off when the contract changes hands, for example. And that’s why our Coalition and the public at large will continue to be engaged in this process."


Photos by Olivia Hollingsworth

For more information:

Bobbi-Jo Oatway, Student & Real Food organizer (pictured at left), UMPI, (207) 999-1362, [email protected]
Audrey Cross, Student & Real Food organizer, UMaine, (207) 751-8221 [email protected]
Taryn Hallweaver, Director, Environment Maine, (207) 712-6351, [email protected]
Riley Neugebauer, Farm to Campus Coordinator, Farm to Institution New England (FINE), (814) 282-3039, [email protected]
John Piotti, President, Maine Farmland Trust, (207) 338-6575, [email protected]

The Maine Food for UMaine System Coalition’s recommendations, which were delivered to the University System in July 2015, were endorsed by the following:


  1. American Farmland Trust
  2. Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
  3. Conservation Law Foundation
  4. Cultivating Community
  5. Environment Maine
  6. Farm to Institution New England (FINE)
  7. Health Care Without Harm
  8. Island Institute
  9. John Merck Fund
  10. Maine Farmland Trust
  11. Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (MOFGA)
  12. Orono Economic Development Corporation
  13. Penobscot County Soil & Water Conservation District
  14. Penobscot East Resource Center
  15. Real Food Challenge
  16. Slow Money Maine Steering Committee
  17. Southern Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District
  18. The Maine Association of Conservation Districts
  19. The University of Maine Dining Services


  1. Riley Neugebauer | Farm to College Coordinator, Farm to Institution New England, Lincolnville, ME
  2. Genna Cherichello | Organizer, Real Food Challenge, Portland, ME
  3. David Schwartz | National Campaign Coordinator, Real Food Challenge, Boston, MA
  4. Taryn Hallweaver | Director, Environment Maine, Portland, ME
  5. Audrey Cross | Student Organizer with Real Food Challenge, Ecology & Environmental Sciences Major, The University of Maine, Orono, ME
  6. Mike Gold | Program Manager, Farm Viability, Maine Farmland Trust, Unity, ME
  7. Marla O’Byrne | Senior Vice President, Maine Farmland Trust, Belfast, ME
  8. Ben Tettlebaum, Esq. | Rhodes Fellow, Conservation Law Foundation, Portland, ME
  9. Ken Morse | Coordinator, Maine Network of Community Food Councils, Norway, ME
  10. Kyle Foley | Sustainable Seafood Brand Manage, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Portland, ME
  11. Robin Alden | Executive Director, Penobscot East Resource Center, Stonington, ME
  12. Evan Richert | Town Planner, Town of Orono, Orono, ME
  13. Michael Brennan | Mayor, City of Portland, Portland, ME
  14. Gray Harris | Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., Wiscasset, ME
  15. Kathryn Michaud | Executive Director, Central Aroostook Soil & Water Conservation District, Presque Isle, ME
  16. Aaron Englander | Farm and Program Manager, Erickson Fields Preserve, Rockport, ME
  17. Mac McCabe | Sustainable Business Consultant, Portland, ME
  18. Hugh Cowperthwaite | Portland, ME
  19. Molly D. Anderson | Partridge Chair in Food & Sustainable Agriculture Systems, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME
  20. Daniel Sturrup |  Executive Director of Auxiliary Services, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  21. Larry Feinstein, Ph.D. | Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Maine at Presque Isle, Presque Isle, ME
  22. Dr. Aaron Hoshide | Adjunct Assistant Professor/Faculty Associate, School of Economics, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  23. Meghan W. Duff, PsyD. | Associate Professor of Psychology, Psychology & Community Studies Program, University of Maine at Machias, Machias, ME
  24. Mark B. Lapping | Distinguished University Professor, Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service and Principal Investigator, The Maine Food Strategy, University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME
  25. Dr. Marianne Sarrantonio | Associate Professor of Sustainable Agriculture, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  26. Dr. Timothy M. Waring | Assistant Professor, School of Economics, Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  27. Dr. Melissa Ladenheim | Preceptor and Coordinator for Advancement & Judaic Studies Coordinator, Honors College, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  28. Dr. Daniel A. Dixon | Sustainability Coordinator, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  29. Dr. Samuel Hanes | Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  30. Tony Gauvin, MSCS, MBA | Associate Professor of Electronic Commerce, University of Maine at Fort Kent, Fort Kent, ME
  31. Grace Eason, Ph.D. | Professor of Environmental and Science Education, University of Maine at Farmington, Farmington, ME
  32. Mark Haggerty, Ph.D. | Rezendes Preceptor for Civic Engagement, Faculty in the Honors College, University of Maine, Orono, ME