Local organizations and federal funds fill the gap
AUGUSTA – Federally funded school breakfasts and lunches help thousands of low-income children in Maine get nutritious meals during the school year. The Maine Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Services program is looking for organizations to sponsor the federally-funded Summer Food Service Program to provide children healthy meals when school is not in session.
“It’s a disturbing reality that for many children, the only healthy meals they receive are the ones served at school during the academic year,” Education Commissioner Angela Faherty said. “We are committed to ensuring Maine children continue to receive nutritious meals even after school closes for summer, and we will do that through the help of organizations willing to participate in the Summer Food Service Program.”
Last summer, 72 sponsors participated in the program, serving almost 450,000 meals to children at more than 200 sites. Unfortunately, many counties in Maine have no sites for children to obtain a meal during the summer. Last year no open programs existed in Franklin, Hancock, Knox, and Lincoln Counties and only one program in Piscataquis County. In light of increasing food insecurity in Maine, it is important that community partners work to maximize the number of sponsors utilizing the availability of funds under the program.
The Summer Food Service Program may be offered statewide in areas or at sites where more than 50 percent of the children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program or census track data supports the need. Organizations that provide services in rural communities or near migrant farm workers and American Indian populations are urged to participate. Eligible sponsoring organizations include schools, nonprofit residential summer camps, government agencies and tax-exempt organizations including faith-based organizations.
The Department encourages any eligible organization to consider providing this much-needed service to Maine children. The Department will begin accepting applications to participate in mid-February. Approved sponsors will be reimbursed for meals served to children during the long summer break.
Interested organizations should begin planning now for a successful summer food program. Potential sponsors are required to take training courses. Workshops are planned for March 31 for new sponsors, April 22 for camps, and April 28 for schools. Department staff with expertise are available to attend meetings or consult by phone and email to answer questions about the program.
For more information about the Summer Food Service Program and applications to participate contact Gail Lombardi at Gail.Lombardi@Maine.gov or 207-624-6876 or visit Maine Department of Education Child Nutrition Services.
For more information, visit the Maine Department of Education