Feeding Rural Kids Still Challenging, Even As Maine Expands Summer Meal Program

Nearly half of all kids in Maine qualify for free and reduced-price lunch at school. During the summer months, when school is out, there haven’t been a lot of options for those families – but that’s starting to change.

In the past ten years, the number of summer meal sites in the state has more than tripled. But reaching students in rural Maine is still a major challenge.

In a small pavilion outside of Gray-New Gloucester High School, Rhondalynn LaMarca slices and scoops pizza to a long line of hungry students. This meal site, like many in Maine, emerged within the past decade. LaMarca says while it’s heavily used now, it was a struggle to get people to come in at first.

“There used to be a stigma,” she says. “‘Oh, you have to get a free lunch.’ That is completely reversed. Now it’s like, ‘Oh you’re getting lunch. I want to do that. I want to get together with my community.’“

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