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  • Access to food for thousands of hungry Mainers at stake in State Sen. Alfond’s bill

    During a public hearing February 25, 2016 the Health and Human Services Committee, Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, presented a bill to streamline needless bureaucracy so that more hungry children and seniors can be provided nutritious meals.

    Modeled after successful reforms in states such as California, Colorado, Oklahoma and Tennessee, LD 1472 would improve the administration of the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, or CACFP,  in Maine by improving and simplifying the program’s complex application and moving the program’s administration online.

    CACFP provides funding so that home daycares, adult day cares, child care centers, emergency shelters and at-risk afterschool programs can provide nutritious meals. It is one of several proven anti-hunger programs by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    “This is the most underutilized of all the federal programs aimed at preventing hunger,” said Sen. Alfond. “There’s more than $50 million sitting on the table to feed hungry Mainers. By streamlining the application and making it available online, we can maximize participation and reduce bureaucracy at the Department of Health and Human Services. “

    Currently, the application is forty pages long, and within those forty pages, there are six unique programs. Navigating through the application is unnecessarily complicated and confusing, especially for small providers such as day cares and after-school programs.

    Eligible providers have said the cumbersome application is so complicated that it deters them from participating in CACFP. Alisa Roman, nutrition director at Lewiston Public Schools, which is eligible for CACFP, said she has put applying for the program “on hold,” and described the numerous, repetitive application requirements.

    “More at-risk students and families can be served nutritious foods by making the paperwork less daunting,” Roman said.

    Roughly half of Maine’s K-12 students are “food insecure,” the federal term used to designate hunger. Maine ranks 12th in the nation and 1st in New England for food insecurity, and is one of the few states in the country where hunger is growing.

    Representatives from the Good Shepherd Food Bank, the Lewiston Public Schools, the Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA of Waterville, Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative, Maine Community Action Association, Maine HeadStart Directors Association, Maine Public Health Association and Maine Children’s Alliance all testified in favor of the bill. No one testified in opposition.

    The Health and Human Services Committee will hold a work session on LD 1472 on Tuesday, March 1.