PRIORITY NOTICE: USDA Extends School Meal Flexibilities Through 2020/2021 School Year; Webinar Available 10/14 at 1pm 

The State of Maine has accepted 12 waiver extensions from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allowing for continued flexibilities in the federal Summer Food Service Program/Seamless Summer Option (SFSP/SSO) programs through the 2020/2021 school year. Originally set to expire on December 31, 2020, the waiver extensions will allow schools and other local program operators to continue to leverage SFSP/SSO federal food service programs to provide no cost meals options to all children through June 30, 2021.    

The waiver extensions allow school nutrition teams across the state to continue partnering with community organizations, to prepare and package food, set up food delivery service with school transportation teams, and create community pick-up locations (among many other methods) to ensure families have safe options for receiving food during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We are really pleased that USDA continues to extend these necessary waivers to assist school nutrition programs across Maine with the funding and options they need to feed Maine kids during the pandemic,” said Walter Beesley, Maine Department of Education (DOE) Director of Child Nutrition. “We continue to work closely with district and school leaders to ensure they have the resources and state-level support needed to continue their work.” 

The Maine DOE is hosting a Child Nutrition webinar tomorrow 10/14/2020 at 1:00pm. School and district leaders, and school nutrition staff can register to attend this webinar here. 

The first round of USDA waivers for school meal programming began in March of 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when schools around the country switched to emergency remote learning. The waivers have been extended numerous times throughout the summer and again this fall, with the most recent extension coming in late last week, that allows the flexibilities to continue through the end of the current school year.  

The waivers include:  

  1. COVID-19 Response #59 – Nationwide waiver to allow SFSP and SSO operations through SY 2020-21 – extension  
  2. COVID-19 Response #60 – Nationwide waiver to extend area eligibility waivers – extension #3 
  3. COVID-19 Response #61 – Nationwide waiver to allow non-congregate feeding in SFSP/SSO – extension #5 
  4. COVID-19 Response #62 – Nationwide waiver to allow parents and guardian to pick up meals for children – extension #5  
  5. COVID-19 Response #63 – Nationwide waiver to allow meal pattern flexibility in SFSP/SSO – extension #8 
  6. COVID-19 Response #64 – Nationwide waiver to allow area eligibility for closed enrolled sites in SFSP/SSO – extension #2 
  7. COVID-19 Response #65 – Nationwide waiver to waive first week site visits in SFSP – extension #2 
  8. COVID 19 Response #66 – Nationwide waiver of meal service time restrictions in SFSP/SSO – extension #2 
  9. COVID 19 Response #67 – Nationwide waiver to allow OVS flexibilities in SFSP – extension #2  
  10. COVID 19 Response #68 – Nationwide waiver of area eligibility in the CACFP at risk afterschool care component – extension  
  11. COVID 19 Response #69 – Nationwide waiver to allow reimbursement for meals served prior to notification of preapproval and provide flexibility for preapproval visits in SFSP – extension  
  12. COVID 19 Response #70 – Nationwide waiver to allow meal pattern flexibility in the Child Nutrition Programs – extension #5 

 All Maine children 18 and younger can apply to have a breakfast and lunch at no charge through the school in their community. Families interested in applying can do so by contacting their local school to complete a meal benefit applicationThe data from this form also supports other opportunities for local schools/districts such as educational grants and additional state subsidy for educational purposes.  

Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition team continues to process SFSP applications on an ongoing basis.  View an interactive map of schools providing meals through SFSP. Districts interested in applying for the SFSP can do so by contacting the Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition Team. 

PRIORITY NOTICE: Maine DOE Celebrates Extension of 9 USDA Waivers that Provide Maine Children with Better Access to Food

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) received confirmation on Monday, August 31st that 9 waivers from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be extended, allowing continued flexibility in the way that school districts and other non-profit, community organizations can offer meals to children 18 years of age or younger.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Maine DOE, in partnership with Maine schools, has sought continued flexibility in federal school meal programs so that schools can continue to provide Maine children with easy access to food, even when they are not at school.

The 9 waivers all apply to the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which was established as a way to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals during the summer months, when school is not in session. Throughout the pandemic however, flexibility in this program, granted by the USDA, has allowed schools to provide meals to children while they are learning remotely.

Through the flexibility of the SFSP, school nutrition teams across the state have partnered with community organizations, prepared and packaged food, set up food delivery service with school transportation teams, and created community pick-up locations, among many other methods, to ensure families have safe options for receiving food. The 9 waivers will allow schools to continue providing meals with this same flexibility as the school year begins.  

The first round of waivers began in March of 2020 when COVID-19 started spreading throughout the United States, and schools switched to emergency remote learning. The waivers have been extended numerous times throughout the summer, with word of the most recent 9 happening early this week. 

The 9 waiver extensions, which apply to all 50 states and U.S. territories, became effective on Sept. 1, 2020 and will extent to Dec.31, 2020.  

  1. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Non-congregate Feeding in the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option – EXTENSION 4 (#54) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children – EXTENSION 4  (#55) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option – EXTENSION 7  (#53) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver of Meal Service Time Restrictions in the Summer Food Service Program – EXTENSION  (#50) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Offer Versus Serve Flexibilities in the Summer Food Service Program – EXTENSION  (#51) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Waive First Week Site Visits in the Summer Food Service Program – EXTENSION  (#49) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Area Eligibility for Closed Enrolled Sites in the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option – EXTENSION  (#48) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Summer Food Service Program through December 2020 (#56) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Extend Area Eligibility Waivers – EXTENSION 2 (#52) 

Maine schools are excited about their ability to continue providing more meal flexibility to all children in their communities. The DOE Child Nutrition Team has been working with school nutrition teams and district leaders across the state to ensure they have the most updated guidance for school meal programs as the 2020/2021 school year begins. The team also continues to process SFSP applications on an ongoing basis.  View an interactive map of schools providing meals through SFSP. 

Districts interested in applying for the SFSP can do so by contacting the Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition Team. 

School Food Service Webinar for Superintendents 9/2 at 1pm

Maine DOE Director of Child Nutrition Walter Beesley will be hosting a webinar for Maine Superintendents on the topic of School Food Service for the 2020/2021 school year. Please register ahead of time for this webinar. 

WHEN: Wednesday, September 2nd at 1:00 pm
REGISTER: Register here for this Webinar »

This session will be recorded and available on Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition YouTube Playlist.

For more information or help with registration, contact Paula Nadeau at Paula.Nadeau@maine.gov

Mother and Son Team Up for Virtual Farm to School Cook-off

When the pandemic closed school buildings abruptly in March, the annual Maine Farm to School Cook-off was put on hold. The cook-off is an annual competition among students and school nutrition staff, featuring Maine grown ingredients, organized by the Maine Child Nutrition office. As an alternative, a virtual Farm to School Cook-off was offered to participating teams to showcase their prepared meals in a virtual format.

Capitalizing on the unique opportunity of being in the same household during the pandemic, Gina and Caleb of Team “Sonday” from RSU 54, playfully named to showcase the mother and son duo, embraced the challenge and created breakfast and lunch videos to showcase the meals they had planned for the cook-off.

Two challenge ingredients were part of the competition, donated by Maine farms and producers, including rolled oats from Maine Grains in Skowhegan and ground beef from Common Hill Farm in Jackson.

The team did a great job showcasing the recipes they used which consisted of a strawberry shortcake smoothie for breakfast (what creative use of rolled oats!), and a Mexican inspired lunch, consisting of a taco mashup bowl and Mexican fruit salad. Check out the videos created by this stellar team.

Thank you, Gina and Caleb, for your dedication to this event and for being an annual participant in our Farm to School Cook-off since School Year 2017. Team Sonday will be awarded a breakfast and lunch plaque, as well as a certificate of appreciation for the longest running team to participate.

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!