PORTLAND, Maine — During summer break, any parent or guardian can get free meals for their kids and teens. There are nearly 400 locations across the state for people to receive healthy meals during the school summer break.
The summer meals are available to anyone 18 and under, and they can be picked up at some schools, parks, beaches, churches, summer camps, and other locations. Most summer meal programs require onsite meal consumption, only a few in highly rural areas allow grab and go.
Anna Korsen is the policy and program director for Full Plates, Full Potential.
"It has to meet very strict nutritional guidelines," Korsen said. "This is a U.S. [Department of Agriculture] program, and so they withhold some very strict guidelines. It has to have fruits, veggies, whole grains, and protein and dairy, so they have to make sure that every meal includes all of those pieces," Korsen said.
In previous years, Korsen said this program has only benefited about a quarter of the kids in Maine who qualify for reduced lunch in schools.
"Kids just can't learn if they don't have access to basic food, and too many families in our state and in our country have prevented access to basic needs, like food," Korsen said. "This program is important because it levels the playing field in many ways, so just like it's important for kids to have basic nutrition and access at school so they can learn and focus and play with their friends and just be a kid. When it's summer vacation, they also need to continue to have access to consistent nutrition."
Meals will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis at any of the meal site locations.
To find a location for a summer meal near you, click here. To get more information about sites and times, you may dial 2-1-1, or text “Summer Meals” to 97779.
“Maine people have been hit hard this year with high food costs and reduced nutrition benefits," Nicole Witherbee, president and CEO of the John T. Gorman Foundation, said. "This is especially concerning for children who face a long summer ahead without the meals they would get in school. Summer meal sites are essential in helping families fill that gap during this vulnerable time. We are privileged to support the work of Full Plates Full Potential and their partnership with the Maine Department of Education to spread awareness about these sites across the state.”