BANGOR, Maine — The University of Maine System has tentatively selected an international food services firm to feed students and staffers on six of the system’s seven campuses, officials announced Tuesday.
Sodexo, a French company formed 50 years ago that has since spread globally, has promised to exceed the system’s commitment to sourcing 20 percent of its food locally by 2020 and invest $14 million in campus facilities, according to its proposal. Sodexo says it will hit the 20 percent local target in Year One of its contract and reach 25 to 30 percent by 2020.
“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,” UMS Chancellor James Page said in a news release.
Sodexo’s proposal states the company will maintain costs at or below current levels and improve and expand the menu.
Last year, while the system prepared to search for its next food vendor, Maine students and farmers formed coalitions urging system officials to hire someone who would commit to boosting the amount of food sourced locally. They argued that would support local economies and agricultural industries, as well as be better for the environment because food would be shipped shorter distances. Local food is defined as any harvested or produced within 175 miles of one of the system’s campuses.
“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 to provide our students, staff and guests with as many locally sourced, sustainable food choices as possible,” Rudy Gabrielson, chief procurement officer for the system, said.
The system’s current food expenses are around $8.6 million, meaning that purchases from local producers are expected to surpass $1.5 million per year by 2020.
Now the system must wait five days before entering contract negotiations with Sodexo. The wait period will allow the three other applicants that responded to the system’s request for food services proposals a chance to appeal the decision. That request was issued Aug. 31, and the deadline for submissions was Nov. 4.
Sodexo offers food management at about 9,000 sites in the U.S., employing more than 132,000 people. That includes several Maine schools and hospitals, Maine Maritime Academy in Castine and Colby College in Waterville among them.
UMS’ flagship campus in Orono handles its own food services, so it won’t be included in this contract, but the campus also has pledged to hit the 20 percent local mark.
The system’s $12.5 million contract with Aramark, a national food services company based in Philadelphia, has been in place for a decade. That agreement expires this summer, allowing the next company to take over.
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