Summer in Maine can be a fun and relaxing time – especially if you’re a student on school break. The summers I spent exploring our great outdoors when I was a kid are some of my most cherished memories. But for many kids, summer can also be a stressful time, especially if school is your only source of reliable nutrition. No child should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, but the sad reality is that one in six Maine children experience food insecurity, which can have negative impacts on their health, cognitive development and overall wellbeing.
Here in Maine, we care for each other in our community, and we’re committed to ensuring that none of our children go hungry. Last year, Maine’s Legislature passed one of the nation’s first universal free school meal laws, with bipartisan support. That means that every Maine public school student can get free school meals, regardless of how much money their family makes. This was such an important step in making sure that no student falls through the cracks just because their family makes a little too much – or because they forgot to turn in some paperwork. We also expanded the Local Foods Fund last year, which helps schools purchase locally grown, harvested and produced foods like fruits, veggies, meat, fish and value-added dairy. Not only does this provide Maine students with fresh and healthy food, it helps support the local farmers and food producers who power our local economies. I’m so proud and grateful that we were able to get this done.
But those free meals don’t end when the school year does. Throughout the summer, all Mainers 18 years old and younger are eligible for free breakfasts and lunches. To find meal sites, dates and times near you, visit hotlunchsummer.com or visit Healthy Lincoln County’s website at https://healthylincolncounty.org/ and click on the red banner at the top of the page. No matter where you live, you should find the resources necessary so that the kids in your life have all the energy and nutrition they need to live this Maine summer to its fullest.
We’re so lucky to have Healthy Lincoln County serving our community, because they provide so much more than just a list of summer meal sites. They also operate the Food Security Hotline, which is a number you can call or text to be connected with the food resources you need. You can reach that Hotline at (207) 350-0536. They also provide up-to-date monthly calendars with the hours and contact numbers of local food pantries, which you can find by visiting their website. And, they keep track of information about Meals on Wheels, which farmers markets accept EBT, how seniors can get free food boxes or free locally-grown produce, and more. They’re truly a phenomenal group, and if you’re ever in need of some additional support I strongly encourage you to reach out to them.
Making sure every kid has the nutrition they need to learn, grow and play is one of our foremost responsibilities as a society, and we’ve taken some major steps forward these past couple years. If you ever have questions about these programs, or if you ever need help finding food for the people in your family – no matter their age – I’m always here to do what I can. You can send me an email at Chloe.Maxmin@legislature.maine.gov, call or text my cell phone at (207) 200-6224 or find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ChloeForSenate. You can also sign up for my regular e-newsletter by visiting www.mainesenate.org, where I share food and other resources as well as legislative updates.