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!

MEDIA RELEASE: School Nutrition Programs to Feed Children 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. During the pandemic, many flexibilities were put into place to ensure children had access to complementary meals while learning remotely from home or attending school in person.

We applaud those who worked tirelessly to provide food to children during a challenging school year. With summer right around the corner, that important service will continue in many areas of Maine. The Summer Food Service Program, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, operates at hundreds of sites across Maine to ensure children get the nutrition they need.

“Maine’s National School Lunch Programs are an invaluable lifeline to our students for whom schools are a much needed and consistent source for food.” said Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “The Summer Food Service Program helps schools continue to provide this critical resource to Maine students through the summer months, and we are committed to assisting schools and communities as they address the needs of the whole child.”

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 where census track data supports the need. This summer, area eligibility waivers have allowed sites to operate in areas that have need due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Eligible sponsoring organizations include schools, nonprofit residential summer camps, government agencies, and tax-exempt organizations including faith-based organizations.

In July 2020, 112 sponsors participated in the program, serving meals at 730 sites throughout the state. Sponsors operate open sites in all 16 counties in Maine; anyone 18 and under may come to eat at no cost. Many sponsors will be utilizing USDA flexibilities which allow meals to be consumed off site to promote physical distancing and are offering innovative delivery and service models to meet the demand safely.

To find nearby Summer Meal sites, please visit USDA’s Summer Meal Site Finder website at: https://www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids, text “Summer Meals” to 97779 or call Maine 211.

Updated information will be available late-June.

For more information about the Maine DOE’s Summer Food Service Program, contact adriane.ackroyd@maine.gov, call 592-1722 or visit https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/nutrition/programs/sfsp.

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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: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, 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.

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.