FAIRFIELD — The Kennebec Valley Community College culinary arts program is implementing a new initiative aimed at reducing food waste and challenging the program’s students to apply a spirit of innovation with their classroom skills to recycle food waste to create value-added culinary products. Utilizing surplus food from local Maine farms and in partnership with the University of Maine’s Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, the initiative aims to drastically reduce food waste in Maine and educate area culinary students about designing and developing their own food-based products, all while giving back to the community.

Spearheaded by KVCC Culinary Instructor Chef Jessica Reale Raahede and UMaine’s Susanne Lee, the initiative will give KVCC’s culinary students a real-world application of the skills they’ve learned in the classroom. The students of KVCC’s first-year culinary class will work through product trials and recipe development; once they’ve developed their prototype products, they will present their samples and methodology to a virtual focus group. The focus groups are comprised of participants from the Maine Food Production Leadership Team, which includes representatives from Hannaford, Good Shepherd Food Bank and Pineland Farms. After they’ve presented their invented product to the focus group for review and comment, interested students will have the opportunity to pursue scaling up production of their idea.

Not only is the program focused on educating Maine’s future culinary leaders on reducing food waste, but it also serves as a way to give back to the surrounding community. If a student’s product ultimately achieves scaled production, the goal will be to distribute the food product to local grocery stores and food pantries under the Mainers Feeding Mainers social benefit brand.

“This initiative is very exciting not only as a learning opportunity, but also as a way to fully embrace the community-focused mission of the KVCC culinary arts program,” said Richard Hopper, president of Kennebec Valley Community College. “Moreover, this sort of multi-layered partnership shows students how their creative ideas can grow and take hold thanks to the engagement of a diverse set of stakeholders.”

Prospective students interested in learning more about KVCC’s Culinary Program can review application requirements and course offerings at kvcc.me.edu.

Kennebec Valley Community College is one of seven community colleges operating under the authority of the Maine Community College System Board of Trustees, located on a seventy-acre campus in Fairfield, Maine. KVCC offers the lowest tuition in New England, with tuition rates set at $96 per credit hour for Maine residents. There are multiple financial aid options available for prospective and current students, including scholarships, grants, loans, work-study programs and more.