1. Where do you see the greatest opportunities to end child hunger?
Maine can end childhood hunger by increasing participation in the federal USDA programs that fund breakfast, lunch, afterschool and summertime meal programs. To increase participation, every school must do its part to understand hunger in their school and community, recognizing the link between hunger and poor academic results, and develop comprehensive plans to end hunger in school and during the summertime.
Establishing these comprehensive school plans gets to the second great opportunity: collaborating with others to end childhood hunger. When people find out that there is hunger in their schools and community, most will help. Schools can and must engage businesses, non-profits, individuals and parent associations for volunteers, more publicity and financial support.
Finally, there are new federal programs such as “Community Eligibility,” which allow schools or school districts to feed every child regardless of their income. This universal access to nutritious food creates an almost stigma-free environment for all children.
2. What gives you hope that we will be able to end child food insecurity in Maine?
I know we can end childhood food insecurity because so many people, organizations, businesses and government are working collaboratively. The state of Maine has a five-year blueprint to end childhood hunger, which is being spearheaded by the Commission to End Student Hunger. Finally, statewide collaboratives like Full Plates Full Potential are connecting people, best practices and strategically granting money to end childhood food insecurity.
3. What is needed to end child hunger?
There are a few core pieces: We need continued publicity and awareness around the depth of childhood hunger statewide. Each community needs to develop a comprehensive plan to end child hunger. We need technical assistance and organizers on the ground helping our schools and other programs that provide access to food. We need partnership from Maine government and we need to raise money to fund best practices.
4. How long will it take to end child hunger?
It’s tough to quantify in years. The goal of the five-year plan is by 2020 to have increased access to nutritional food from all the USDA programs. Five years is a bold goal but we need to have an urgency around the idea that no child should be hungry.
5. What can my generation do to help?
You can help make eating a celebration at school and eliminate the stigma associated with free or reduced-price lunch. You can demand that your school have open and honest conversations about student hunger and come up with a comprehensive plan. You can examine the root causes of childhood hunger (lack of health care, affordable housing, living wages, etc.) and come up with ideas on how to tackle them. Full Plates Full Potential can get the ball rolling, but you will be crucial in solving this problem in your community.
6. How can I volunteer?
There are many ways to get involved with our culinary events. Whether you’re helping recruit chefs, finding sponsors, planning logistics or work the night of an event, volunteering plays a critical role in helping us do more to help kids struggling with hunger in your community and across the state.