Sodexo (No. 6 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list), world leader of Quality of Life services, and the University of Maine are bridging the gap between local business owners and food distributors through an information expo on serving locally sourced seafood and produce on college campuses.
On November 1 and 3, Sodexo and the University of Maine hosted Scaling Up, a networking and professional development event aimed at helping local farmers, businesses, and fishermen secure a larger market reach for their products.
Scaling Up was part of The Maine Course by Sodexo, a statewide initiative created in 2015 to prioritize serving local and sustainably harvested seafood at all of the company's client sites in Maine. Since the Maine Course by Sodexo began instituting local purchasing processes in July, local food purchasing within the University of Maine System has increased every month.
"We wanted local business owners to leave the expo informed about how to take the next step in selling to an institution like Sodexo or the University of Maine at Orono," said Maeve McInnis, director of The Maine Course by Sodexo.
During the events, which were held at two of Maine's public university campuses, participants and presenters discussed how local fisheries, producers, and vendors could start on the path to providing local food to University of Maine System students and staff. Food distributors discussed how to engage with Sodexo, a global company that is committed to making a positive economic impact on the communities in which it operates.
"I know that buying 'local' is trendy at present," said Lou Miller, a local business owner. "But the goodwill and presentation by the panel members showed me sincerity and staying power in their efforts. We had a terrific day."
Presenters at Scaling Up included Ron Dryer, director for the Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources branch of the State of Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry and Jed Beach from Maine Farmland Trust, as well as Sodexo's North American distribution partners and supply managers.
"Our aim is to have the largest possible positive impact on Maine's economy," explained McInnis.
Selling to a large institution is often a challenge for small business owners. To facilitate the process for local business owners, the Scaling Up event included presentations and networking opportunities with distributors, University of Maine administrators and the Sodexo team.
"Sodexo and the University of Maine System are both committed to the economic, social, and environmental development of the communities around us," said McInnis. "These events initiated connections between institution and local business owners. We hope that these connections lead to business growth for both parties."
More information on Scaling Up and Sodexo's commitments to responsible food sourcing can be found at www.mainecoursebysodexo.com.