Maine DOE to Launch Maine Harvest of the Month Program in Schools

The Maine Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Program is excited to announce the launch of Maine’s Harvest of the Month Program. Currently in planning phases, the program is slated to launch in schools in the Spring of 2019. Jenn So has been hired by the Maine DOE as the Harvest of the Month Program Manager and will be leading the development, implementation, and trainings for the program statewide. This program is a collaboration between the Maine DOE Child Nutrition Program and the Maine Farm to School Network.

Program Background

Harvest of the Month (HOM) is a nationwide marketing campaign promoting the use of seasonally available, local products in schools, institutions, and communities. Each month, a different local product is highlighted and participating entities pledge to serve the product and promote it through educational materials and activities. The program launched in California and has been replicated by dozens of other states across the country. With Maine’s participation, all of New England will now have Harvest of the Month programs.

Maine Harvest of the Month Background 

In its pilot year, Maine’s HOM program will develop a unique Maine HOM crop calendar and create corresponding marketing materials and recipes for food service directors and schools to display and utilize. Regional trainings will be delivered to train food service staff and other interested stakeholders on how to best implement the program; support will be provided to schools as needed. The program’s goal is to increase the procurement and consumption of local Maine products in schools (K-12), and thus the total number of meals provided. To participate in the program, schools will sign a  pledge committing to: serve the local HOM product at least twice per month (local being defined as grown or caught in Maine); display HOM materials provided by the Child Nutrition office; and participate in pre-and post-evaluations. Schools are also encouraged to integrate the HOM into educational activities.

If your school or district is interested in participating, please contact Jenn So at jenn.so@maine.gov or 207-624-6639 for more information.

Resources to Support the Observance of Alcohol Awareness Day

Alcohol is the most frequently used substance by adolescents in Maine. Almost one of every four Maine high school students used alcohol in the past 30 days, and more than one third of those students reported binge drinking (2017 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey). Alcohol consumption by students is impacted by factors such as low perception of harm, low perception of getting caught, and ease of access.

Schools and community organizations are encouraged to work together to address alcohol issues. In alignment with Maine statute, schools across Maine can raise awareness about alcohol use and abuse by observing Alcohol Awareness Day on Monday, December 3 (or another designated day in December). The statute indicates Alcohol Awareness Day shall be observed by studying for at least 45 minutes, a constructive approach toward the use of alcohol and the problems and dangers of alcohol abuse upon the individual, the family and society.

Consider using one or more of the following resources to prepare a message or lesson to enhance your existing health education curriculum:

It is important for Maine students to receive education and awareness about alcohol, tobacco and other drug use as part of comprehensive school health education, Pre-K through High School, and in alignment with the Maine Learning Results: Parameters for Essential Instruction, Health Education StandardsSelecting Evidence-Based Substance Use Prevention Programs: A Guide for Maine Schools Grades K-12 may help determine the most appropriate program for a school community.

There is also a guide to help schools create, update, and enforce a substance use policy. The guide, “Substance Use Policy: A Comprehensive Guide for School Policy Development provides practical suggestions for a complete policy, based on research and best practices.

For assistance or additional resources, contact the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Tobacco and Substance Use Prevention and Control Program at 287-8901, TTY 711 or email: TSUP.DHHS@maine.gov.  You can order a limited quantity of free alcohol use prevention pamphlets through the Prevention Store http://www.mainepreventionstore.org./

Seeking Maine Schools for Social Emotional Learning Pilot Program

The Tobacco and Substance Use Prevention and Control Program with the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (MECDC), in partnership with the Maine Department of Education (Maine DOE), is seeking interest from Maine schools who would like to pilot the social emotional learning (SEL) program, Second Step, funded by a grant through MECDC.

The grant’s larger goal is to provide primary prevention for substance use and is part of Maine’s State Opioid Response plan. The Second Step Curriculum is research-based and available for grades Kindergarten through 8th grade. Many of the skills within the Maine Learning Results for Health Education in elementary school align with goals of Second Step, to nurture skill building and prevent problematic developmental behaviors that are part of the trajectory toward later substance use.

If you are interested in adding Second Step to your school’s curriculum, are already implementing Second Step, or are implementing a SEL curriculum other than Second Step, the MECDC and Maine DOE would like your feedback about your interest and experience.

This brief survey will take approximately 5 minutes.  Your input will be used to assess what programs are currently being implemented, where there are opportunities to pilot Second Step in Maine, and what districts are specifically interested in piloting Second Step.

Maine CDC and DOE will select pilot sites based on best fit and evaluate the program’s success, with the goal of expanding the program to more sites in coming years. Thank you in advance for your interest and feedback.

For more information, contact Hannah.Ruhl@maine.gov at Maine CDC.

Resource to Help Prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences

Adverse childhood experiences—commonly known as ACEs—affect children and families across all communities. ACEs can impact kids’ health and well-being, and they can have long-term effects on adults’ health and wellness. They can even have consequences that impact entire families, communities, and our whole society. Thankfully, ACEs are preventable.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Cervices, Center for Disease Control has provided an new online training tool, Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences.

This training will help you understand, recognize, and prevent ACEs. You’ll learn about risk and protective factors, outcomes associated with ACEs, and evidence-based strategies you can use to reduce or eliminate the impact of ACEs and stop them from occurring in the first place.

Get the knowledge and insights you need to help create healthier, happier childhoods for kids today, and bright futures for adults tomorrow.

Training topics include:

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences, Brain Development, and Toxic Stress
  • The ACE Study
  • Prevalence and Consequences of ACEs
  • Risk and Protective Factors for ACEs
  • Essentials for Childhood: Assuring Safe, Stable, Nurturing Relationships and Environments

For further information, contact Emily Poland, School Nurse Consultant for the Maine Department of Education at emily.poland@maine.gov.

October is National Farm to School Month

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) and the Maine Department of Education (DOE) join thousands of schools, farms, communities, and organizations across the country in celebrating National Farm to School Month. Maine is home to more than 8000 farmers and 185,000 students, making the partnership between schools and farmers an important part of the state’s agricultural landscape.

Over the last decade, more Maine schools have prioritized adding local foods to student menus. Many have developed school gardens and other education programs. In 2015, the USDA found that 79% of Maine school districts surveyed take part in farm to school activities. In that survey, school districts spent an average of 16% of their food budgets on local products, totaling $3.8 million statewide.

The Maine Department of Education supports Farm to School efforts by promoting local products during the annual Maine Harvest Lunch Week and Farm to School Cook-off, among other initiatives. According to Stephanie Stambach, the department’s Child Nutrition Consultant, “Students look forward to seeing local foods on the menu. When they know it is coming from a farm in their community they get excited, and it’s an educational opportunity. Students and parents seem increasingly aware of where their food comes from, and schools play an important role in supporting this awareness.”

Renee Page is the Maine Farm to School Network Coordinator. “Farm to School’s three-pronged approach includes agricultural-based education, experiential learning through gardens and greenhouses, and more Maine-grown food in school meals. These strategies help connect kids to their food and to farmers. They become savvier consumers and have better health and learning outcomes. These efforts also support the local food economy,” according to Page.

For farmers, schools can be important local customers. Martha Putnam, owner of Wealden Farm, is such a farmer. “Schools are a very good market. Working with them makes a difference and is a boost to farmers. It’s good for student awareness; they get to see the diversity of foods that Maine produces,” according to Putnam. Maine farmers and producers have provided local products to many schools across Maine, and have helped with annual programs such as Maine Harvest Lunch Week.

Schools across Maine provide local foods and nutrition education to their students, and many are eager to grow these efforts. In School Year 2019, students at more than 150 Maine schools will receive a variety of fruits and vegetables at no cost during the school day as part of the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). Food service directors at schools participating in the FFVP program can be excellent partners for farmers, especially those who are new to selling to schools.

For more information, contact Maine DOE Child Nutrition Consultant Stephanie Stambach at 207-624-6732 or stephanie.stambach@maine.gov, Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Marketing Director Leigh Hallett at 207-287-3494 or leigh.hallett@maine.gov, or Renee Page from Healthy Communities of the Capital Area at 207-588-5347 or r.page@hccame.org.