Organizations needed to feed hungry children this summer

AUGUSTA — With the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Maine public schools have long offered a nutritious breakfast and lunch meal program to thousands of income eligible children in Maine during the school year.

To extend this program, the Child Nutrition Service, a division of the Maine Department of Education (Maine DOE), is now seeking out organizations who would like to participate in this federally funded Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a program that provides children healthy meals when school is not in session.

“We all realize that children learn better when they have nutritious meals during the school day,” says Maine DOE Acting Commissioner William Beardsley. “Our long standing public school breakfast and lunch programs have served Maine children well. With federal assistance, Maine needs partners for the Summer Food Service Program.”

Last summer, 118 sponsors participated in the program, serving an average of 11,400 lunches a day to children at almost 400 sites reaching about 20 percent of eligible children. Community partners are working to maximize the number of sponsors utilizing the availability of funds under the SFSP.

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 where 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.

Maine DOE encourages any eligible organization to consider providing this much-needed service to Maine children. The agency will begin accepting applications to participate in mid-February. Approved sponsors will be reimbursed for eligible meals served to children during the long summer break.

Interested organizations should begin planning now for a successful SFSP. Potential sponsors are required to take training courses. Current workshops are planned April 14 for new sponsors and March 16 for experienced sponsors. Maine DOE is available to attend meetings or consult by phone and email to answer questions regarding summer meals.

For more information about the Maine DOE’s Summer Food Service Program, contact gail.lombardi@maine.gov, call 624-6842, or visit http://www.maine.gov/education/sfs.

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