Here in Maine, we are living in a time of enormous opportunity. We can leverage our strengths to enhance our economy and create jobs while we simultaneously help to improve food security and health for all Mainers.
Interest in the health and economic benefits of locally produced foods is growing – both for our own consumption in Maine as well as for distribution further afield. Now is the time to link all our good work together, grow the Maine economy around food, agriculture and fisheries, and enhance access to Maine foods and employment opportunities for Maine citizens. The initiative is open to everyone and participants will collaboratively identify shared goals and strategies that support these opportunities.
Food plans and policies are not new to Maine, several having been developed or partially developed over the years for different parts of our food system. The Maine Food Strategy seeks to learn from those past efforts while building out a stronger network of engaged participants in order to increase the chances of making real positive and measurable change for as many sectors as possible.
At the same time, all of New England is starting to engage in a discussion of how the six states could, in fact, meet the majority of their food needs from within their own borders by the year 2060. This is a broad conversation, creating a “vision” of what is possible and, in that vision, Maine plays a large role as a food producer not just for itself but also for neighboring states. This represents an important opportunity for our food economy in Maine. Read more about the New England Food Vision here.
What is a “Food System?”
The term “food system” is used frequently in discussions about nutrition, food, health, economic development, food security, farming and fishing. A food system includes all processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population: growing or harvesting, processing, packaging, aggregation, distribution, transportation, marketing, consumption and disposal/recycling of food and food-related items. It also includes the inputs needed and outputs generated at each of these steps. A food system operates within and is influenced by social, political, economic and environmental contexts. It also requires human resources that provide labor, research and education.
Motivations for The Maine Food Strategy
- Increase production & economic activity in the food/farm/fishing sectors
- Take advantage of Maine’s position as a future bread basket for New England
- Increase health, nutrition & food security for all Mainers while decreasing societal costs of diet-related disease
- Create desirable, rewarding jobs throughout the food sector
- Maintain & enhance the natural resource base underlying a productive food economy
- Connect the good work of many groups across the state already underway
Solving Problems & Managing Risk
- Buffer against disruptions in national/global food supply due to weather or other issues
- Resolve infrastructure needs such as processing capacity and local distribution
- Address policies that slow down the development of our local food economy
- Build opportunities to add value to raw local products and increase job opportunities rather than simply exporting raw materials