MEDIA RELEASE: In Celebration of School Lunch Heroes Day, Maine’s Governor and Department of Education Release Special Thank You Video

(Photo: Nutrition staff from Connor EUT School)

In recognition of May 1, 2020 being designated National School Lunch Heroes Day, Governor Janet Mills and the Department of Education have created a special thank you video for school nutrition teams, volunteers and all school staff across Maine, who have stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure Maine kids have nutritious and healthy meals while learning remotely at home.

Your efforts during this unprecedented time of need are truly appreciated! THANK YOU!

PRIORITY NOTICE: Update and Guidance From Commissioner Makin: April 1, 2020

Dear Champions of Education, 

Yesterday, Governor Mills issued a “stay at home” order, offering specific guidance around curtailing non-essential activities, gatherings, and travel. She also ordered schools to refrain from in-person, classroom instruction practices until after May 1st (or until further orders are issued).  

As we close in on the third week of remote instruction, please know that your resilient leadership and ongoing efforts are making a huge difference for Maine students and families. While everything is so suddenly chaotic and unfamiliar to everyone, our schools continue to shine like a beacon of hope. I have received countless emails and messages from legislators, parents, community members, and students sharing their gratitude for the steady support, the nutritional services, and the deeply human connections that are provided by educators, counselors, and school administrators. I’ve heard anecdotes from teachers who have noticed increased participation and engagement from students who had previously been among the most disconnected and apathetic. The lesson in this phenomenon is an important one… they’re counting on you even when their outward behaviors disguise this fact. 

Updates and information: 

  • Essential employees:   PreK-12 educational and. Child nutrition staff are all considered essential during this crisis. We are currently working with our educational organizations’ leadership to develop clarified and unified guidance in light of the Governor’s most recent Executive Order.  
  • Nutrition programs and April vacation: Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition team continues to seek flexibilities and waivers for our SAUs and communities. We are thrilled to share that there have been waivers granted for schools with fewer than 50% free/reduced meal students and bulk service provisions. Read more here.  We have applied for a waiver that will allow meal programs to be Reimbursed For the meals served during April vacation- currently not reimbursable. We will provide an update as soon as we hear from USDA. 
  • The CARES Act federal relief package will provide schools/SAU’s with funding to mitigate some of the financial impacts of the COVID-related disruption. Much more on this coming very soon! 
  • Remote Learning Plans/Sharing: Although we’re not requiring districts to share their remote learning plans, some have shared theirs with us and offered them as a resource to others that are still developing their plans! We will be happy to collect and share in a protected way with colleagues. Thank you to all who have shared their well-developed plans! If you’d like to offer your districts plan as a guide for others, please email Chief Innovation Officer, Page Nichols at page.nichols@maine.gov. 
  • Home Instruction: The Department recognizes that disruption due to COVID-19 may impact a home instruction family’s ability to maintain the required number of instructional days, and is therefore including home instruction in the statewide waiver granted for the minimum of 175 days of instruction for 2019-2020 school year.  Demonstration of satisfactory academic progress is still required to be submitted to superintendents by September 1st.  
  • School Budget, voting, etc:  We have been working with MSMA, the AG’s office, and the Governor’s office to develop an executive order that will provide the various flexibilities that have been requested. Please stay tuned – solutions are imminent.  (The Legislature did vote our GPA budget IN and intact, so your ED279 printouts provide an accurate basis for what you’ll receive in state subsidy).  
  • DOE is open for business – including CERTIFICATION office!  The system is up and running, the phones are being monitored by our knowledgeable and helpful team of experts, and we are eager to get your completed applications for renewal or initial certification processed as soon as possible! We have had some state level issues with phone system overload, so don’t hesitate to use email also!  As mentioned in an earlier notice, we do intend to provide extensions for those who have had education, testing, fingerprinting, or practicum/internship disruptions due to the COVID emergency – but for those of you who have completed the necessary steps, please submit necessary documentation and move ahead with your renewal application!   

Silver Linings: 

  • It’s possible that we’re demonstrating capacity for never having to make up “snow days” in the future!  
  • We have a perfect opportunity to redesign our state assessment system! 
  • Every time we do something kind or selfless to benefit someone else, we get a bump of serotonin … It even works when we simply observe someone being kind to someone else!  
  • Amid the fear and loss and physical disconnection, watch empathy, compassion, and humanity shining like the North Star – far above the fray.  
  • We will emerge from this better than we’ve ever been. 

Thank you for all you are doing on behalf of your students, staff, and communities.  

 Pender

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine DOE Increases Flexibility to School Meal Programs Feeding Children in Need

Maine –With the approval of yet another waiver to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and additional bulk packaging options, the Maine Department of Education has been able to add significant flexibility to its school food service programs, enabling schools to provide meals to students all over Maine, increasing the potential to reach even more hungry children in a more meaningful way.

The first waiver obtained by the Maine DOE expanded the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) allowing school districts and community partners to provide meals to students during extended remote learning due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Today Maine DOE received approval for a waiver to the requirement that National School Lunch Program participants must have a population of at least 50% who receive free or reduced- meals.  Maine DOE requested flexibility to locate meal distribution sites in areas that do not meet the 50% criteria to ensure that any child can receive the meals they normally would on a regular school day during unanticipated school closures related to COVID-19. To maintain children’s access to meals, and to support families experiencing financial hardship, Maine DOE requested to waive the area eligibility requirements under 7 CFR 225.6(c)(2)(i)(G). This was approved by the federal Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

The Maine DOE has also been granted flexibility to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, allowing schools and community partners to prepare meals in bulk – multiple meals for several days in one package for children up to the age of 18.

Advanced planning of bulk meals is required to ensure that the meal pattern is met, and food will be stored and prepared in a safe manner. Bulk provisions would be provided for in home meal preparation.

Schools and community partners can now request approval from the Maine Child Nutrition team at the Maine Department of Education. For more information or to submit a request for an approval. Child.nutrition@maine.gov

###

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 (State or local) where they applied for benefits.  Individuals who are deaf, hard 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 complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, 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.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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.

Complaints of discrimination must be filed at the office of the Maine Human Rights Commission, 51 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333-0051. If you wish to file a discrimination complaint electronically, visit the Human Rights Commission website at https://www.maine.gov/mhrc/file/instructions and complete an intake questionnaire. Maine is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

 

 

Maine DOE Launches Culinary Video Series to Support School Nutrition Programs

The Maine Department of Education (DOE), in collaboration with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, recently launched two sets of videos to help support Maine school nutrition programs around the state. Links to the two sets of videos are available below:

  • Farm to School Videos – showcase the partnerships between farms and schools in an effort to grow the Farm to School movement.
  • Culinary Videos – assist school nutrition professionals in scratch cooking and utilizing local products. The videos can help build culinary skills in a variety of areas such as fruit and vegetable preparation, food safety, time management, and using local ingredients in school recipes.

The Team plans to continue building the video series by incorporating Maine dairy and seafood, among other proteins, in school recipes as well as other educational videos in the near future.

The Department would like to extend a special thank you to the people who made these videos a success:

  • Chef Samantha Gasbarro (Consultant)
  • Mike Flynn (School Nutrition Director for RSU 12)
  • Alisa Roman (School Nutrition Director for Lewiston Public Schools)
  • Chef Heidi Parent (Culinary Arts Instructor from Capital Area Technical Center)
  • Josh Girard (Girard Farm)
  • Kelby Young (Olde Haven Farm)
  • Trent Emery (Emery Farm)
  • Ryan Roderick (Chef and Wellness Coordinator for RSU 14)
  • Justin Deri (School Garden and Greenhouse Manager from Falmouth Schools)
  • Martha Poliquin (School Nutrition Director, Falmouth Schools)

In addition to the videos, the Child Nutrition Team also offers in-person and webinar trainings. The next culinary training will be on February 21st and will be geared towards new and trending school breakfast ideas. Check out all their training opportunities in the Child Nutrition calendar, you can also stay up-to-date on child Nutrition news by joining the Child Nutrition email list.

All of the the videos are available on the Maine DOE’s website here: www.maine.gov/farmtoschool. For more information about the Farm-to-School Program, please visit this website.

Hannaford Donates $1M to Support “Fuel Kids at School” Hunger Relief Efforts

Hannaford Supermarkets announced a $1 million donation as part of its new “Fuel Kids at School” initiative that is designed to directly address food insecurity and improve access to fresh and healthy food for children.

“Children can’t be at their best if they’re hungry—or thinking about where their next meal will come from. It is our hope that Fuel Kids at School will take us one step further in nourishing our communities, one child at a time,” said Mike Vail, President of Hannaford. “We want access to food to be easy for kids. Locating food pantries where they are—at their schools should make a lasting and deep impact on child nutrition across our five states.”

Hannaford, in partnership with area hunger relief organizations, will establish over two years, 90 school food pantries across Maine and other northeast states. In Maine, Good Shepherd Food Bank received nearly $300,000 to establish school-based food pantries in 30 Head Start preschools throughout the state.

“The correlation between access to nutritious food and early childhood development and learning makes Head Start locations the ideal match for our next phase of school-based pantries,” said Kristen Maile, President of Good Shepherd Food Bank. “We know that expanding our pantry sites to serve pre-school-aged children and their families will play an important role in ensuring a bright future for Maine’s youngest citizens.”

Designed to serve as a vital and convenient resource to students and families in need while also increasing access to healthy and nutritious food, the in-school pantries are dedicated spaces where students can select food they enjoy according to preference and cooking abilities to provide nourishment both during the day and after the school day.

“The Fuel Kids at School funding, with its focus on Head Start programs, will enable us to make nutritious food readily available to more families at risk of hunger in the critical years before their children enter the public schools,” said Kathryn Sargent, Executive Director of the Locker Project.

The announcement took place in conjunction with a donation of $1,000 in school food pantry staples to the East End Children’s Workshop along with chef-prepared food for the parents and students at the local pre-school.

Hannaford Supermarkets has a longstanding commitment to supporting hunger relief in its communities. In 2018, Hannaford donated nearly 26 million pounds of food throughout the Northeast, including 5.3 million pounds in New York; and raised $1.1 million in partnership with its shoppers to feed individuals in need through the annual Hannaford Helps Fight Hunger program. Earlier this month, Hannaford announced that it has donated more than $1 million to non-profits throughout New York and New England as a result of its reusable bag program, a portion of which is dedicated to hunger relief organizations and has funded more than 1.8 million meals to date.