Task force to find funds to end student hunger becomes law without LePage’s signature

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

April 16th, 2014 

A law to establish a task force aimed at ending student hunger became law on Wednesday without the signature of the governor.
The new law establishes a task force in Maine that would explore different ways to increase student access to food, including leveraging millions of dollars in federal funding available to provide school breakfast and lunch to students.

“Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative is thrilled,” said Amy Regan Gallant, Preble Street Advocacy Coordinator. “The Task Force will facilitate the expansion of school breakfast, lunch, after-school snack, summer meals, and the new community eligibility provision to reduce student hunger across the state. These critical programs are significantly underutilized, leaving $30 million in federal funds out of Maine’s schools.”

According to the USDA, Maine has the 3rd highest rate of food insecurity in the nation, up from 7th last year, with one in five Maine children experiencing food insecurity. About 20 percent of children in Maine are food insecure, and USDA research has shown that households with children experience an increase in food insecurity during the summer.

“A quarter of Maine children struggle with hunger at home, and almost half qualify for free or reduced meals at school. Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative looks forward to working with the Task Force to implement best practices to expand meals to new schools and increase participation in existing programs to reduce and end student hunger in Maine,” said Gallant.

In February, the Legislature overrode Governor LePage’s veto of a bill aimed at increasing student access to the summer food services program. This task force will support that law by working with eligible districts to connect with community partners to establish summer food programs.

“Far too many children in this state are chronically hungry. It is our obligation to do all that we can to help increase access to nutritious food for students who are currently going without,” said Senate President Alfond, the sponsor of the measure. “This task force will be a major step in addressing Maine’s student hunger crisis.”

The measure, LD 1819, “Resolve, To Create the Task Force to End Student Hunger in Maine,” is an emergency measure and takes effect immediately.