Summer Food for Food Insecure Kids

What’s your favorite summertime treat? An ooey gooey s’more? Lobster roll? Strawberry shortcake or blueberry pie? For many of Maine’s food insecure children, summer vacation isn’t about seasonal treats but rather worrying about where their next meal will come from.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 16.2 percent of Maine households, or more than 208,000 individuals, are food insecure. Many of those individuals are children.

According to Maine.gov, “Almost half of Maine’s children qualify for free and reduced-price meals. However, in the summer they lose access to those nutritious school meals. That is where the Summer Meals program comes in, bridging the gap between school years, giving children the fuel they need to play and grow throughout the summer months and return to school ready to learn. In summer 2016 there were over 400 sites across the state, from Madawaska down to Kittery, Jackman over to Lubec and everywhere in between. Maine served over 750,000 meals.”

Last summer Sanford’s Backpack Program expanded to try to meet the needs of food insecure students and their families during summer vacation. According to Kirsten McGarry, program coordinator, they offer produce distribution one day per week during the summer. McGarry says that at the weekly produce distribution they “easily serve 100 families.” They almost always run out of food. “We could serve more families if we had more resources,” she says.

    During the summer months, free meals are available at 19 locations throughout the City of Portland for children under 18 years of age. Many of the sites are located in parks and schools in three areas of Portland: North Portland, Munjoy Hill/Bayside, and the West End/Parkside. In addition to free, nutritious meals, there will be games and other enrichment activities for kids. For more information, visit Portlandschools.org.

    If you or someone you know needs food this summer the United States Department of Agriculture has information about finding food during the summer on their web site, https://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.