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Maine’s Summer Food programs serve over 1.4 million meals

Oct 12, 2020

Portland — Full Plates Full Potential announced Oct. 8 that 1,421,533 summer meals were served to Maine kids this summer, which amounts to more than a 200% increase over meals served last summer.

These results are due in part to the easing of USDA restrictions so that the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) might feed children safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the announcement.

The program traditionally provides access to free meals to any child 18 and younger in certain eligible high-need areas and requires that children consume their meals on site. This summer, the USDA waived those requirements, among others, which allowed summer meal sites to deliver meals, offer multiple or bulk meals at once, and expanded the program's reach into communities that would normally not be eligible to operate a summer meal program.

The changes drastically increased access to meals by removing barriers and essentially allowed any community to provide free meals to all children 18 and younger.

“The results at summer sites show what can happen when the USDA becomes a full partner to kids and families,” said Anna Korsen, who serves as the organization's director of advocacy and community partnerships. "... We urge them (USDA) to make these changes permanent.”

The 1.4 million meals served were the most summer meals the state has ever served in its history, and yet too many kids still lacked access to meals, according to the announcement. "Maine had the potential to serve 17,440,000 meals this summer, putting our statewide participation rate to just over 8%. These numbers make Full Plates and all of our partners realize how much more work still needs to be done to help Maine kids experiencing hunger," the organization's press release said.

"At least 80,000 Maine children struggle with hunger and because of the financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic," the release said. "The need has risen rapidly since March. In fact, a recent report by Feeding America estimates that child food insecurity in Maine will increase by 40% statewide this year due to economic hardships resulting from the COVID-19 crisis."

While awareness of and need for these meals has skyrocketed, so, too, have expenses related to summer meal service under pandemic-related protocols, the press release said. “Full Plates is so grateful to our donors who together raised over $415,000 to support 76 summersites,” said Justin Alfond, Full Plates director.



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