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School feeding programs helping close to 60,000 kids daily

Statewide meals increase by 303% during COVID-19 school closures
May 17, 2020

Portland — Full Plates Full Potential, the Maine-based nonprofit working to end child hunger statewide, announced that Maine K-12 Schools and Community Organizations using USDA Child Nutrition Programs are reaching at least 59,257 students daily with breakfast and lunch meals during the pandemic-related school closures.

According to a news release May 13, over 700 emergency school meals sites are currently operating and supporting all students during the worst public safety and economic crisis in over 100 years. School nutrition directors and school administrators have made access to nutritious meals for their students their priority during this crisis. When comparing the average daily meals from last summer to this April, there was a 303% increase — in April 2020 the average daily meals among 67% of operating emergency meal programs was 59,257, or a 303% increase when compared to the 14,710 daily average meals served in July 2019.

On-site programming for many Maine K-12 schools ended March 13, and on March 16 schools responded by transforming their food programs and operations. With kids learning from home, school nutrition programs began operating their in-person school year meal service like summer food programs. Schools are benefiting from unprecedented flexibility granted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and actions by the Maine Department of Education. The MDOE has submitted and received approval of some 20 waivers that prioritize access to nutritious meals by allowing innovation like home delivery.

USDA-approved waivers and flexibilities to school meal service are scheduled to end June 30, but state and federal advocates are pushing for them to be extended through September.

“We are grateful for the flexibility we have been granted thus far by the USDA, as these waivers have been critical in helping our nutrition programs provide for Maine students,” said Maine DOE Child Nutrition Director Walter Beesley. “These school nutrition programs are more important than ever during this difficult time, and the staff and volunteers have stepped in and re-invented how they provide for their students. Our DOE Child Nutrition Team will continue to support these heroes in whatever ways we can.”

Full Plates also applauds the good work of its nonprofit partners to secure additional food assistance for kids and families. Last week, the federal government approved Maine’s application for Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) to provide additional food assistance to children losing out on school breakfast or lunch.

Maine DHHS estimates that over 45,000 children will soon receive the extra assistance of $189 per child for March and April, and another $194 for May and June. These funds will be issued automatically to families already receiving SNAP or TANF benefits. Others may apply over the phone by calling 1-855-797-4357.

In addition, families that may be eligible can contact their local school district to apply for free and reduced price school meal benefits before June 30 to receive P-EBT.

 

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