Collaborative Efforts Boost Maine's Local Food Sytem
Maine is investing more in local agriculture and is taking steps to return to a time when Maine was the "bread basket of the Northeast" and the majority of food consumed in Maine was produced in Maine. States interested in promoting local foods as part of larger planning efforts can learn from the successful collaborative approaches activating interest in Maine's food system.
Collaborative initiatives in Maine's food system include:
- Local Food Councils. Spearheaded by the Maine Network of Community Food Councils, local councils across the state apply a systems approach to supporting and strengthening food production and access. Efforts include the Maine Food Atlas, an asset mapping tool focused on food.
- Maine Food Strategy. This initiative is convening a statewide participatory process that will identify and advance shared goals to support a robust food economy in our state.
- Maine Local Foods Access Network (MLFAN), a group of Maine nonprofits collaborating to improve low-income access to locally grown foods across the state. Activities include Maine Harvest Bucks, where SNAP shoppers receive bonus local fruits and vegetables, stretching limited benefits much further.
- Maine's Farm and Fish to School. This network knits together a wide diversity of students, teachers, school nutritionists, parents, farmers and groups who support child nutrition and Maine agriculture.
- Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative, a procurement and food service management company that provides Maine institutions with the highest possible percentage of locally produced, value-added food.
Despite Maine's growing food revolution, there are challenges to promoting local food, such as the lack of processing facilities and poor infrastructure.
Planners can support local food initiatives by having strong, clear ordinances that prevent conflict between producers and their neighbors, such as local ordinances that strengthen state right-to-farm rules and allow farm stands and farmers' markets.