PORTLAND, Maine — Food insecurity is a major problem statewide, and communities around Maine are finding ways to feed their kids.
Food Fuels Learning is driving that effort in Portland schools.
The group presented their quarterly summary to Superintendent Xavier Botano at Rowe Elementary in Portland on Monday, April 29.
When it comes to expanding food access for Portland Public School kids, Food Fuels learning says the progress report is positive.
The community-based organization founded the initiative with Portland Public Schools a year and a half ago.
That partnership is facilitated by the Cumberland County Food Security Council.
"Over half of the kids in Portland public schools’ households qualify for free meals," said council director Jim Hanna.
One recommendation in the group's original assessment was to implement a healthy meal at the end of the school day.
"We had already worked with them with snack, and we just ramped it up to super-snack," said Portland Schools food service director Jane McLucas.
Parent Adam Burk said the super snack has been a game changer for his kindergarten-aged son.
"Food is vital to all of us, and I watch in my kid everyday -- how he learns, how he behaves is effected by what he’s had."
The next steps for the group are to create food access even when school is out of session.
"School pantries, backpack programs -- to make sure that kids can take adequate home food over the weekend."
As for when school is in session, the group looks forward to upgrading the available food selections by adding a vegan menu and sourcing local ingredients when possible.
It’s a goal that will take money, time, and support all things that Burk encourages fellow parents to donate, if they can. He believes no child should have to bear the weight of an empty stomach.
"It’s just kind of a non-negotiable, that has to be in place for everyone."
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Learn more about Food Fuels Learning here.