Teams advance to Farm to School Cook-off Finals Competition

 

The Maine Department of Education Child Nutrition office kicked off their 4th annual Farm to School Cook-off last month. Cook-off teams representing nine school districts from across Maine participated in the event. The teams, consisting of a student and school nutrition staff member, served up tasty and nutritious breakfast and lunch meals within a specific time frame that showcased Maine grown ingredients. Apples donated from Ricker Hill Orchards and dried black beans donated from Fairwinds Farm were used as “challenge” ingredients in the competition. The regional cook-off’s were hosted by the culinary arts programs at the Lake Region Vocational Center, Bath Regional Career and Technical Center and Eastern Maine Community College.

South Portland, RSU 12, and Cherryfield will be advancing to the Farm to School Cook-off finals competition on April 23rd from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Kennebec Valley Community College- Alfond Campus in Clinton. A panel of judges including a student, chef and school nutrition director, will score the dishes 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.

The winning team 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 2020.  Recipes used in the cook-off will later be shared with all schools in a Maine farm to school cook-book.

Members of the media are welcome to attend the final cook-off but need to confirm prior to the day of the event.

For more information about the event, please contact Stephanie Stambach at stephanie.stambach@maine.gov, or to confirm media coverage, contact: Kelli Deveaux at kelli.deveaux@maine.gov or 207-624-6747.

Priority Notice: School Nutrition Benefits for Families Impacted by Federal Shutdown

With the federal shutdown impacting numerous Mainers, the Maine Department of Education wants to remind school districts that applications for free and reduced-price meals may be submitted at any time throughout the school year, even during a federal shutdown. If federal employees impacted by the shutdown would like to apply for school meal benefits for their children, they may so do through their local school district.

To apply – A special application can be downloaded from the Maine Department of Education’s website (linked below) and submitted to your local school’s food service program.

Download printable meal benefit application (PDF)

School administrators should be aware that this is a federal application so it may look unfamiliar but please accept and process it as you would your current meal benefit applications. Please also be aware that Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition office is also releasing information to remind food service staff that parents can apply for meal benefits for their children at any time.

For more information, contact Walter Beesley, Child Nutrition Director, Maine Department of Education at Walter.Beesley@maine.gov or 624-6875.

Maine DOE to Launch Maine Harvest of the Month Program in Schools

The Maine Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Program is excited to announce the launch of Maine’s Harvest of the Month Program. Currently in planning phases, the program is slated to launch in schools in the Spring of 2019. Jenn So has been hired by the Maine DOE as the Harvest of the Month Program Manager and will be leading the development, implementation, and trainings for the program statewide. This program is a collaboration between the Maine DOE Child Nutrition Program and the Maine Farm to School Network.

Program Background

Harvest of the Month (HOM) is a nationwide marketing campaign promoting the use of seasonally available, local products in schools, institutions, and communities. Each month, a different local product is highlighted and participating entities pledge to serve the product and promote it through educational materials and activities. The program launched in California and has been replicated by dozens of other states across the country. With Maine’s participation, all of New England will now have Harvest of the Month programs.

Maine Harvest of the Month Background 

In its pilot year, Maine’s HOM program will develop a unique Maine HOM crop calendar and create corresponding marketing materials and recipes for food service directors and schools to display and utilize. Regional trainings will be delivered to train food service staff and other interested stakeholders on how to best implement the program; support will be provided to schools as needed. The program’s goal is to increase the procurement and consumption of local Maine products in schools (K-12), and thus the total number of meals provided. To participate in the program, schools will sign a  pledge committing to: serve the local HOM product at least twice per month (local being defined as grown or caught in Maine); display HOM materials provided by the Child Nutrition office; and participate in pre-and post-evaluations. Schools are also encouraged to integrate the HOM into educational activities.

If your school or district is interested in participating, please contact Jenn So at jenn.so@maine.gov or 207-624-6639 for more information.

Professional Standards for School Nutrition Professionals and Training Opportunities

As a reminder, the Federal School Food Service Professional Standards took effect July 1, 2015 and impacts the hiring process for new School Food Service Directors or staff members that are responsible for food service director duties and were hired after July 1, 2015.

School districts are asked to notify Maine Department of Education’s Child Nutrition staff of any School Food Service Directors leaving. Directors in place on or before June 30, 2015 are grandfathered in their position. Districts only need to meet the updated requirements for hiring a new director.

The professional standards require a combination of education and experience, and necessitate school food service employees stay current by requiring education credits be met each year. The amount of education credits varies with position and hours worked. View the Professional Standards for School Food Service.

Training offered by Maine DOE Child Nutrition team includes the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) training and Summer Food Service Program trainings, monthly webinars, regional meetings and workshops.

Take advantage of these trainings to acquire your continuing education hours. All trainings offered by Maine DOE Child Nutrition team will be posted on the Child Nutrition Resources web page and on the Maine DOE Professional Development and Training Calendar.

For more information contact Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition Director Walter Beesley at walter.beesley@maine.gov or call 624-6875.

MEDIA RELEASE: Student Nutrition Continues Beyond School Year with Summer Food Service Program

AUGUSTA — With the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Maine public schools have long offered a nutritious breakfast and lunch meal program to thousands of children in Maine during the school year. With summer right around the corner, it’s time to think about keeping children healthy while school is out. The Summer Food Service Program, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, operates at hundreds of sites across Maine to ensure children get the nutrition they need when school is out.

“The National School Lunch Program is an important element of the Maine public school system’s dedication to providing a healthy learning environment for students, and we are equally dedicated to ensuring that healthy environment can be extended to them even when school is not in session through the Summer Food Service Program,” said Maine Department of Education Commissioner Robert G. Hasson, Jr.

“This program seeks to address a clear health need during the summer months wherever it may be evident in Maine, and while it has been successful in doing so in the past, the Department expects that increased participation this summer will further foster this success and, as a result, the continued health of Maine students.”

The Summer Food Service Program may be offered statewide in areas or at sites where more than 50 percent of the children are eligible for free or reduced meal benefits under the National School Lunch Program or census track data supports the need. Eligible sponsoring organizations include schools, nonprofit residential summer camps, government agencies, and tax-exempt organizations including faith-based organizations.

In 2017, 120 sponsors participated in the program, serving meals at 438 sites throughout the state. In 2018, these numbers are expected to grow. The 2018 program begins statewide today, Monday, June 18. Sponsors operate open sites in all 16 counties in Maine; anyone 18 and under may come to eat at no cost. To find nearby Summer Meal sites, please visit USDA’s Summer Meal Site Finder website at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks, text “Summer Meals” to 97779 or call Maine 211. Information is available mid-June.

For more information about the Maine DOE’s Summer Food Service Program, contact adriane.ackroyd@maine.gov, call 624-6726 or visit http://www.maine.gov/doe/nutrition/programs/sfsp/index.html.

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