Friday, July 7, 2023

Tim Nangle: Ensuring our students have access to nutritious meals

By Senator Tim Nangle

We should do all we can to support our children's physical health and academic success. Access to nutritious, locally sourced meals in our schools and at home is vital to reaching that goal. As we pass the half-year mark, I want to bring your attention to two critical programs that have helped transform student nutrition in Maine schools.

State Senator Tim Nangle
First, let's turn to a recent milestone, LD 921 — a bill from my colleague Sen. Cameron Reny — and a victory in our legislative efforts to improve school nutrition. This bill was passed with unanimous, bipartisan support and has now been signed into law by Gov. Mills. This legislation expands the variety of locally produced food products available for purchase and use by our schools through the Local Foods Fund.

In the 129th Legislature, Sen. Eloise Vitelli sponsored LD 454, “An Act To Encourage the Purchase of Local Produce for Public Schools,” which funded the Local Produce Fund for the first time. Then in the 130th Legislature, after hearing feedback from school districts across Maine, Sen. Vitelli sponsored LD 636, “An Act To Encourage the Purchase of Local Foods for Public Schools,” which broadened the eligibility criteria for the Local Produce Fund to further benefit Maine farmers, schools and students. It also changed the name of the program to the Local Foods Fund.

This year, thanks to Sen. Reny’s bill, LD 921, we removed restrictive language from the statute, enabling our schools to access more fresh food products made right here in Maine.

For our children, this means more healthy, locally sourced meals. For our farmers, it means more opportunities to contribute to our schools and connect with local buyers. And for our state's economy, it’s another opportunity to thrive as we invest in our own backyard. We are building bridges between our school cafeterias and local farms, fostering a greater understanding among our students of the essential role agriculture plays in our economy.

It’s also crucial to ensure our children have access to nutritious meals during the summer months. This is what the Summer Food Service Program, or as the Maine Department of Education fittingly calls it, "Hot Lunch Summer," is all about.

The Hot Lunch Summer program’s goal is to make sure that no child is hungry when school is not in session. In a state as rural and community oriented as ours, it is so important that we look out for each other, especially for our youngest Mainers. As part of this initiative, free meals that meet federal nutritional guidelines are provided to all children ages 18 and under at approved sites.

I am proud to share that locations such as the Gray-New Gloucester High School in Gray and the Westbrook Community Center and Saccarappa School in Westbrook are offering these vital services. From July 11 to Aug. 10, the Gray-New Gloucester High School will serve breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

From June 26 to Aug. 11, the Westbrook Community Center will provide breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to noon on weekdays. The Saccarappa School, on the same dates, will offer breakfast from 8-8:30 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to noon, Monday to Thursday.

To see all the sites providing free meals, you can use the interactive map viewer on the Department of Education’s website here:

Our kids are the future. They are our very own budding scientists, teachers, artists and leaders. Ensuring they receive the nutrition they need is not just our duty — it's our privilege. The passage of LD 921 and the continuation of the "Hot Lunch Summer" reflect our state's strong commitment to Maine children.

Let’s continue this momentum forward and put Maine and its people first. Together, we are making a difference — for our children, for our farmers, and for our economy. And as we've seen, we do it best when we do it together.

If you or someone you know needs assistance, wants to discuss legislation, or needs help connecting with a state agency, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My email is, and my office phone number is 207-287-1515. You can find me on Facebook at To receive regular updates, sign up for my e-newsletter at <

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