PRIORITY NOTICE: Toolkit of Resources Available to Promote the Meal Benefit Application

As schools across Maine prepare for the 2021/2022 school year with many changes, including the implementation of free school meals and the challenges of COVID-19, we are aware of the increasing difficulty you face with asking families to fill out the Meal Benefit Application.

Families, schools, communities, and our state can greatly benefit from the data that is gathered from the application, which includes key funding for school resources and additional resources for families in need.

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) has created a Meal Benefit Application Toolkit for schools/districts to help inform and promote the application within your school community:

Meal Benefit Application Toolkit for Schools

We hope that having these resources laid out in this toolkit can ease some of the burden to create your own promotional and informational materials. Here are some of the resources you will find in the toolkit:

  • Social Media Graphics – short informational graphics that can be shared on your district/school social media platforms.
  • Translated Informational Materials – a one-page info sheet that can be printed and distributed to families (translated versions available), info for teachers and school staff, and a letter to families expressing the importance of the Meal Benefit Application.
  • Meal Benefit Application Form Options – links to the original printable application, an online option, and an alternative sample form that can be used to help inform state subsidy calculations.

We recognize and appreciate all your hard work as you prepare for the start of the school year. Please contact Maine DOE for questions and/or additional resources:

  • If there is a specific additional resource you’d like to see in this toolkit, please contact Caroline Bennett (caroline.bennett@maine.gov) and Rachel Paling (rachel.paling@maine.gov).
  • For questions regarding application collection and SSO (Seamless Summer Option), please contact David Hartley (david.hartley@maine.gov).
  • To add your district to the web-based application via Nutrilink (we HIGHLY recommend this to increase accessibility of application), please contact Sarah Platt (sarah.d.platt@maine.gov).

Maine Agriculture Education PK-12 Grants Available – Deadline Approaching!

Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) has earmarked $60K for education agriculture grants in 5 categories in 2021! This support of Maine agriculture education in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12 is a direct result of the Maine Agricultural Specialty License Plate.

Grants are available in a number of categories such as Agriculture Awareness, School Garden & Greenhouse, Statewide Agricultural Education Organization, and Agriculture Leadership. Grants are up to $2,000 and the deadline to apply is 4:00pm on August 23rd.

To see the grants, get more information, and apply visit: https://me.agclassroom.org/programs/grants/ 

Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) is a grassroots program coordinated by the United States Department of Agriculture, and housed at the Maine Department of Agriculture. Our goal is to help students gain a greater awareness of the role of agriculture in the economy and society so that they will become citizens who support wise agricultural policies and local agriculture endeavors.

If you have questions please email maitc@maine.gov

MEDIA ADVISORY: Maine DOE to Announce Over $2M in Innovative RREV Pilot Awards on Aug 4th

WHAT: The Maine Department of Education (DOE) will be hosting a live virtual event to announce over $2 million in pilot implementation funding for Maine schools that have created innovative pilot programs as part of the Rethinking Remote Education Ventures (RREV) project. The pilots feature innovative new ways to deliver education to students including a yurt classroom, a remote learning pathway, a maker space, place-based education programming, experiential outdoor learning connected to higher education credits, addressing the social emotional needs of virtual learners, and more!

WHO: Representatives from the 9 pilot programs that will be awarded funding (9 public schools including one charter school, located across Maine). Also in attendance will be Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin, Maine DOE Chief Innovation Officer Page Nichols, RREV Director Martin Mackey and other representatives from the Maine DOE.

WHEN: Wednesday, August 4th at 1:00pm

WHERE: Live YouTube Event! Tune in here: https://www.youtube.com/MaineDOEComm
A recording of the announcement will be available following the event.

Background Info:
Last year, the Maine DOE was awarded $16.9 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Rethink K-12 Education Models Funding. As one of 11 States to receive funding, Maine embarked on a project called Rethinking Remote Education Ventures (RREV) which offers a multi-pronged solution with a primary goal of generating innovative remote and responsive learning models to provide equitable access to high quality learning opportunities for all students.

The awardees will use the funds to further develop an innovative pilot program that they created through a design thinking process, in collaboration with a Maine higher education partner. These Maine developed projects are designed to be adapted and used in any school setting across the state. The pilot programs have the potential to impact over 13,000 students statewide through innovative ideas imagined by teams of educators right here in Maine.

WEBINAR: New Technology Funding Available Through Federal Emergency Connectivity Fund

Colleagues from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will share information regarding the Emergency Connectivity Fund in an upcoming webinar on July 22 at 2:30pm.  The event will go over information about how your district, school, or library can apply for technology reimbursement, answer common questions they are receiving from district leaders, and will have experts on hand to answer questions from participants. Participants are encouraged to submit their questions in advance when registering for the webinar.

Webinar Info:

July 22, 2021, 2:30pm EDT
Register here

The pandemic has brought equity-related issues such as home connectivity to the forefront, and the need for remote learning forced district leaders to invest more funds for technology than ever before. Fortunately, additional help is on the way.

Are you applying to get your fair share of the federal funds being provided to offset the costs of remote learning? Purchases between July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022 for student or teacher home use are eligible for this reimbursement, including:

  • Up to $400 per laptop or tablet
  • Up to $250 per Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Monthly service is not capped but is expected to be in the range of $10-$25 per month

Learn more about the Emergency Connectivity Fund and how your district, school, or library can apply. The application deadline is August 13, 2021.

Webinar Guests

  • Allison BakerPolicy Advisor, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications Commission
  • Travis LitmanActing Chief of Staff, Federal Communications Commission
  • Thomas C. MurrayDirector of Innovation, Future Ready Schools (moderator)
  • Ramesh NagarajanActing Wireline Advisor, Office of Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, Federal Communications Commission

Register here. For questions about the webinar, contact Lia Dossin.

MEDIA RELEASE: Call to Action for Maine Parents: Complete the Meal Benefit Application at School This Year – Even if School Meals are Free

Maine needs all parents and caregivers to take action this school year––by taking the time to complete the confidential Meal Benefit Application through your local school, even if school meals are already free for all students. Families, schools, communities, and our state can greatly benefit from the data that is gathered from the application, and this application is important for a number of reasons.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, when school meals became complementary, there has been a significant drop in Meal Benefit Application returns––meaning less families are filling out the application.

The family income data provided by the application informs key funding for school resources. This includes school meal reimbursements, funding for Title I programs, funding and resources for after school programs, funding provided to schools from the Maine State Legislature for essential programs and services at school, funding for special education, teacher loan forgiveness, and much, much more!

Federal and state government use the aggregate data from the application to distribute education funding to schools across the county and state of Maine. In other words, if there is no data to inform the needs of the community, it could result in less education funding for your local district and for Maine.

By completing the Meal Benefit Application, you are directly investing in your child’s education and the children and families in your community.

Specific programs that are funded by the data collected from Meal Benefit Application:

How can I complete the Meal Benefit Application?  The application is available through your local school administrative unit (SAU) school nutrition program and it is completely confidential. Most SAUs have the application available to be completed online. Follow this link to access your SAU’s online application (if your school district is not listed, please contact them directly). A printed version of the application is also required to be available––it will often be part of beginning of year paperwork that comes home with your child.

This past school year has certainly had its challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are thrilled that, despite these challenges, all Maine children have had the opportunity to access free healthy school meals on a daily basis. We would like to extend our gratitude to Maine parents and caregivers who have participated in their SAUs’ meal programs. We know that with the continued support of Maine’s incredible families, we can ensure the best for our children.