6 May 2024

Midcoast Hospitals Offer Maine-Grown Foods

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Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast and Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport serve locally grown food to around 500 patients, staff, and families daily.

Sheila Costello, director of nutrition services at both hospitals, regularly sources root crops, salad greens, and other local produce from nearby farms and connects with other potential vendors at the Belfast Farmers Market and through the online directory at Real Maine.

The hospitals offer a vegetarian menu item and feature a local vegetable every day, and the local purveyors are highlighted on their whiteboards. They purchase local jams, honey, mustard, cheese, crackers, salads, salad dressings, and apples to offer in their retail spaces. Both hospitals recently did a taste testing of a plant-based shepherd’s pie made with Maine potatoes for a recipe contest, and they host a farmers market at each site in the fall with local food, crafts, and health education. 

During the growing season, Costello typically emails the farms weekly to learn what is available and to place the hospitals’ orders. She also meets with the farmers at the end of the growing season to learn from the past year and plan for the following year. Purchasing nutritious local food helps MaineHealth, with which Waldo County and Pen Bay are affiliated, meet their sustainability goals and align with the overall mission of the hospitals to help create healthier communities.

To learn more about Maine’s Local Foods Procurement Program and how to increase farm-to-institution sales, contact Brittany Peats, Maine DACF Institutional Market Development Coordinator, at brittany.peats@maine.gov.