Tips and Information for Districts Offering Complimentary Meals 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the way schools and districts have been offering meals to children across the state has changed dramatically. Food service staff have worked tirelessly to adapt and come up with many creative methods for meal service by schools.

The complimentary meals, free of charge to all families, are being offered as part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) emergency meal program – a response to the pandemic.  The emergency meal program ensures compliance with the required law of offering meals on educational days. It is not part of the federal School Lunch Program, but a special program which offers meals to all children during this time of challenge.

Given the underutilization of this program by students and families across Maine, the Department is offering some tips that school/district nutrition teams can use to help increase participation by maximizing nutrition and appeal to students, adding flexibly for families, and by increasing promotion and communication:

  • Children’s preferences and favorites should be considered when planning menus.
  • Meals offered should be nutritious and appealing.
  • Flexible delivery methods are needed to accommodate working parents.
  • Volunteers from the community can be sourced to supplement food service staff.
  • Advertise as “complementary meals” or “emergency meals” (not as “School Lunch”).
  • Maximize communication by using your district’s social media and online platforms. Include photos of menus and featured ingredients.
  • Include delivery site information and picture of location (or a picture of the delivery vehicle).
  • Always reiterate that the meals are free for everyone!

If you need more information, support, and/or training, contact Maine DOE Child Nutrition Office at 207-624-6842.

REMINDER: USDA Food Orders Due on February 22nd

School Food Service Departments across the state are busy entering the orders for USDA food for School Year 2022.  It is hard to believe we are in the process of ordering food for next school year! This is a friendly reminder that the USDA food orders are due by noon on February 22nd.

Directions to place food orders in the new CNPweb system are posted on our web page here: https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/nutrition/programs/fd. Once orders are placed, the Department will submit them to USDA for the bidding/purchasing process for Maine.

Thank you and great job to those that have completed the USDA food ordering process already.

If you have any questions or need support in this process, contact Maine DOE Child Nutrition at 207-624-6822.

Maine DOE Child Nutrition Team Announces Initial Transition to New Software Program to Streamline Claiming, Ordering, Applications, and Review

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) Child Nutrition Team is excited to announce that a new software program called CNPWeb will launch this week and begin to replace NEO for all School Nutrition functions. CNPWeb will streamline the claiming, ordering, annual application and review process for all of the Child Nutrition programs: School Nutrition, Food Distribution, Summer Food Service and Child & Adult Care Food Program.

The new CNPWeb software will transition over, starting with the Food Distribution Program (FDP), also known as USDA Food on 2/4/2021.

  • All districts will need to submit a FDP application for approval and locations of delivery in CNPWeb.  A webinar will be offered Tuesday, February 9th at 9:30am (register here) – This webinar will be recorded and available on Child Nutrition Training Webpage.  Additional material and resources will be on the CNPWeb web page and in our weekly Child Nurtition listserv updates.  This is in preparation for completing the annual USDA Foods order opening February 12, 2021. Applications must be in and approved to get a fair share of the USDA Food money before February 12th.  All orders must be placed for SY22 food by February 22, 2021 to meet the USDA purchase deadline.

The remaining Child Nutrition programs are anticipated to transition to the new CNPWeb system during the spring of SY22.

Please make sure your School Department’s Food Service Director is aware of this message.  It is important to meet the deadline for the federal food service programs so that all schools to get their fair share of money. More information can be found on the Maine CNPWeb web page https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/nutrition/programs/fd or by contacting the Maine DOE Child Nutrition Office.

Maine DOE Child Nutrition Team Provides USDA with Virtual Tour of Culinary Classroom

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) Child Nutrition team provided a virtual tour and presentation of its Culinary Classroom recently in an effort to showcase to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) how the classroom has benefited Maine schools since its initial launch in September of 2019 

USDA helped fund the project as a way to improve Maine DOE’s capacity to provide Maine schools with additional skills and training with preparation and cooking as part of the national school meal programs administered through Maine DOE. 

camera angle looking from aboveThe call featured Maine DOE Chef Michele Bisbee and Maine DOE Director of Child Nutrition Walter Beesley who provided national representatives with a virtual tour of the culinary classroom including a look around the kitchen, a demonstration of how the equipment is used, and the various angles the state-of-the-art cameras can provideThe kitchen and its ability to present virtually and record provides multiple options for in-personvirtual, and online learning opportunities for school nutrition staff statewide. 

Participants from the USDA included Administrator Pam Miller along with Kurt Messner, Regional Administrator from Northeast Regional Office; Christine Ruggieri, Deputy Regional Administrator; Cheryl Fogerty, Special Nutrition Division DirectorMartine Cherry, Schools Branch Chief; and Jan Kallio, Community Nutrition Branch ChiefSNP Program SpecialistsDeborah RoachSusan GentilePam Griffin, and Greg Piotrowicz along with Cynthia Tackett, Public Affairs Director and Heriberto Ortega were also in attendance virtually. 

During the presentation, Beesley made a point to mention the many considerations are taken into account for trainings, for example providing different options for prepping and cooking with appliances that local school units would have handy, and not just using commercial grade appliances that may not be available in all school kitchens. “It is important to make our trainings relevant to school staff no matter what they have in their kitchen,” said Beesley during the presentation. 

Another important aspect of the presentation was the many partnerships the Child Nutrition Team has been able to obtain and grow through its expansion of the culinary classroom. In addition to partnering with schools to provide trainings, they have also grown their partnerships with higher education institutes in Maine, and other industry professionals who use the kitchen as well. 

The presentation was well received by our national school lunch partners, and garnered continued support for the kitchen and Maine DOE’s ongoing projects to support Maine Schools. 

For more information about the Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition team and its programs visit their website. To see recordings of their trainings, visit the their YouTube Playlist or training website. For more information about the Culinary Classroom, contact Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition Team. 

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine DOE Farm to School Cook-off Takes on New Format

people cooking in industrial kitchen
Competitors cooking the 2019/2020 Cook-off.

AUGUSTA –The Maine Department of Education, Child Nutrition team is holding its annual Farm to School Cook-off in SY 2021 as usual, except this year it will look a bit differently. The cook-off is a statewide culinary competition for teams of school nutrition professionals and students to promote local foods in school meals. This voluntary competition is made available to all school districts in the state.

On a “typical” year, the cook-off would involve three regional competitions that take place in locations across the state (including CTE culinary arts centers), and a finals competition in the Child Nutrition Culinary Classroom. To adapt to these ever-changing times, the format for the 2021 cook-off will be as follows:

Round 1– virtual cook-off (March 2021). Teams will submit videos of their breakfast and lunch meals to be posted on the Child Nutrition website, where voting will take place. The top three teams will advance to round 2.

The video presentation will include details on local ingredients, techniques used, feasibility, and anything else the team would like to share.

Round 2– final cook-off (May 2021). The top teams will compete in the Child Nutrition Culinary Classroom in Augusta! The 2021 Farm to School Cook-off champion will be awarded a plaque and the opportunity to be spokespeople in the 2022 cookbook. Please note all necessary precautions will be taken, including face coverings and social distancing of teams in the culinary classroom. The Child Nutrition team will be monitoring any changes needed to this format to ensure the safety of all participants.

Each team will prepare a breakfast and lunch meal within a specific time frame using at least three ingredients that are grown, raised, caught, or manufactured in the State of Maine and meet Summer Food Service Program meal requirements as well as one USDA food. Local eggs and local parsnips will be used as “challenge” ingredients in the competition. All recipes will later be shared in a Maine farm to school cookbook to be used in future summer meals programs.

Interested school districts can find more information and the link to register on the Maine Child Nutrition website. The registration deadline is December 18, 2020. For more information on Maine’s Farm and Sea to School program, visit https://www.maine.gov/doe/farmtoschool.