AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) celebrates the official launch of Maine’s Harvest of the Month (HOM) Program. Harvest of the Month is a program of the Maine Department of Education (DOE), Child Nutrition Program, and was piloted in schools in Spring 2019 with participation from over 165 schools state-wide. The full rollout of the program began this fall for the 2019-2020 school year.
Harvest of the Month is a nationwide marketing campaign promoting the use of seasonally available, local products in schools, institutions, and communities. Each month, a different local product is highlighted and participating entities pledge to serve the product and promote it through educational materials and activities. The program launched in California and has been replicated by dozens of other states across the country. With Maine’s participation, all New England states now have Harvest of the Month programs.
Farmers and Local Producers
One of the major goals of the Maine HOM program is to support Maine farmers and producers, and therefore Maine’s local economy. To help School Food Service Directors successfully source each month’s product, a list of participating producers has been created to help them connect with local farmers, providers, and distributors. Farmers and producers who provide HOM products to schools have the chance to be highlighted on the DOE website, HOM social media, etc. We would like to add more producers to the list for School Year 2020!
School Food Service
Participating School Food Service Directors are asked to take a pledge to serve the monthly HOM product at least two times per month in their cafeterias. In addition to this, they pledge to display HOM promotional materials, such as posters, fun facts, and stickers for students who have tried the HOM product. Featured recipes are also provided each month. They also agree to participate in evaluations so that local produce procurement can be tracked and to analyze the success of the program. Local products may be sourced directly from farms, farmer cooperatives, and distributors. When buying produce directly from a farm or farmer cooperative, School Food Service Directors may take advantage of the Local Produce Fund, which reimburses $1 for every $3 spent on local produce.
Agriculture and Education in Partnership
The Maine Department of Education and Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry have been exploring more ways to connect farmers and food producers with their local school districts. “School food service programs and local farms can go hand and hand, which is why the DACF’s Bureau of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Resources is pleased to collaborate with DOE’s Harvest of the Month program,” according to Nancy McBrady, Director of the Bureau of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Resources. “This program allows participating schools to purchase local, nutritious foods which helps boost farm incomes while educating students about local agriculture. The program directly links School Food Service Directors with participating farmers and producers in their community and the Bureau is thrilled that the Local Produce Fund can assist School Food Service Directors in ordering even more local produce. The Bureau encourages local producers to sign up to be a Harvest of the Month source for schools today!”
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BEING A HOM SOURCE FOR SCHOOLS, CONTACT
Child Nutrition Consultant
OR SIGN UP AT: www.maine.gov/doe/
–Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
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