Franklin Countys First News

UMF pitches in to help school district with food program

Adam Vigue, general manager of University of Maine at Farmington’s Sodexo food service, and Doug Winslow, executive chef, delivered over $700 worth of fresh produce to the Mt. Blue High School kitchens. (UMF Image)

FARMINGTON - Adam Vigue, general manager of University of Maine at Farmington’s Sodexo food service, and Doug Winslow, executive chef, jumped in to help Regional School Unit 9, the local school district, as soon as they heard of their need to feed the district’s students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Vigue is providing meals for approximately 80 college students still on the UMF campus, Andy Hutchins, RSU 9 food service director, and a team of staff and volunteers are providing breakfast and lunch every weekday for approximately 2,000 students who are no longer at school.

Vigue and Winslow learned of the Mt. Blue program early last week and immediately delivered over $700 worth of fresh produce to the Mt. Blue High School kitchens.

“We learned of the school district’s need for food to supplement what they had on hand and looked for any way we could help,” Vigue said.

Hutchins and a fleet of hard-working staff and volunteers plan, prepare and package healthy meals to be picked up by or transported to students from the Western Maine district’s seven schools.

A packaged meal consists of lunch for that day and breakfast for the next morning. Meals provide fresh fruit and produce; juice and milk; breakfast items; and fresh, cooked or microwaveable lunches.

“This would be impossible without our wonderful and caring staff and volunteers, and the commitment of community partners like UMF,” Hutchins said. “District food service staff, school staff, and community volunteers were eager to help and came together without hesitation. We met last Monday morning and by Tuesday morning we were rolling out meals for our students.”

Area restaurants, markets, businesses and private individuals are all contributing and looking to help any way they can.

“The unwavering local support of Chef Hutchins’ food program is a wonderful example of our community coming together to care for our most-vulnerable citizens,” UMF president Edward Serna said. “As we move forward through these challenging times, it’s important to embrace these opportunities to help each other and continue to be a caring community of neighbors helping neighbors.”

Hutchins’ program provides for students to pick up meals at Mallett School and Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, Academy Hill School in Wilton and Cape Cod Hill School in New Sharon. It also delivers meals to four centrally located bus stops and has an army of volunteers providing home delivery for those who require it.

“Meal packaging and transportation of meals is a big shift for us and a huge undertaking,” Hutchins said. “But it’s so worth it! A member of our dedicated food service staff is even creating uplifting messages to include in meal packages every day to give the kids a smile. Our kids are part of our extended family.”

Information on meal availability or ways to help can be found on the Mt. Blue High School Facebook page.

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9 Responses »

  1. Here is another example of the great benefit having an institution like this in your town. I hope that sometime in the future, when you are irked or inconvenienced by a person connected with the college, you remember things like this. Thank you, UMF. Glad you’re in Farmington.

  2. Minimizing the contact of people included closing all restaurants and bars which destroyed an industry and those it employed. Why isn’t the college closed, the buildings secured, decontaminated and sealed? Are all the local school food kitchens still open as well? Why, how many personnel man up each of these galleys. How many deliveries from and to each location? Are the schools being decontaminated and sealed up, or are we just waiting for some nonexistent government program to be invented? I don’t see any entity moving in this direction. This is valuable time being wasted and people being exposed that don’t need to be. If you are going to do meal prep, do it in one central location that is the most efficient. Hub and spoke distribution comes to mind. If we pick and choose who gets to work and who goes broke, how and why is anyone at the college still working?

  3. @Peter,
    The buildings are secured and being "decontaminated ". Classes are still being held online and there are still students living in a residence hall. Not many employees are working from campus, mainly a small cleaning crew. Do you know how long it takes to clean and "decontaminate" all those buildings? Not overnight. And would you rather the employees be on unemployment? The buildings also may be needed as backup to the hospital should the need arise. Those employees on campus are the real definition of essential personnel. Stop being so bitter and learn your facts first.

  4. UMF, I see you’re still on the payroll? I’m sure there is a lot of free time in your day. Why are you housing students when the UM system is allegedly working remotely and Main Street is shuttered? Wasn’t eliminating pop density, the whole idea behind disabling our economy or was that only for taxpayers outside of the “education system” ? I’m all in for using our state assets to support FMH. The Decon process takes more than a few guys. Have you hired local general labor to assist? “Small” isn’t the operative word here and half closed isn’t “closed and secured” Facts my friend, not bitter just accurate.

  5. Employee perhaps you should rethink what you just said there was no bitterness I see in Peter’s comment. There were a few questions he asked that are absolutely important ones that have been asked and not answered. I know my school board Representative has asked these questions because I asked them too. Although there is some food insecurity in the area I don’t believe it takes that many people to make it happen. If the college wants to help maybe they should go to the place it is already being prepared instead of having potential contamination occur at the campus. With a confirmed case in Franklin County this is the time these questions and steps must be answered and taken very seriously. I hope everyone is well out there, this will pass in time and we can continue with our lives and hopefully everybody can learn from this situation and see what is actually important in life.

  6. BTW These meals are for any child ages 0-19, regardless of whether or not they attend(ed) school. I recently adopted two young boys. Regardless of whether or not they attended public school or qualified for a "free" or "redcuced" price lunch, they are entitled to eat this food.
    I picked up their meal packages the first day this was offered and saw a need to delivere to an additional thirteen children. Last Friday, the children were given three meal packages, consisting of that day"s lunch and breakfast for the follwing morning(s). Today, I was informed that the extra packages for the weekends will be no more.
    I delivered to those kiddos every day since this prgram began. Don't ask me why, my husband already does that! Don't ask me about other those extra kiddos weekend meals that won't won't be provided by this program any longer, I already that question myself, too.

  7. This is a fantastic program and we, as a community, should be proud of it. This is the point of ‘community’, taking care of each other. There is considerable food insecurity in this area and thanks to Chef Andy’s leadership, and the many hard working helping - clean and protected - hands who provide this extremely valuable service!

  8. Some students are international and can't go home.

  9. This just kills me. Here we go again with select Farmington residents biting the hand that feeds them. I always wondered if those from Farmington really took a second to think about what the University does for them. Honestly what would Farmington look like without it? Wilton..thats what it would look like...empty storefronts, falling down properties, and certainly no business to speak of. If Farmington has had enough of UMF I say I UMF should pack up, leave empty buildings and move on.

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