On Maine beaches this week, children build sandcastles, jump on skim boards, chase seagulls and collect sand dollars. Summer in small-town Maine is idyllic, complete with parades, fireworks and family cookouts.
Often, though, by the sea not all is as it seems. Camouflage is how nature keeps the peace. The rust-colored lobster can be impossible to see against the rocks. The octopus changes color and shape to hide in plain sight. The moon snail looks inert on the sand, although beneath the surface, it drills furiously through the shell of a clam to suck out its sustenance.
Likewise, on the beach, not all is as it seems. The kids are every bit as happy as they look, but many are not Maine kids. They are visiting from elsewhere: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York.
Maine kids don’t have it nearly as good. Between 2011 and 2015, the rate of children living in deep poverty – half the national poverty level, or less than $10,000 for a family of three – rose faster in Maine than in any other state in the nation. More than 85,000 students in Maine qualify for free or reduced-price meals. One in five kids in Maine struggles with hunger.