Seeking organizations to feed children this summer

Maine DOE Child Nutrition Services is seeking organizations to sponsor the federally funded Summer Food Service Program to provide children healthy meals when school is not in session. Federally funded school breakfasts and lunches help thousands of low-income children in Maine get nutritious meals during the school year.

“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 Stephen Bowen 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, 87 sponsors participated in the program, serving over 480,000 meals to children at more than 254 sites. However, this only represents 15 percent of eligible children, and many counties in Maine have limited open sites for children to obtain a meal during the summer. Last year no open programs existed in Hancock County. Maine DOE staff is working with local organizations in Franklin, Lincoln, Washington and Hancock Counties to improve the number of open meal sites. In light of the 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 Summer Food Service Program.

The summer program may be offered statewide in areas or at sites in which more than 50 percent of the children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program, or in which 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 such as recreation programs 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 agency has begun accepting applications to participate. Approved sponsors will be reimbursed at established federal rates for meals served to children during the long summer break.

Interested organizations should begin planning now. Potential sponsors are required to take training courses. Current workshops are scheduled April 18 for new sponsors and April 25 for experienced sponsors. The Maine DOE is available to attend meetings or consult by phone and email to answer questions about the summer program.

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