Ensuring Maine Kids Have Lots to Celebrate Next School Year

As the Maine legislative session comes to a close, children have a lot to cheer about with four new policies that will help more students across the state access the important nutrition they need.

We thank Governor Mills and bill sponsors Sen. Breen, Sen. Bellows, Sen. Moore and Rep. Brennan for their work in championing these policies.

This new legislation will allow more Maine kids to grow up healthy and strong. School meals are the best way to reach hungry children with the nutrition they need to learn and thrive. Ensuring that Maine students have basic needs met is a crucial piece of the puzzle to breaking the cycle of generational poverty. In Maine, 47% of children are eligible for free and reduced price meals, and 1 in 5 kids are food insecure. By making nutritious food accessible to children in need, we give them the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Here is what the new legislation will do:

  1. Breakfast After the Bell: This bill will reduce childhood hunger in Maine by creating greater access to the school breakfast program. The bill requires schools with 50% and above free and reduced-price qualifying students to offer a Breakfast After the Bell model.
  2. Elimination of the reduced price lunch category: In Maine, all children who qualify for reduced-price meals are able to get breakfast, free of charge, at school. This bill aims to do the same for school lunch. Many students who qualify for reduced-price meals come from food-insecure households. Though they qualify for reduced-price meals, the cost of the lunch can be simply too much for the student’s family to afford. Eliminating the reduced-price category ensures that these students caught in the middle can access nutritious school lunches.
  3. Online free/reduced price meal applications: 81,838 students are enrolled in free and reduced-price meals in Maine. But there are many more children who never turn in their free and reduced-price meal applications. This bill requires the state to fund an online application system for local school districts so that they can offer free and reduced-price meal applications online at no cost, while still also providing paper applications. 
  4. Child and Adult Care Food Program At-Risk Afterschool Meals (CACFP): In addition to school breakfast and lunch, qualifying schools can provide afterschool snacks or dinners to eligible children. Right now, only 28 school districts in Maine use the program out of a total of 271 eligible schools. This law requires program participation at schools where at least 50% of the students qualify for free and reduced price meals, or opt-out after a public hearing. In the past, the application for the program was 40 pages long. Now, it’s only one page!

As we move into the next school year, Full Plates Full Potential, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign and other local partners will work with schools and districts to ensure smooth implementation of these four tremendously important policies. Food insecurity for Maine’s children is unacceptable, but providing more access to and ensuring participation in school meals will help alleviate this problem which will lead to stronger kids, and in turn, a stronger Maine.