Maine's summer food service program participation

1373572149STATEWIDE (WGME) — One in four Maine children doesn’t know when, or if, they’ll eat on any given day. There’s millions of federal dollars available to help feed food insecure kids, but Maine has left about 90 percent of that funding on the table.

Officials are trying increase participation in the summer food service program.

When school lets out, life gets more difficult for Westbrook resident Dawn Bush. “Having three kids slightly disabled very tough.” If it weren’t for the USDA Summer Food Service Program, Bush is not sure how she’d feed her kids. “We come out every day.”

It’s a familiar story for families across the state. Sadiyo Jama of Portland says, “We are so happy to see the kids reading and eating and getting so excited .” But too many families aren’t aware that there’s help available. “We have seventh highest rate in nation.”

The need is clear at sites like this all across but a recent study shows only 16 percent of those eligible for free lunch program actually take advantage of it.

Out of that alarming statistic grew the Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative. Volunteers helped feed one thousand more children in 2012 than the year before. And for the first time in the program’s history, there are now summer meal sites in every county in Maine.

According to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, if all of the 85,000 children eligible for subsidized meals got them, Maine would get up to $11 million in additional funding. “The reason we are leaving so much money on table is sites aren’t open children not being fed, It’s that simple,” says Senator Justin Alfond (D).

There are 65 more sites this year and officials are pushing for dozens more next summer. “We are encouraging all families we will feed anyone under the age of 19 no questions asked,” says Barbara Nichols, Westbrook nutrition program director.

For more information on locations and to learn how you can help, CLICK HERE.