How is this so? Because one in four children in Maine, or 63,000 kids, are food insecure; this means that on any given day, they often don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Many children in Maine rely on the school breakfast and lunch program to provide them with the nutritious meals they need to thrive. But during the summer, those meals go away for most of these children.
The USDA provides funding for summer lunches for children through the Summer Food Service Program. Unfortunately only 15% of students eligible in Maine actually receive the food. This is because there are not enough sites offering the lunch and even when it is available, many families do not know about it.
Maine is currently leaving approximately 10 million dollars of federal money on the table – money that could be spent to feed children during the summer through the Summer Food Service Program.
I was talking with a kindergarten teacher in Bangor the other week and she told me that she asked her students, “Who is excited for vacation?” One little boy raised his hand and said, “I don’t like vacation because it means I’ll be hungry.” Being able to look forward to and enjoy time away from school should not be a privilege for only some children to enjoy.
So what can we do about it? There are lots of things anyone can do:
1. Help spread the word about the summer lunch program. Surprisingly, many of our town officials and state leaders have no idea how many federal dollars Maine leaves on the table that could be used to feed our children.
2. If you have a summer lunch program in your town, help spread the word! Contact the organization that is hosting it to see if they need help handing out flyers, making posters, etc. Call 211 to find out if there’s a summer meal site near you.
3. Support your local food pantry! Almost every town in Maine has a food pantry. These organizations provide food for people in need at no charge. Many families rely on food pantries during the summer months to replace the meals lost due to school being out of session. Donate food, money, or your time – food pantries need all three to do their work. Take a look at our Food Map to find a food pantry in your town.
4. And as always, please continue to support Good Shepherd Food Bank! We thank you for your help as we work to eliminate hunger for Maine kids.