It’s 9:30 on a weekday morning and the grade 3-5 students are coming for breakfast into Walsh Common, Lincolnville Central School’s combination cafeteria/auditorium/multipurpose room. Angela Wheaton and Royce Wright are ready for them; the cooler is full of yogurt and fruit parfaits, cheese sticks and milk. A nearby table holds muffins, granola bars, breakfast sandwiches (or on others days, breakfast pizzas or chicken taquitos), bowls of apples and oranges.
Angela is officially the school’s Food Service Director, but both she and her assistant, Royce, are just as happy to be known as the Lunch Ladies.
The line moves swiftly; most children take something, and then hurry outdoors to the playground. The masks come off and with a few of Angela’s healthy snacks, the play starts. This is recess, 2021, a recognition that even if a child has already eaten breakfast at home, that was likely hours ago. And also, the reality that some children may not have had anything to eat yet that day.
Kindergartners through grade two have already had their turn, and at 10:10 middle schoolers, grades 6-8, will come down to Walsh Common.
MONDAY, Sept. 20
Board of Assessors, 6 p.m., Town Office
TUESDAY, Sept. 21
Library open, 3-6 p.m., 208 Main Street
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 22
Schoolhouse Museum, 1-4 p.m., 33 Beach Road
THURSDAY, Sept. 23
Cross-country meet, 4 p.m.. Medomak
Conservation Commission, 4 p.m., Town Trail head, Breezemere Park
LIA meets, 5:30 potluck, Walsh Common, LCS
FRIDAY, Sept. 24
Library open, 9 a.m.-noon, 208 Main Street
Schoolhouse Museum, 1-4 p.m., 33 Beach Road
SATURDAY, Sept. 25
Library open, 9 a.m.-noon, 208 Main Street
AA meetings, Tuesdays & Fridays at noon, Community Building
Lincolnville Community Library, For information call 706-3896.
Schoolhouse Museum open M-W-F or by appointment, 505-5101 or 789-5987
Bayshore Baptist Church, Sunday School for all ages, 9:30 a.m., Worship Service at 11 a.m., Atlantic Highway
United Christian Church, Worship Service 9:30 a.m. outdoors or via Zoom
Lunchtime is a repeat of the morning, though with a good many bringing a lunch from home – those bright, new lunchboxes get a work- out the first couple of months of school. But, as the year goes on and enthusiasm for packing lunches wanes, more and more parents rely on the school’s hot lunch.
The lunch menu ranges from the old hot lunch standbys of Chop Suey and Sloppy Joes, to today’s Teriyaki Chicken and Rice or Turkey Bacon Ranch Flatbread. Friday is the day Angela often indulges kids’ love of chicken nuggets or patties and French fries. And the day she may treat them to homemade cookies.
“I don’t believe in eating sugar before noon,” she says.
Every meal includes fresh fruit or veggies. State guidelines require each meal to include two ounces of meat or cheese, two ounces of grain and a cup of fruit or vegetable and 8 ounces of milk. But do they actually eat those apples they’re urged to take on their way through the line.
“Yes, they usually do,” Angela says.
Both breakfast and lunch are free for all students. No more “free or reduced” lunches as in the old days. Not only did students feel stigmatized by the “free or reduced” label, but teachers were required to collect hot lunch money from all students and keep track of who hadn’t paid.
The meals are free because through 2023 the Federal Government is paying for them, part of the Covid relief funds that went to schools.
After that Maine will supplement the Federal program. Maine Food Service Directors had signed a petition promoting the Full Plates Full Potential initiative. If a child is hungry he/she can’t learn, and Angela’s proud to say that Governor Mills made Maine the second state in the Union to sign on to the “every meal free for every school child” program.
Apparently, California beat us by two hours.
Angela, who lives in Hope, has been Lincolnville’s Lunch Lady for the past seven years. Her training and experience started at Augusta’s Maine General Hospital where she directed the ICU’s food service. The move to running a K-8 food program had its challenges, meeting the nutritional needs of children from age 5-14, but it’s one she’s taken on with enthusiasm.
Assistant Royce comes from a long career in restaurants. Most recently he ran Copper Pine, the Point Lookout breakfast and lunch place that’s since closed. He says he never thought he’d enjoy working around children so much. With a big smile he said, “you can call me a Lunch Lady.”
Working in tandem with Principal Paul Russo, Angela has made the school garden a focal point of the lunch program. The garden, 35’ x 52’ with 16 raised beds, provides tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, greens and occasional bouquets of flowers for teachers’ desks.
When last year’s crops were ravaged by bears, destroying them completely, Paul supported fencing the vegetable beds. Although enthusiastic about the garden, Paul told her, “it’s not nutritious if they won’t eat it.” So Angela has had to become a marketer, as well.
The food tasting table is how she starts. For example, with September’s harvest of tomatoes, next week will be Salsa Week with various salsas and chips on the tasting table so kids can try them out, and let her know what they like and what they don’t. Kale salad is another sell.
She’s tended the garden mostly herself this summer with help from the LCS summer camp, keeping things neat and manageable. Now that school has started again teachers can bring a class outdoors once in a while to do some weeding or harvesting. There’s always a lesson involved, like a math class figuring out the fencing or wondering what the tomatoes need or what pest ate those leaves. “They learn something, and so do I,” she says.
It’s obvious these two, Angela and Royce both, enjoy what they’re doing, putting out nutritious food for every child. As she says, “I love my job, love filling these bellies.”
Hot Lunch circa 1967
Back in the long-ago days when I taught school in Rockland, I hated the need for “free or reduced” lunch. The students in Rockland Junior High School where I was a sixth-grade teacher came from such widely diverse economic households, and everyone always knew who the free lunch kids were. As if there needed to be more reminders of who was poor and who was not.
One below zero morning stands out. Students typically flocked around my desk before the bell, telling me the latest news.
“My dad’s girlfriend had a baby last night,” said one.
“My uncle shot a moose yesterday, and we cut it up in our garage,” from another boy.
“We’re going up to camp this weekend; I got my own snowmobile for Christmas,” a girl told us all.
“The firemen came to our house last night,” another girl confided after the others sat down. “The furnace in our building is broken, and the old lady who lives below us started a fire on her floor to get warm.”
Guess who got free lunch? And who could pay the full $.75 or whatever hot lunch cost in 1967?
Rockland was a revelation to a young woman raised in an affluent suburb of Chicago where everyone was pretty much the same, economically that is.
In 1970, Wally and I married and moved into the house at the top of Sleepy Hollow. That summer he was hired at LCS as math and science teacher for grades 7 and 8 and principal of the grades 5-8 school. Grades 1-4 attended the Hope School, and their grade 5-8 kids came to LCS. That system, started in the 1960s, continued until 1977, when the first of two additions to the original four-room school was completed.
Polly Davis was the hot lunch cook. I don’t think anyone called her the Food Service Director. Baked beans, hot dogs, American Chop Suey, mac and cheese, and always a dessert. She was famous for her peanut butter fudge.
Anita Snowdeal Reynolds took over from Polly, running the lunch program for 39 years. For some 20 summers she was the Tanglewood 4-H Camp cook. Next came Lynette Crockett, and then Angela. Four cooks in 50 years. Not bad.
We raised winter pigs on the 5-gallon bucket of school lunch garbage that Wally brought home every day, topped off with the milk the federal hot lunch program required every child to take.
Those regulations were apparently politically motivated, the required milk a nod to Congressmen from the dairy states. Those regulations were so strict the school had to throw away any unopened milk, carton and all. No using the milk in preparing any meals. When Jimmy Carter became president peanuts (!!!) became a regular staple of the food provided by the government.
Today with the recognition of serious peanut allergies, things have changed. Angela says, “Thankfully we have a very few students with peanut allergies and we have a peanut free table that kids can sit at. Students and parents alike are very respectful and are happy to pack nut free food. Every hot lunch entree that Royce and I prepare is 100% nut free so any child can sit at the nut free table.”
Oh, and by the way, based on our income and the size of our family, when our three were in school they got the reduced lunch rate.
Perhaps you’re wondering, as I was, where Penobscot Park is. Well, it’s the four acre parcel on the shore close to the Lincolnville-Northport town line that the town acquired in a land swap with Coastal Mountains Land Trust last year.
But the gate on Route One still remains closed.
It’s been some ten years since Point Lookout, former owners of the property, did any maintenance on the structures there – picnic tables, restrooms, and overgrown vegetation. Enter some help from folks to the south of us.
A small group of Camden’s West Bay Rotary members helped our town this past Sunday by tackling some of the overgrown vegetation. According to J.P. Fecteau, this spin-off group of the Rotary finds it more convenient to meet in the evenings, rather than the Rotary’s usual morning meeting time. They seek out projects that involve physical, outdoor activities. J.P. expects his group will be returning at least a couple of more times to accomplish all the clean-up and maintenance needed. According to Dave Kinney, our town administrator, “the group made great progress in pruning or removing overgrown vegetation. The town certainly appreciates their enthusiasm and efforts.”
Librarian Sheila Polson writes: “Everyone is invited to join the library book group this Tuesday, September 21, at 5 p.m. to discuss Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This powerful novel begins with the stories of two half-sisters born in different villages in 18th-century Ghana and traces the lives of their descendants, from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi.
“Anyone visiting the library is asked to please wear a face mask inside the building regardless of vaccination status.”
From Jane Hardy: “The Lincolnville Improvement Association is having their September meeting at the Lincolnville Central School, 523 Hope Rd., Thursday, Sept. 23, at 5:15 pm. Please note the change in our usual start time and venue.
There is a very interesting program planned for the evening and this will be the first item on our agenda. The speaker will be Nick Jachabelus, a new Lincolnville resident and newly inducted member of our fire department. His topic is “A First-Hand view of 9/11 Ground Zero”.
Nick and his daughter were both volunteer firefighters on Long Island and responded when the planes hit the Twin Towers. We hope you will join us to hear his talk and to welcome him to Lincolnville.
“The usual potluck supper will follow Nick’s presentation. Please bring a dish to share – salad, main dish, or dessert… Main dishes are especially appreciated. The LIA will provide coffee, tea, and lemonade; no adult beverages are allowed at the school building.
“Everyone is welcome, so come promptly at 5:15, bring a friend and a dish to share. Park at the side of the building. There will be folks to direct you. You will need to wear a mask when not eating. See you at the school!”
The Berniers on Ducktrap Road have been visited by a coyote – a large, very healthy looking coyote – daily for the past few weeks. She (they assume there’s a litter being fed somewhere) is most interested in their flock of hens and just this week-end, their three geese. Apparently she went right into their pond to nab one. All three geese are now missing, but on the off chance that one was able to escape they’d like their neighbors to be on the lookout for it. Contact them if you see it.