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, according to a news release.
“We applaud those who worked tirelessly to provide food to children during a challenging school year,” a news release from the Maine Department of Education read. “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.”
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.
“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.”
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 211.