UMF pitches in to help school district with food program for kids

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, 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. The distrcict includes the towns of Farmington, Starks, Wilton, New Sharon, Temple, New Vineyard, Vienna, Industry, Weld and Chesterville.
Vigue and Winslow immediately delivered more than $700 worth of fresh produce to the Mt. Blue High School kitchens upon learning of the program.
“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,” said Vigue.
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,” said Hutchins. “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,” said Edward Serna, UMF president. “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,” said Hutchins. “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.