MAINE, USA — Countless families across Maine rely on school lunches for healthy, reliable food. Amid COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, concerns and school closures, families are left without that reliable source of food.
Last week the Maine Department of Education's Child Nutrition Team received approval for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services. The waiver will allow schools the ability to provide students with meals offsite if the school currently has or qualifies for a USDA Summer Food Service Program.
According to a press release, "The Maine Dept. of Education applied for the waiver as they continue to assist schools in the proactive planning for a disruption to schools in the case of the concerns of COVID-19."
USDA supported meals are available at no cost to low-income children, and under the waiver allows meals to served offsite in the event schools are temporarily closed.
The Maine Dept. of Education’s Child Nutrition program states that, “meals can be delivered directly to a quarantined house with household consent (phone call).”
In addition to government programs, Good Shepherd Food Bank is expanding its food distribution efforts, including extending hours of operation and reallocating internal resources for planning and preparation.
"We're going to approach this from all angles that we can to provide the support that the state of Maine needs," Sam Michaud is the director of facilities and safety at the Good Shepherd Food Bank. "People need us every day so we're going to continue to operate as we need to provide support to Mainers."
Visit the “Find Food” section of the Good Shepherd website to find a distribution site near you.
Community-lead organization Full Plates Full Potential, which works to ensure Maine children have access to nutritious food, has started an emergency fund to support schools during closures because of the coronavirus.
Full Plates Full Potential says the emergency fund, "is available every two weeks to all public schools in Maine regardless of eligibility and to any approved SFSP sponsor organizations on a first come first serve basis. Full Plates Full Potential has dedicated $20,000 to start, and we have an active campaign to raise more funds."
Restaurants across Maine are also stepping up to help. Here is a running list of independent resources in Maine:
- In Bangor, Jersey’s Subs and Sweets is offering free bagged lunch to students in need, and WA Bean & Sons is donating meats for sandwiches.
- Boba in Lewiston is offering free meals for kids Tuesday-Saturday until April 2.
- Rose Foods in Portland, which is closing for the time being, is offering up its last bake of fresh bagels and cream cheese.
- The Boys & Girls Club in South Portland is offering "grab-and-go" dinner Monday through Friday 4-5 p.m., and the South Portland School Dept. is serving food from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the club's parking lot beginning Tuesday.
- Portland restaurants Little Giant, Chaval, Piccolo, LB Kitchen, Mr. Tuna, Central Provisions, and Tipo have teamed up with Full Plates Full Potential to make lunches for students affected by closures.
School in Bangor where you can pick up meals from noon to 1 p.m.:
- Abraham Lincoln School
- Vine Street School
- Downeast School
- Fairmount School
- James F Doughty School
- Corner of Bolling and Mitchell
- 979 Essex Street (Holiday Mobile Home Park)
- Cameron Stadium Mt Hope Parking Lot
- Bangor Tire Parking Lot (Market Street)
- Ranger Inn
This story will be updated with more resources.
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