The University of Maine System (UMS) announced on Feb. 2 that it had awarded its dining operations to Sodexo, a French food service provider. Sodexo has pledged to surpass the 20-percent local food commitment that UMS unanimously approved in May 2015.
According to a UMS press release, Sodexo achieved the highest evolution score during the proposal phase of bidding for the contract. The Request for Proposals (RFP) called for 20 percent of food to be sourced locally, which Sodexo plans to push to 25 percent and 30 percent.
Local food in the new food service contact will be defined as food harvested or produced within 175 miles of any campus, to ensure a spread across the entire state of Maine. Any producer or processor in that range can do business with any UMS institution.
Sodexo also plans to invest $14 million in campus facilities, catering and internship opportunities to improve the dining experience. Sodexo said that it will offer an improved menu and make an effort to maintain employment opportunities for “high performing, non-management staff.”
“That a proven institutional vendor like Sodexo can commit to sourcing at least 25 percent of the food it would serve in our dining halls from local sources is a testament to the growing strength and reach of the Maine food economy,” James H. Page, Chancellor of UMS, said. “As a customer, as a research leader, and through our academic and business development programs, Maine’s public universities will continue to contribute to this impressive, job-creating growth.”
The UMS procurement department is working with UMaine’s Cooperative Extension and food economy leaders to establish a group to help oversee the local food commitment and assist producers in doing business with UMS.
“The contributions and leadership of concerned students, campus experts, Maine producers, and local food champions improved our understanding of just how far we could go with local food,” Rudy Gabrielson, chief procurement officer of UMS, said. “We are thankful for all the input we received and will continue the engagement as we work with our new vendor to create even more opportunities for local producers and to provide our students, staff and guests with as many locally-sourced, sustainable food choices as possible.”
The contract officially begins on July 1 of this year.