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Maine Credited for Major Improvements Getting Summer Meals to Kids

Maine is one of the New England states considered a bright spot for improving children's access to free summer meals. (USDA)
Maine is one of the New England states considered a bright spot for improving children's access to free summer meals. (USDA)
July 12, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine – Nationwide the number of lower-income children getting access to free summer meals is down, but Maine is bucking that trend.

Maine has seen an 11 percent improvement in the number of children participating in Summer Nutrition programs, comparing last July to the summer before.

Crystal FitzSimons, director of School and Out-of-School Time Programs at the Food Research and Action Center, says FRAC's latest report, New England states performed especially well with Maine ranked fifth among the top performers.

FRAC tracks summer meal programs across the country.

"Maine actually passed legislation a couple of years ago to require summer programs to participate in the Summer Nutrition Program, and that has actually really helped increase participation in the State of Maine," FitzSimons points out.

The report says after that legislation, summer meal participation grew an average of 28 percent, serving about 3,500 additional children.

FitzSimons says it's a stark contrast to the national picture, which saw a nearly 5 percent drop in the number of children getting summer meals.

The goal of FitzSimons’ group's is to see at least 40 children receiving summer meals for every 100 who get free or reduced-price meals during the school year.

FitzSimons says summer programs deliver a double punch, because they reduce childhood hunger and help ensure that children return to school ready to learn.

"Kids come to the programs because of the great summer programing that's happening, and for the meals as well,” she states. “And one of the big challenges that we have is there is not enough funding for summer programs in low-income communities, and for low-income kids."

The report identifies the 21st Century Community Learning Centers as the largest federal funding source for summer and after-school programs. It says the Trump administration has proposed to defund the program entirely for 2018.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME