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Business and Economy

Corrections Department To Buy Surplus Food From Restaurants In Counties With Delayed Opening Plans

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Caitlin Troutman
/
Maine Public File
The move comes at the direction of Gov. Janet Mills as a way to assist restaurants in those counties that were caught off guard when a spike in COVID-19 cases prompted Mills to rescind a planned-for June 1 reopening date for dine-in service.

The Maine Department of Corrections plans to purchase surplus restaurant supplies from businesses in Androscoggin, Cumberland and York counties.

The move comes at the direction of Gov. Janet Mills as a way to assist restaurants in those counties that were caught off guard when a spike in COVID-19 cases prompted Mills to rescind a planned-for June 1 reopening date for dine-in service.

The governor is now directing the DOC to purchase food items from restaurants that had been bought in anticipation of the reopening.

To participate, a restaurant must be registered as a food vendor to the state, and they’re being asked to sign up by June 5.

“We’re definitely open to pretty much anything,” says Tom Hird, one of the operators of the Chick-A-Dee, a family restaurant in Lewiston.

Hird says they’ve been donating food since the May 27 reversal to keep supplies from being wasted. And they’ve hastily hired a contractor to build an outdoor dining area on Monday, with the hope it’ll be ready to host customers the very next day.

But he really doesn’t know how much food he should be keeping or jettisoning, and Hird says what his business really needs at the moment is more time.

“I’d know better next week, but when they give you a deadline of June 5 and only tell us today, it’s kind of hard to figure certain things out,” he says.

“I hope this move will provide some measure of relief to businesses in these counties as we work to protect public health, keep Maine people healthy and alive, and mitigate the spread of this deadly virus so we can safely reopen,” Mills said in a statement.

According to the press release, payments to state vendors typically take about two weeks.

The DOC plans to purchase both perishable and nonperishable food — but not dairy products — which would be used to feed inmates and staff at the Department of Corrections.

Inquiries are to be made directly to MDOC Associate Commissioner Karen Yeaton at DOCINFO@maine.gov, specifying the type of food being sold, how much and its dollar value.

Originally published May 30, 2020 at 3:41 p.m. ET.