Full Plates/Full Potential awarded $401,545 to support estimated 1.3 million meals

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Portland, ME- The Maine-based nonprofit, Full Plates Full Potential today announced its Summer Meal Emergency Fund grant recipients issued to child nutrition programs across the state, most of which begin summer meal service today. The total amount awarded, $401,545 represents a marked increase compared to the organization’s 2019 summer grant cycle which totaled $77,540.

“Since our inception in 2014, Full Plates has been steadily building its granting capacity for each of the various child nutrition programs we support, but COVID-19 has been a complete gamechanger,” according to Anna Korsen who serves as the organization’s director of advocacy & partnerships. “Even in a normal year,” Korsen continued, “summertime is the most difficult season for children experiencing hunger with only about 27% of children accessing meals while school is out.”

At least 80,000 Maine children struggle with hunger and because of the financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic, the need has risen rapidly over the past sixteen weeks. In fact, a recent study by Feeding America estimates that child food insecurity in Maine will increase by 45% statewide this year due to economic hardships resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. The essential nature of school meals gained tremendous public awareness in the recent months as schools switched to remote learning, putting nutrition continuity of millions of children nationwide at risk. Summer meals are a continuation of these efforts providing access to proper nutrition during the summer months.

While awareness of and need for these meals has skyrocketed, so too have expenses related to meal service under pandemic-related protocols. “Normally, kids congregate to eat their meals at designated summer meal sites in their community,” said Korsen. “Now, those meals must be provided as grab and go.”

Implementation of social distancing recommendations combined with stepped up safety measures have made it far more expensive for child nutrition programs to operate during the pandemic. Everything from packaging, to transportation, increased food costs due to supply chain issues, and personal protective equipment for staff and volunteers are all costs not usually considered or incurred. While the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reimburses these programs for food costs and labor at fixed rates, they do not take into account the increased costs associated with operating meal service during this public health emergency.“Without these emergency grants,” Korsen concluded, “many summer meal sites would be unable to open, meaning children would not be able to access these free nutritious meals over the summer.”

“The commitment of school food service programs across Maine never wavered, and they quickly pivoted their programs to ensure meals were provided to students, without question,” said Department of Education child nutrition director, Walter Beesely. “They understand the importance of providing meals to students as part of their education plan, therefore local food service staff continue to put themselves on the frontline, distributing meals to our children.”

“In addition to a marked increase in need, we are seeing our costs rise” said Chris Piercey, Auburn School Department’s Nutrition Director. “Over 600 kids receive breakfast and lunch from us daily at our 11 meal pickup sites, and the cost of packaging, food, equipment, and PPE has really taken a toll on our budget. We’re also delivering meals to our families in need who are unable to make it to our pick up sites. This service we provide as a necessity to keep these students fed negatively impacts our budget. This additional funding from Full Plates Full Potential is a tremendous help.”

All grants are funded through the generous contributions made by Maine businesses, foundations, major gifts, and donations by hundreds of everyday Mainers to Full Plates Full Potential’s Summer Meal Emergency Fund established just three short weeks ago.

“Our summer emergency appeal comes on the heels of our initial Emergency Fund appeal which empowered schools statewide to continue meal service as they transitioned to remote learning in mid-March – serving millions of meals through the balance of the academic year,” said Full Plates Full Potential Co-Founder Justin Alfond. “The way our community has responded to this, the greatest global health and economic crisis of the past 100 years, has been nothing short of inspiring. Their collective and continued generosity has allowed us to rapidly scale our efforts to feed Maine children and to sustain the momentum required by this evolving disaster.”

One hundred percent of donations made to the Full Plates Full Potential Summer Meals Emergency Fund are being issued in the form of grants to summer meal programs statewide. Grant distribution spans communities – large and small – from Kittery to Fort Kent, Rumford to Eastport. In all, 73 summer meal programs were funded with Full Plates Full Potential’s’ Summer Meal Emergency funds with a total of $401,545 distributed statewide

With this assistance from Full Plates Full Potential, summer meal programs will operate in every county across Maine and most will serve children through late August. Any child age 18 or younger can access meals at summer sites at no cost. Full Plates Full Potential in partnership with the Maine Department of Education and other nonprofits from its leadership council launched the Summer Emergency Meals Fund. Together, they estimate that 1.3 million meals will be served to Maine children this summer.

About Full Plates Full Potential

Full Plates Full Potential is on a mission to end child hunger in Maine by maximizing participation in federal child nutrition programs. We partner with nonprofit advocates, local businesses and restaurants, advocating for policy changes at the state level, granting funds and providing technical assistance to schools. Founded in 2014, the organization hosts year-round events and fundraisers, and invites Maine businesses to the FEED KIDS cause marketing initiative. Learn more at fullplates.org.

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