Celebrating Summer Food Service Programs Providing Free, Healthy Meals for Students Across Maine

(Pictured: part of the lunch spread provided at an MSAD 33 Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) meal site this summer.)

Portland’s Munjoy South playground filled with people as meals were distributed to students through the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) recently. The Munjoy South playground site, which is one of 12 summer meal sites throughout the city and over 400 across the state, is operated through Portland Public Schools. The site serves 20 to 30 students a day on average and on this particular day, was serving sandwiches, chicken drumsticks, cornbread, fruits, vegetables, milk, and more.

The SFSP is a federally funded and state-administered program that provides free, healthy meals and snacks to children, youth, and adolescents in low-income communities. Local sponsors, like Portland Public Schools, operate the meal program throughout Maine.

At the Munjoy South summer meal site were volunteers from the Maine Celtics and the Locker Project. The Maine Celtics volunteers help run summer day camps Mon-Fri for students and also enjoy playing quick games of soccer and basketball with anyone who wants to join in. Also present was The Locker Project, which helps fight food insecurity in Cumberland County by providing students and families with surplus local produce and other foods, in addition, the Book Fairy Pantry Project was there with a free book stand with ample children’s books for the taking.

On this day, also visiting the meal site were representatives from Maine Equal Justice, Good Shepherd Food Bank, the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council, AmeriCorps VISTA, Preble Street, Full Plates Full Potential, and the offices of Governor Mills, Senator Collins, Senator King, and Representative Pingree. These organizations were brought together by Anna Korsen, Full Plates Full Potential, Policy and Program Coordinator to showcase all that Portland Public Schools (PPS) has done to provide food for local youth and to witness the success and joy of so many community partners coming together to benefit the community.

Maine has good reason to celebrate all that has been accomplished this summer and recently in the way of providing nutritious food to youth both during the summer and the school year.

Maine is one of the first states to provide meals at no charge to public school students during the school year. Starting with the pandemic-related waiver that allotted funds for schools across the United States to provide free meals for students in the 2021/2022 school year, this past year a new Maine-specific law went into effect that provides funds to Maine schools through its annual budget, specifically to provide school meals to all students, regardless of their family’s income. Maine is one of less than 10 states to continue with free meals for all students beyond the pandemic.

Maine is incredibly proud of its many partnerships between both federal and state-level partners, Maine school nutrition programs, and countless community partners across our state who have worked tirelessly to feed Maine’s youth through school-administered programming all year long.

We want to celebrate school nutrition champions like Dawn Hilton the Director of Food Services for PPS and Jim Hanna, Executive Director, Cumberland County Food Security Council for their ongoing work to organize local partners within their community at sites like the Munjoy South playground. In addition to Hilton, there are 106 other districts across Maine with countless school nutrition champions that partner with organizations within their communities to offer summer meal sites at 400 sites throughout Maine.

Special thanks to Kittery School Department, MSAD 33/27, RSU 54, and Belfast Soup Kitchen for providing pictures from some of their summer meal sites this summer:

For Portland’s efforts, Hilton would like to thank her Summer Meal Team for their continued help in fighting food insecurity along with the Maine Celtics, Cumberland County Food Security Council, Full Plates Full Potential, and the Locker Project for their endless support in their work during the summer. It is because of community partnerships like these, that exist in every corner of Maine, Maine DOE can leverage federal programs like Maine’s Summer Food Service Program to direct funding to communities across our state to help fight food insecurity throughout the summer.

To learn more about the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) in Maine and how to get involved, visit the Maine Department of Education’s website.