Student Nutrition Continues Beyond School Year with Summer Food Service Program

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 children in Maine during the school year. With summer right around the corner, it’s time to think about keeping children healthy while school is out. The Summer Food Service Program, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, operates at hundreds of sites across Maine to ensure children get the nutrition they need when school is out.

“The National School Lunch Program is an important lifeline to our students for whom schools are a needed and consistent source for food. The Summer Food Service Program extends the access to food for children who might otherwise find themselves food insecure during the summer months.” Said Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin.

“We recognize that healthy bodies and healthy minds are needed for learning, and we are committed to assisting schools and communities as they address the needs of the whole child.”

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 meal benefits under the National School Lunch Program, or where census track data supports the need. Eligible sponsoring organizations include schools, nonprofit residential summer camps, government agencies, and tax-exempt organizations, including faith-based organizations.

In 2018, 123 sponsors participated in the program, serving meals at 450 sites throughout the state. In 2019, these numbers are expected to grow. Sponsors operate open sites in all 16 counties in Maine; anyone 18 and under may come to eat at no cost. To find nearby Summer Meal sites, please visit USDA’s Summer Meal Site Finder website at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks, text “Summer Meals” to 97779 or call Maine 211.

Information is available mid-June.

For more information about the Maine DOE’s Summer Food Service Program, contact adriane.ackroyd@maine.gov, call 624-6726 or visit https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/nutrition/programs/sfsp.

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In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity, in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.
Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.) should contact the Agency ere they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, heard of hearing, or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.
To file a program discrimination complaint, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, AD-3027, found online at How to File a Program Discrimination Complaint and at any USDA office or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:
(1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;
(2) fax: (202) 690-7442; or
(3) email: program.intake@usda.gov.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.
The Maine Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination because of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, genetic information, religion, ancestry or national origin.
To file a complaint of discrimination, write Maine Human Rights Commission, 51 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333-0051. Maine is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Maine School Garden Day Brings Educators Around the State to Trenton Elementary School

(Whitney Ciancetta of Trenton Elementary School, describes their school’s greenhouse and gardens.)

The Maine School Garden Network recently convened 65 teachers from around the state at its annual “Maine School Garden Day” at Trenton Elementary School.  The purpose of the event was to provide preK-12 teachers currently or potentially involved with school gardens a day of workshops and networking.

The day included presentations, workshops, a lunch of local produce, and a tour of Trenton Elementary School’s greenhouse, gardens and outdoor education center and nature trails.  Guest presenters included Erika Verrier, Program Director of Maine School Garden Network, Willie Sayer Grenier of Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC), 2019 MAITC Teacher of the Year, Lynn Snow, Maine FFA (formerly known as “Future Farmers of America”) State President Graham Berry, and many others.  Presentations also included information on establishing school orchards by ReTreeUS, seed saving techcniques, information on bees, and on native plants, as well as other subjects.  Afternoon workshops covered an array of topics of interest to teachers with school gardens.

The day provided participating teachers with valuable information and resources related to ensuring the success of their school gardens.  Erik Verrier of Maine School Garden Network (MSGN) urged all teachers to complete the MSGN online School Garden Survey so that they could continue to network with each other and additional interested teachers, and so that MSGN would be know how to best serve their needs.

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Lynn Snow, 2019 MAITC Teacher of the Year, discusses in her keynote address the range of academics that may be achieved through school gardens.

MAITC 2019 Teacher of the Year, Lynn Snow, a 5th grade Science and English teacher at Thomaston Grammar School, described ways in which their school garden helped students acquire skills across numerous academic areas, as well as areas related to important life skills such as taking initiative and perseverance.

Graham Berry, Maine FFA State President, let teachers know that Maine FFA represented many other areas beyond farming relevant to the field of agriculture and natural resources.  He informed the group that any of them with students grades 7-12 would qualify to have an FFA chapter at their school, helping students to access numerous opportunities encompassing competitions, leadership skills, travel, scholarships, and an overall greater appreciation of agriculture and natural resources.

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Graham Berry, Maine FFA State President, describes the advantages associated with FFA chapter membership for students grades 7-12.

For more information on Maine School Garden Network, please contact Erika Verrier, Program Director:  msgncoordinator@gmail.com  (207) 612-8911 or email  info@msgn.org

For more information on starting an FFA chapter for students grades 7-12, please contact:  Doug Robertson, Maine FFA State Advisor, Maine Department of Education, doug.robertson@maine.gov  (207) 624-6744

Tips for Supporting Muslim Students During Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr

Maine is home to many Muslim families, and the Maine Department of Education would like to provide some general information about Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr to schools, so they can support their schools’ Muslim community members as they enjoy this very special time of year.

Ramadan is a month-long fast observed by Muslims around the world. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. To wish someone a happy Ramadan, you can say “Ramadan Kareem” or “Ramadan Mubarak.”

This year, in the United States Ramadan will start around May 5th and end around June 4th. The official beginning and end of the month of Ramadan will not be announced until the sighting of the new moon. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, Ramadan happens about 11 days earlier each year.

During Ramadan, most Muslims fast (i.e., consume no food or water) from dawn to dusk. Many Muslims also pray more frequently and make special efforts to be kind, generous, and compassionate. This is a joyous time of year, and each Iftar (post-sunset meal to break the fast) is a celebrated opportunity to gather with friends and family. Muslims may also wake before dawn to eat Suhoor (a pre-dawn meal), which helps give them energy to endure the day’s fast. (Iftar and Suhoor timings can be found here.) For some Muslims, the typical patterns of sleep are shifted so that more waking hours occur during the night, which can make it difficult to wake up early and stay alert during the day.

Typically, very young children do not fast or may fast only part of the day. Some Muslims may not fast when they are travelling, ill, pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating. In these cases, fasting days can be made up for at a later time. Elderly and chronically ill people who are not well enough to fast may give charitably instead.

After Ramadan, Eid-al-Fitr (the festival of breaking the fast) is a three-day celebration with feasts and gatherings of families. This is an extremely important and cheerful time of year for Muslims, and students will likely be absent for all or part of the three days. Children often receive a new outfit or a small amount of money as a gift from their family for the holiday. To wish someone a happy Eid, you can say, “Eid Saeed” or “Eid Mubarak.”

Here are a few tips for supporting students during Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr.

  1. Learn about Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr.

There are many resources available online that can help you understand how and why Ramadan is observed. Keep in mind that practices may vary depending on culture, so your students and their families are the best sources of information about their Ramadan traditions. Here are a couple of articles that give a general overview.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/religion/what-ramadan-six-things-know-about-muslim-holy-month-n586426

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/ramadan

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Eid-al-Fitr

  1. Encourage cultural sensitivity for all school community members.

Fasting can have many physical and mental effects, such as fatigue, lack of concentration, and irritability. For your students, your understanding and support can help ensure that they continue to learn and make the most out of their time at school while fasting. Teachers, school nurses, sports coaches, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, and all other staff who interact with students will need to know how fasting can affect students.

Talking with staff and students about Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr helps encourage an atmosphere of cultural awareness and sensitivity for the whole school community. Sensitivity towards fasting students includes avoiding consuming food and beverages in front of them whenever possible. Consider holding any celebrations that include food, such as awards banquets, after Iftar (sunset).

  1. Ask students and their families how you can best support them.

Some schools may choose to offer a place for students to go during lunchtime, alternative options for physical education, or dedicated prayer spaces. Schools may also avoid scheduling assessments or other required activities during Eid-al-Fitr, when students are likely to be absent. The best way to ensure that your school is a supportive, culturally-aware learning environment is to involve students, families, and other community members in planning and policy creation. Check out these two articles for some practical ideas that may benefit fasting students.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/column-teachers-can-support-students-ramadan

http://www.isre.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Schools-Guide-to-Ramadan-2.pdf

  1. Have a clear, well-communicated policy on tardies and absences.

Maine’s statute on excused absences is Title 20-A, Section §3272. It states that an absence is excused when it is for “observance of a recognized religious holiday when the observance is required during the regular school day and the absence has prior approval.” Fasting during Ramadan is a required religious observance, and the physical and mental demands of fasting may cause students’ tardies and absences to increase. Eid-al-Fitr celebrations are also religious observances. Districts will need to share clear expectations for attendance with students and families. It is highly recommended to develop these expectations in collaboration with your community members, recognizing that interpretation and translation may be necessary to ensure meaningful communication.

 

Free technical assistance/tools to support a District Wellness Policy

The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 requires all school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program to update and implement a wellness policy. Let’s Go!, Maine’s Obesity Prevention Program, is available to support and strengthen your district wellness policy and to encourage an active and healthy school environment.

Local district wellness policies play a leading role in promoting good health and preventing obesity in schools.  Researchers have linked healthy eating and physical activity with increased academic performance and positive classroom behavior.

Let’s Go! is available to provide school districts with free technical assistance and resources that support and strengthen a school wellness policy.  Let’s Go! is dedicated to working with school districts to create healthier school environments for all Maine youth.

If interested, please click here for more information or contact Let’s Go! staff at letsgo@mmc.org.

Teams advance to Farm to School Cook-off Finals Competition

 

The Maine Department of Education Child Nutrition office kicked off their 4th annual Farm to School Cook-off last month. Cook-off teams representing nine school districts from across Maine participated in the event. The teams, consisting of a student and school nutrition staff member, served up tasty and nutritious breakfast and lunch meals within a specific time frame that showcased Maine grown ingredients. Apples donated from Ricker Hill Orchards and dried black beans donated from Fairwinds Farm were used as “challenge” ingredients in the competition. The regional cook-off’s were hosted by the culinary arts programs at the Lake Region Vocational Center, Bath Regional Career and Technical Center and Eastern Maine Community College.

South Portland, RSU 12, and Cherryfield will be advancing to the Farm to School Cook-off finals competition on April 23rd from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Kennebec Valley Community College- Alfond Campus in Clinton. A panel of judges including a student, chef and school nutrition director, will score the dishes based on presentation, taste, creativity, and feasibility to be used in a school breakfast or lunch program. Other criteria will include food safety and time management.

The winning team will be awarded a plaque and have the opportunity to be spokespeople and participate on the judging panel for the cook off in School Year 2020.  Recipes used in the cook-off will later be shared with all schools in a Maine farm to school cook-book.

Members of the media are welcome to attend the final cook-off but need to confirm prior to the day of the event.

For more information about the event, please contact Stephanie Stambach at stephanie.stambach@maine.gov, or to confirm media coverage, contact: Kelli Deveaux at kelli.deveaux@maine.gov or 207-624-6747.