Photo left to right: Susan Guerrette and Samuel Littrell, NMMC’s Nutrition Department Leader, unpacking the first shipment of local produce from Circle B Farm
FORT KENT — Hippocrates said it best. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. A Nutritional Service Department within a hospital environment has a serious responsibility to respect patients through the food they are served. For more than a year now, Northern Maine Medical Center has been working to partner with local farms to align food services with the institution’s overall health mission.
According to Casey Cote, Director of Support Services, there are two main benefits to the partnerships with local food growers. She said, “The first main benefit is the increased quality and freshness of the fruits and vegetables we will be receiving. Processed foods just don’t have all the good micronutrients that fresh locally sourced foods do. When patients are in the situation of being our guest for multiple days, we can show them healthy and tasty options that they can bring home. The second main benefit is the impact on the local food chain. Without local buyers, the smaller farms have a difficult time. We have a very unique opportunity to support local agriculture and enjoy the bounty of Aroostook County.” Cote believes providing healthy food options and the very best quality of foods is her department’s responsibility to aid in healing.
Given the increasing popularity of buying food products directly from local farmers, as well as the heightened concern regarding health and quality of food in hospitals, there has never been a better time to buy locally. According to Peter Sirois, NMMC President and Chief Executive Officer, “There are only winners with this relationship. Our patients, employees and visitors get the very best food quality available and the money spent goes back to our neighbors, friends and family members who make their living through local farms”. Support of a localized food system assists in reducing the ecological impact of the agricultural sector by decreasing the number of miles that food travels from farm to plate, thereby reducing carbon dioxide emissions, air pollutants, and the use of fossil fuels.
According to Cote, Circle B Farm, located in Fort Fairfield, has stepped up to the plate and has organized a group of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certified farms in Aroostook County. NMMC expects to purchase a wide range of foods, such as; blueberries, strawberries, potatoes, squash, corn on the cob, carrots, onions, parsnips, beets, broccoli, cabbage, Kohlrabi, apples and green beans. Patient menus will have local items served at every meal. The fresher and tastier local foods will add to the patient experience. Samuel Littrell, Nutrition Department Leader said, “When our patients get their meals, we don’t want them to think hospital food. We want them to be blown away by the experience and to look forward to their next meal. We will continuously look for the best quality and freshness for all who come through our doors.” According to Littrell, the Café, where employees and the public are served, will have the same increased level of quality through local foods, as the patients served in the hospital.
Local growers interested in partnering with NMMC are encouraged to call Casey Cote at 834-1314. To learn more about NMMC’s many services, to make a donation or to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit www.nmmc.org and Like us on Facebook!