Toolkit of Resources for Increasing Meal Participation

As part of effort to increase school meal participation and access to healthy foods, the Maine DOE Child Nutrition team has created a toolkit of resources for Food Service Directors. This toolkit contains information and tips on how to increase meal participation, as well as social media graphics and templates.

All materials are located under “Training” on the Child Nutrition webpage: https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/nutrition/training

All Food Service Directors from districts across the state are encouraged to utilize these materials to continue to spread a positive message about school nutrition programs to reach more Maine students. Templates and graphics in this toolkit can be used and customized for social media updates (and other avenues of communicating with families).** As school meals continue to be free to all students into the next school year, we want to ensure that as many children as possible are accessing the nutrition needed to fuel their learning!

**Please note: if distributing materials containing information on accessing benefits and services, a full non-discrimination statement must be included.

For questions, please contact Caroline Bennett: Ending Hunger in Maine AmeriCorps VISTA  (caroline.bennett@maine.gov)

MEDIA ADVISORY: School Nutrition Teams to Compete in 2021 Farm to School Cook-off Finals Competition

The Maine Department of Education Child Nutrition Team is hosting the 6th annual Farm to School finals competition in which a panel of judges including a chef, school nutrition director, and farmer will score dishes made by school nutrition teams 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. In the competition, local “challenge” ingredients will be incorporated into the meals, including eggs donated from Weston’s Meat and Poultry in Gardiner, and parsnips donated from Goranson Farm in Dresden.

Who: RSU 12 (which includes the town of Whitefield) and South Portland

When: May 5, 2021 at 1:00pm

Where:
Child Nutrition Culinary Classroom
90 Blossom Lane, Deering Building, 1st Floor, Augusta, ME 04333

Detailed Agenda: 2021 Culinary Classroom final cook-off agenda

Members of the media are welcome to attend the final cook-off in-person but need to confirm prior to the day of the event. For more information and to confirm coverage, contact: Kelli Deveaux at kelli.deveaux@maine.gov.

The event will also be live streamed and recorded on the Maine DOE’s YouTube Channel. View the Cook-off here on May 5th at 1pm. 

Background Information: Maine DOE kicked off their 6th annual Farm to School Cook-off this spring; however, it took on a different form. Cook-off teams representing four school districts from Maine participated in a virtual cook-off event where voting took place and determined the top two teams who advance to the finals round. The teams, consisting of a student and school nutrition professional, created tasty and nutritious breakfast and lunch meals that showcased Maine grown ingredients and followed recipe guidelines of the competition. This criteria included producing meals that meet the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) meal pattern and include at least three local ingredients and one USDA food.

The team that wins the over-all competition 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 2022.  Recipes used in the cook-off will later be shared with all schools in a Maine farm to school cook-book.

 

 

PRIORITY NOTICE: School Year 2022 Nationwide Waivers Available for Schools and Day Care Facilities to Support Safe Reopening and Nutritious Meals  

Maine Department of Education (DOE) is thrilled to share that USDA has released twelve additional Nationwide Waivers for SY 2022 These are meant to support the safe reopening of facilities while providing nutritious meals for children and adolescents. The new waivers can be accessed here  

Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition team is reading through the waivers carefully in order to provide the best support to the field. As some of these are different from those issued in the past. We support the action of USDA to release waivers to support the safe provision of nutritious meals for Maine students. These waivers will allow students all over the state to access meals and will provide much needed flexibilities during the current public health emergency.    

More information will be provided by Child Nutrition Director Walter Beesley on Wednesday, April 28th at 1:00. Those interested can register for the webinar  

For questions regarding these USDA nationwide waivers, contact Walter Beesley, Child Nutrition Director, at 207-624-6875 walter.beesley@maine.gov.  

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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 (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: https://www.usda.gov/oascr/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. 

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. 

Troy Howard Middle School Expands Food Pantry with Community Caring Cart

Like many school districts across Maine, RSU 71 provides a school food pantry program to ensure there are free food options for families to take home with them as an added service to those in need.

“The District has been feeding families in need since, well, forever,” said Carrie Robinson, Front Desk Secretary at Troy Howard Middle School (THMS) in Belfast.

While there is no data point in Maine that details just how many schools offer this type of service, it is abundantly clear that there are a wide range of efforts on all levels throughout Maine and often times they can be found at the local school.

“When our school buildings were closed last spring at the onset of the pandemic, our school nurses partnered with food services and transportation to send home weekly boxed meals and produce,” said Shannon Robbins, School Nurse at A Ames – Gladys Weymouth Elementary Schools in RSU 71. “In fact, we sent home over 22,000 pounds! Families shared with us how much it meant to have these necessities delivered to their homes when it felt too scary to shop in town.”

It’s worth noting that school food pantries and backpack programs are a volunteer effort at most schools and go above and beyond the complimentary school meals that students receive while learning at school and remotely. With the help of several USDA waivers during the pandemic, school nutrition programs have been allowed to be flexible and adaptive in the way school meals are served and most have been able to offer these services at no charge to families.

Suffice it to say, pantry and backpack programs are becoming an important addition to many school communities across Maine and at Troy Howard Middle School they have recently undergone an expansion to reach more families.

Although the district’s nurses, administrators, and guidance staff usually have a good idea of who needs help, they have found that it is still difficult to know if they’ve provided the service equitably.

“We really just never know who is in need,” explained Robyn Mailloux, THMS Nurse.

That is when they came up with the idea to offer the Community Caring Cart as a service to anyone who wants or needs something – they can just come pick it up. Instead of handing a backpack full of food and supplies to a specific student or families, now the cart is available in public areas at school that are easy for parents and students to just take what they need.

“Over the course of the year, I’ve been surprised at what has disappeared from the hallway shelf and who has been taking it,” said Mailloux. “You just don’t know what people’s stories are.”

In addition, there are bags available for people to donate items if they wish and the team is also working on some grab and go bags that are quick and easy to take.

“Anything taco related flies off the shelves, as does of course easy to make staples, mac and cheese and canned soups and fruits,” said Robinson. “Since we are at a middle school level many of our students have some basic cooking skills so they will grab things they can make for themselves. Any time we have fresh produce it goes well, the kids actually like fresh stuff!!!!”

“Lightweight, prepacked goods such as cereal, pasta or rice mixes, soups are very popular. We have also offered fresh produce from Maine farmers including potatoes, apples, carrots- families loved these,” adds Robbins.”

Knowing that food programs are a service provided in many community and schools throughout Maine, we asked the RSU 71 team if they have any advice for schools that are thinking about starting or expanding food pantry programs at their schools.

“I would remind any schools that are trying to do anything like this that you never really know who needs the help so get the word out every way you can,” offers Robinson.

“Partner with your community resources – we couldn’t do this without GBAM (Greater Belfast Area Ministerium Food Cupboard), GSFB (Good Shepard Food Bank), and our area boosters, such as Bell the Cat (a local restaurant) and individual donors,” said Robbins adding that when RSU 71 School Food Pantry began in 2019, they received a generous grant from the Sadie and Harry Davis Foundation that has enabled them to expand their support during the pandemic.

The Maine Department of Education would like to take a moment to thank the dedicated team at RSU 71 as well as the countless school staff members, volunteers, and community partners across Maine working tirelessly to provide services to the families in their communities through food programs and other similar efforts, especially throughout the past year. Your dedication and selflessness does not go unnoticed by the Department or the grateful people that benefit from your work.

Information for this article was provided by RSU 71 as part of the Maine DOE Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. The Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign is an avenue for Maine schools to celebrate successes and share innovative ideas, practices, and models that can be adapted and easily implemented by other Maine schools. Stories are not an endorsement of specific materials, services, or practices and are not intended to promote learning programs that are of cost to students, families, or schools. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

 

 

 

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine School Teams Advance in 2021 Farm to School Cook-off

Votes were cast and here are the results! Congratulations to South Portland (Kaler Kooks) and RSU 12 (Whitefield Wildcats) who will be advancing to the finals round of the 2021 Maine Farm to School Cook-off. The finals competition will be held on May 5th at the Maine Department of Education’s (DOE) Child Nutrition Culinary Classroom in Augusta.

The Maine Farm to School Cook-off is a statewide culinary competition for teams of school nutrition professionals and students to promote local foods in school meals. The 6th annual competition is organized by the Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition Team.

A big thank you to the four teams below who participated in the virtual event. For more information and to view each team’s videos please visit: https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/nutrition/programs/localfoods/cookoffvoting.