During the current session, the Legislature passed a bill that would increase the number of Maine schoolchildren who will qualify, through a federal program, for nutritional assistance during the summer.

LD 1353 requires schools that hold summer activities, and where more than half the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, to offer the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Services Program, which reimburses school districts for the entire cost of the food.

In the United States, food insecurity for children is an important issue that needs to be addressed. Food insecurity includes not only inadequate quantity, but also quality of food. Children need not just enough calories, but enough nutrients for proper growth and development.

Proper growth has broad health implications that can affect a variety of developmental outcomes. Children’s food insecurity can impact their success in terms of educational outcomes, family life and overall health. For example, marginal food insecurity has been linked to poorer development trajectories for children, such as impaired social skills and reading development.

School meal programs have been implemented as a solution to alleviating issues with food insecurity.

Many studies indicate behavioral, emotional and academic problems are more prevalent among hungry children than non-hungry children. Food insecurity is linked to lower math scores, greater problems getting along with peers, poor health status and higher prevalence of illness.


A study by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine found that those children ages 6 to 11 years in food-insufficient homes had lower arithmetic scores, were more likely to have repeated a grade, seen a therapist, and had more difficulty getting along with peers than similar children in food-secure homes.

The cognitive, behavioral and physical health problems that undernourished children face are exacerbated in those children who are living in poverty. Paying special attention to food security in school children is especially important for securing their livelihood and abilities, not just during primary education, but also for later in life.

The National School Lunch Program was created in 1946 when President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act into law.

In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was the most sweeping change in the history of the NSLP. Championed by Michelle Obama and directed by the USDA, new guidelines required an increase in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The new guidelines also limited sodium, fat and caloric intake to age-appropriate levels.

For the first time ever, vending machine snacks and a la carte menu items fall under regulation of the NSLP. The hope is that these new guidelines will allow schoolchildren to learn how to make healthy eating choices, and how to embrace nutrition as part of their life choices. The changes went into effect for the 2012-2013 school year.

Today, the National School Lunch Program operates in more than 101,000 public and nonprofit private schools and residential care institutions. Regulated and administered at the federal level by the Food and Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, it currently provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children across the nation.


In 2011, the NSLP fed more than 31 million children each day.

Most students benefit from the NSLP because it subsidizes even full-price meals in the majority of U.S. schools.

The Summer Food Service Program was established to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.

Free meals, that meet federal nutrition guidelines, are provided to all children 18 years old and under at approved SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.

According to the Maine Center for Economic Development, in 2011, more than 69,000 eligible Maine kids receive a free or reduced price lunch each day during the school year, but over the summer months that number goes to less than 8,000 daily.

Federal nutrition assistance is crucial to stemming child hunger in Maine.

Rep. Brian Bolduc, D-Auburn, represents House District 69 in the Maine Legislature. He serves on the State and Local Government Committee.

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