PORTLAND — The Maine-based nonprofit, Full Plates Full Potential, announced today that it has awarded $422,907 in funding through its Summer Meals Grant program to 64 school districts and community organizations across Maine. The total amount awarded is over a $20,000 increase over the previous year, when the organization provided just over $400,000 in support to child nutrition programs during the first summer of the pandemic. Previously, during the 2019 summer grant cycle, the organization granted out $77,540.

For the first time in Full Plates’ history, the organization was able to fully fund all eligible Summer Meals Grant applications. The 64 grantees received funding to increase access to meals for tens of thousands of Maine children this summer. Grant funding goes towards supporting adoption of established and emerging best practices around increasing participation, including opening new meal sites, launching or expanding alternative meal service models (such as meal pick-up, bulk and/or multiple meals, transporting and delivering meals to children at home) and partnering with other community organizations or institutions.

“We continue to look for needs of the community and then find ways to meet them,” said Cory Tilley of grantee Boys & Girls Club of Border Towns. “Hunger is something we are always fighting and, as we not only want to feed our youth with the support of Full Plates Full Potential grant program, we will be able to offer four places in the county where they can get support in not only basic needs but also in homework and fun. Each of our meals comes with interaction with a safe person as well as games to play and then to take home and play with the family. Food demonstrations in healthy eating add another level of love and caring for our families.”

Before the pandemic, at least 80,000 children relied on school meals. This need does not disappear during the summer months, which is why child nutrition programs serving summer meals through the USDA Summer Food Service Program are so crucial once the school year ends. Meals are free to all children 18 and younger, and with the added flexibilities given to the SFSP program by the USDA during the pandemic, access to meals has never been easier.

“Our community and donors have really stepped up this year, providing generous support in order to help us lift up all of these great child nutrition programs across the state,” said Justin Strasburger, executive director of Full Plates Full Potential. “While we are thrilled to have been able to fully meet the needs of all of our Summer Meals Grant applicants this year, we know that there is still so much work to be done to address child hunger. We look forward to continuing to work with our donors and partners toward a permanent end to child food insecurity here in Maine.”

The rate of children experiencing food insecurity will continue to increase due to families experiencing economic hardship as a result of the pandemic. Feeding America reported an increase in child food insecurity in Maine from 2019 to 2020, with some counties experiencing as much as a 35% increase. Projections for 2021 do not look much better, with some counties slated to see a 28 percent rate of child food insecurity.

Funding for Full Plates’ Summer Meals Grant program was made possible, in part, through a partnership with Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger. Several credit unions and credit union chapters provided funding to support school programs in communities across Maine.

“Maine credit unions are deeply committed to combating hunger in our state,” said Todd Mason, president/CEO of the Maine Credit Union League. “Through our Campaign for Ending Hunger, we are proud to partner with Full Plates Full Potential to ensure children have continued access to healthy, nutritious meals during the summer and also year-round.”

Families looking to access summer meals once the school year ends are encouraged to visit www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids to find a summer meals site near them.