COVID Response

FEEDING MAINE’S KIDS
DURING A PANDEMIC:
PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE

FULL PLATES FULL POTENTIAL’S RESPONSE TO COVID-19

SPRING, 2020: REACTING TO GLOBAL PANDEMIC

As schools across Maine switched to remote learning in mid-March in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, tens of thousands of children were suddenly at risk of losing access to their primary source of nutrition: school meals. Without hesitation, Full Plates Full Potential mobilized to launch and unprecedented effort to ensure that kids across Maine could continue to access nutritious food. 

This past spring, Full Plates launched the Full Plates Emergency Fund for School Closures, and raised $469,500 in aid, enough to grant funds to 136 school districts, spanning 514 schools and community organizations operating emergency meal programs.

THIS SUMMER:
FEEDING KIDS NOW,
WHILE SCHOOL IS OUT

As summer approached, we knew we needed a plan to feed kids once school was out. During a typical summer, 80,000+ Maine kids would be at risk of not having enough to eat, and this summer, those numbers would undoubtedly skyrocket due to pandemic-related job loss. Helping summer sites continue to provide meals to kids, and offering bulk meals, was critical.

In three short weeks, with the support of donors large and small, Full Plates raised $413,750 through the Summer Meals Emergency Fund, funding 76 FEED KIDS Grants, shoring up summer meal sites statewide. These grants will help to ensure that every child in need will receive breakfast and lunch throughout the week, and that school nutrition staff will be able to provide those meals safely, throughout the summer.

Dottie Janotta, School Nutrition Director for MSAD 6

MAINERS MET THE MOMENT:

The early days of Full Plates’ crisis response were funded by an initial investment by the organization, and by longtime supporters, both through their pre-pandemic commitments and emergency cash infusions. Together we raised $883,000, enabling millions of meals to be prepared, served, and delivered to kids in need. 

It is with immense gratitude that we thank the following businesses, foundations, and donors: 

Central Maine Power, Bob Crewe Foundation, Harold Alfond Foundation, Maine Credit Union League, Horizon Foundation,  Roux Family Foundation, Peter and Joceyln Handy, Bonnie Porta and Bobbie Monks, Sadie and Harry Davis Foundation, Sewall Foundation, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, Maine Community Foundation, United Way Greater Portland, Sprague Foundation, Oakhurst Dairy, Honorable Senator George Mitchell, Portside Realty, HM Payson, Martin’s Points Health Care, Maine Craft Distilling, United Midcoast Charities, Rockefeller Family Foundation, and all the many Mainers – near and far – who answered the call for Maine kids.

BACK TO SCHOOL, 2020-2021:
FLEXIBILITY, CREATIVITY,
GENEROSITY, MYSTERY

Although many schools are making best guesses and issuing proposals, no one is quite sure what this fall will look like. Students may learn remotely, or physically go back to school, or experience a hybrid of these options. One thing is certain: feeding kids in need will be complicated and require flexibility and creativity on the parts of teachers, parents, and employers, as well as students themselves, and those of us committed to helping feed them. We have already heard from School Nutrition Staff that creating meal environments that support social distancing this fall will be a priority and will require new supplies: tents, signage, kiosks, picnic tables, packaging and PPE.

SCHOOL MEALS ARE ESSENTIAL FOR KIDS.

SOME GOOD NEWS:

  • More and more families are accessing school meals. The stigma is slowly waning. 
  • Last spring many schools and community organizations used best practices — delivering meals to kids’ homes. This resulted in more than 700+ meal sites statewide.
  • The USDA has lifted barriers, reduced the red tape, and is making it a priority to feed kids in these unprecedented times. Additionally, Governor Mills and the Maine Department of Education have proactively applied for and received USDA waivers to create even more access to food for kids.

SOME MAJOR, UNEXPECTED CHALLENGES:

  • More kids will experience hunger this fall and beyond. From our work this spring and summer we know more kids and families will face hunger. Data from the USDA predicts that child hunger will increase by as much as 40% statewide, which would result in 112,000 kids struggling with hunger and relying on free meals at school.
  • Providing meals has become much more expensive.  Schools and community organizations are now feeding more kids and the cost of food items has gone up. Schools are struggling to get staples like peanut butter, bread, and even milk at times, and when they do, they are paying more. 
  • More days of food service are required. Pre-COVID, schools were serving breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday. Now, many schools are including provisions for the weekend as well. 
  • There have been significant increases in safe food packaging costs. Schools have gone from trays in school cafeterias to using disposable packaging — portion cups with lids, containers, bags, gloves. It is costing many school nutrition directors about 4-10 times more for non-food related items than they normally would spend.
  • Staffing challenges, fatigue, and anxiety are the new norm. Schools Nutrition Directors, their staff, bus drivers, and volunteers are working to feed tens of thousands of kids every day while also keeping up with changing regulations. Having kept this pace since mid-March many are becoming fatigued by the pace of their programs, and most are short-staffed. 

FULL PLATES FUNDING IS CRITICAL TO HELPING COVER:

  • Increased food costs due to supply chain issues
  • Equipment to safely deliver food to children at school or at home
  • Pinpads and POS systems for alternative meal service models
  • PPE for school nutrition staff
  • Food packaging and disposable materials for meal service
  • Transportation to get food to remote pickup sites or to children at home
  • Increased staffing and labor costs due to the need for social distancing

The crisis has given rise to innovation and presents opportunities but has also created challenges for schools and community organizations as they prepare, package, and deliver school meals to kids. Maine kids are relying on us. We have a strategy that ensures nutrition-continuity for Maine kids who struggle with hunger, and we need your support to make it happen. 

HOW YOU CAN HELP: 

Due to COVID-19 safety concerns, events across the nation have been canceled and our fundraising events are no exception.

In addition, many of our FEED KIDS partners (especially our incredibly supportive restaurant community) have been less able to contribute in their usual ways. For this reason, we are hoping for the involvement of a wider community of supporters. If you are able to contribute in any of the following ways, we would love to hear from you!

1. DONATE:

If you’re able, please donate to Full Plates Full Potential.

2. BECOME A FEED KIDS PARTNER:

We invite you to join the growing network of local Maine businesses that are ending child hunger as part of their social responsibility strategy. Our program is a turnkey cause-marketing initiative designed for businesses of all sizes, concepts, inventories, services, cuisines, and locations.

Three simple steps to becoming a FEED KIDS partner:

  1. Determine your FEED KIDS activation:
  • Designate a product or service as your FEED KIDS item and determine an amount you’ll donate from each sale of that item, or
  • Dedicate a percentage of sales as your FEED KIDS contribution, or
  • Invite your customers to make a donation at point-of-sale, or
  • Design a unique integration that works well for your business model. Need some ideas? Let’s talk!

2. Use FEED KIDS branding to engage your customers on social media, on your website, and in person.

3. At the end of each month, total the amount raised from your FEED KIDS campaign, donate that amount, and we’ll add it to your page on our website.

Full Plates Full Potential invests your contributions into Maine’s child nutrition programs putting your generosity into action without delay.

To learn more, contact REBECCA DILL AT FEEDKIDS@FULLPLATES.ORG