PORTLAND — Full Plates Full Potential and hunger relief organizations that make up the Leadership Council announced their 2021 Legislative Priorities for the 130th Legislature. In total five bills will be introduced by the coalition in the legislature, including:

1.  An Act to Address Student Hunger through a Universal Free School Meals Program: Sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson

2. An Act to Require at Least a 30-minute Lunch Period for Students: Sponsored by Representative Jan Dodge

3. An Act to Encourage the Purchase of Local Foods for Public Schools: Sponsored by Senator Eloise Vitelli 

4. An Act to Ensure Maine Schools Receive Adequate Financial Resources: Sponsored by Education Co-Chair Representative Michael Brennan

5. An Act to Provide Equity in Access to Applications for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program: Sponsored by Representative Rebecca Millett

“These priorities represent big and small changes to help kids access nutritious school meals,” said Anna Korsen, Full Plates Full Potential’s director of advocacy and community partnerships. “This pandemic has illustrated how essential school meals are for kids and their families. Every bill the coalition is introducing will open up access and remove barriers so that kids get the nutrition they need to learn, grow and thrive.” 

While every bill will support all children and especially those experiencing hunger, the Universal Free School Meals bill would structurally change how Maine schools provide meals. School meals are the only part of the school day that some children pay for while others receive for free. This creates stigma and shame for those students that rely on school meals for their basic needs, and a barrier for those students who are not eligible for free or reduced meals but are still experiencing hunger.     

“Hard-working families all across the state have experienced extraordinary hardships during this pandemic through no fault of their own. Providing free school meals to our school kids on a daily basis has made it easier for families to get by and more importantly, ensured no kid goes to school hungry,” said Jackson. “Maine kids should be able to access free school meals every day, and not just in a pandemic. They are counting on us and we shouldn’t turn our backs on them with this pandemic is over. I believe no kids should ever go hungry, which is why I’m proud to lead this fight to make universal school meals a reality in Maine.”