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.

Maine DOE Child Nutrition Launches CNPWeb for School Year 2022

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) Child Nutrition is excited to announce that we are moving over to a new program, CNPWeb, which will replace NEO for all School Nutrition functions.

CNPWeb will streamline the claiming, ordering, annual application and review process for all of our child nutrition programs. The system will go live in July 2021 at which time each district will need to submit their annual Sponsor Application and Site Information Sheets for approval.

Superintendents will have permissions to approve the monthly claim for reimbursement. However, if you wish to delegate another person as the Approving Officer, the Superintendent must email Pamela.Partridge@maine.gov to make this request.

For technical assistance and questions please contact Pam Partridge at Pamela.Partridge@maine.gov or (207) 624-6843 the Child Nutrition Team at child.nutrition@maine.gov, or (207) 624-6842.

Maine Chefs Highlight the Use of Local Ingredients in New Video Campaign  

The Child Nutrition Team at the Maine Department of Education (DOE) has set forth on a campaign to encourage schools to utilize fresh products the state of Maine offers in their school meal programs. The initiative, “Farm and Sea to School” brought in experts of cooking and agriculture to create videos on various recipes that use fresh ingredients grown or caught right here in Maine.  

Rob Dumas from the University of Maine School of Food and Agriculture was featured making several different recipes, including a bean burrito bowl and lentil shepherd’s pie. Dumas is the Food Science Innovation Coordinator at the University of Maine and a certified executive chef with the American Culinary Federation.

Jeff Wolovitz from Heiwa Tofu in Rockport demonstrated how to make a crispy tofu recipe. Mike Flynn, head of School Nutrition at RSU 12, with the assistance of Food Corps service member Maggie Blumenthal made a crunchy baked fish. Annie Watson, co-owner of Sheepscot Valley Farm in Whitefield, made “Mac and Trees”- a healthy spin on a classic meal. Finally, Caitlin Frame from Milkhouse Farm and Creamery in Monmouth created a Waldorf Chicken Salad with a healthy yogurt replacement to the traditional mayonnaise-filled recipe. 

All of the chefs demonstrated how to use fresh ingredients to create healthy and nutritious meals. Throughout their videos, they also teach the audience various cooking skills, including food safety, several knife skills, tricks for keeping your workspace tidy, and many other kitchen hacks.

Information in this article is just a snippet of what these amazing chefs show in their videos. Check out the playlist below for some new recipes and skills to try out! For more information contact Robin Kerber, Maine DOE Farm and Sea to School Coordinator at 207-592-0820 or Robin.Kerber@maine.gov.

Letter for Families: Importance of Completing the Meal Benefit Application for SY 2022

The Maine Department of Education Child Nutrition team has created a letter geared to Maine parents and families to express the importance of completing the meal benefit application. The letter can be downloaded and sent out to your district’s family mailing list. This letter can serve as a first step to get families thinking about the meal benefit application as we go into summer and can be sent out along with any other end of school year materials/reminders.

School and district administrators are encouraged to utilize their avenues of communication with families to share this resource.

Here is the link to this letter: https://www.maine.gov/doe/sites/maine.gov.doe/files/inline-files/Meal%20Benefit%20Application%20Promotion%20Letter%20to%20Families.pdf

There will be many promotional efforts coming this summer to ensure higher application return rates and meal participation!

For further questions, please contact Caroline Bennett, Ending Hunger in Maine AmeriCorps VISTA, Maine Department of Education at Caroline.Bennett@maine.gov

School Nutrition Staff Go Above and Beyond at Whitefield Elementary

Vicki Dill pictured with student Kiara Luce- 2021 Farm to School Cook-off Champions
Vicki Dill pictured with student Kiara Luce- 2021 Farm to School Cook-off Champions

What are the Whitefield Wildcats, 2021 Farm to School Cook-off Champions, up to right now? They are making an impact on students in their school. This school year has presented many challenges for all school staff and students. With challenges there are also opportunities. At Whitefield Elementary, the school nutrition staff Vicki Dill and Ashley Burdick went above and beyond to work with grades K-2 to make the end of school year experience a memorable one. The K-2 classrooms have been doing an “ABC Countdown to Summer”, and over the last 26 days of school used a theme based on the letter of the day.

On B day (Bubbles and Balls) their breakfast was served in bags with bubbles. On F day (Forest Day) students were provided lunches in bindles to eat in the forest. On S day (Scavenger Hunt Day) they took the time to create a scavenger hunt for students to find their lunches. According to Sarah Brewer, grade 2 teacher, “the kids absolutely loved everything they did. It’s been a very hard and stressful year for both teachers and students and these two lovely ladies went above and beyond what was expected of them to make the kid’s year a memorable one”.

Kudos to Vicki and Ashley for their partnership with the classrooms at Whitefield Elementary! This is one example of how school nutrition staff have made a positive impact in student’s lives during a challenging and ever-changing year. We thank all nutrition staff for their dedication and efforts over the past year and wish everyone a safe and healthy summer!