School Meals for All: A Historic Win

On July 1, 2021, Governor Janet Mills signed School Meals for All into law, ensuring Maine students will be among the first in the nation to have equal access to school meals! This historic moment is decades in the making and affirms that providing our students with full plates of food is the surest way to ensure they reach their full potential.

Full Plates is proud to have played a lead role in making school meals for all a reality, but a win this big simply couldn’t happen without the efforts and support of a broad coalition of folks who believe, as we do, that ending child hunger in Maine is an attainable goal. We’re grateful to those who signed our petition, contacted their legislators, leveraged their networks, and donated money to our cause. This victory belongs to all of us.

As we celebrate this win, there is still work to be done. School Meals for All has not yet been fully funded, and we are focusing our advocacy efforts on securing the rest of the funding and need your help! Sign up for action alerts to join us in advocating for free school meals for all Maine kids.

During the pandemic, the USDA allowed school meals to be served to all children free of charge. School Meals for All will make sure this continues beyond the pandemic. We should never go back to expecting some students to pay for school meals, and here’s why.

Why School Meals for All?

Maine has the highest rate of child food insecurity in New England.

1 in 5 kids in Maine experience food insecurity, and 40% are not eligible for school meals.

Studies show that school meals:

It’s about Equity

School Meals for All will streamline and strengthen school nutrition programs:

The impact of hunger on outcomes for children:

Highlights

  • School Meals for All passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support, unanimously in the Senate and with overwhelming support in the House
  • Both the Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald have endorsed LD 1679
  • Nearly 1000 people have signed onto a petition in support of LD 1679
  • During the public hearing, there were more than 50 live testimonies and 25 written testimonies submitted in support. There was no testimony against the bill.

Press

“During the pandemic, childhood food insecurity increased dramatically, prompting the USDA to temporarily fund free school meals for all children. This has shown us what is possible. There is no need to go backwards. We have the chance to support their health and ability to learn by making sure Maine children have something so critical to learning and growing: nutritious meals.”

House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, Biddeford

“As a lawmaker, and more importantly as a parent, I want our kids to get a chance to focus on being kids, on playing with friends and learning how to read, not worrying about where their next meal will come from. It’s not just the right thing to do, but studies show it improves academic outcomes, attendance and so many other things that are hard to quantify.”

Senate President Troy Jackson, Allagash

“Today, Maine spends more money on K-12 school funding than on any other state service: nearly $3 billion per year. As taxpayers, we all contribute to this funding and we should make sure we’re getting the best outcomes for our money. Isn’t it time that we made sure all Maine kids have access to nutritious meals at school, so they can focus on learning, not on where the next meal might be coming from?”

Senator Matt Pouliot, Augusta

“Schools already provide transportation to and from school, and often extra-curricular activities, to all students who need it. All middle and high school students receive laptops or tablets. These are provided without regard to the ability of students’ families to pay for them. The same should be true of school meals, which provide many benefits that extend beyond the school boundaries.”

Bangor Daily News Editorial Board

“In the end, a universal meals program serves more meals far more effectively, at a lower local cost. It gets healthy meals into the hands of more students, relieving stress on themselves and their parents, and allowing them to take on the day along with the rest of their classmates. It makes for happier, healthier, more engaged students, and better schools for everyone.”

Portland Press Herald Editorial Board


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