SAD 17 has delivered 56 days worth of breakfast and lunch to students since school closed in March. Pictured: Miranda Derenburger (front), Beth Gallagher and Bus Driver Devon Richards. Supplied photo

 

Families that are eligible for reduced or free lunch during the school year can qualify for this program, even if they do not receive regular EBT benefits.

Jodi Truman

 

Any Maine resident between ages 0-18 can get a free meal at any school feeding site anywhere in the state.

Jodi Truman

 

PARIS — Families in Oxford Hills that rely on SAD 17’s summer feeding program will have to make adjustments this year. The refrigeration and freezer units will be replaced, forcing the kitchen to be closed for at least eight weeks starting June 15.

“The system has not worked properly for a long time,” said SAD 17 Food Service Director Jodi Truman. “The walls are bowed and leaking and keep the coolers from sealing properly. The kitchen will not be available until mid-August.”

The work to be done includes taking down an entire wall in the cafeteria to remove the old units, mold remediation in the affected areas and installing all new equipment. Siemens Building Technologies has been contracted for the project.

As Maine’s restarts its economy following COVID-19, Truman acknowledges the timing for the project is not ideal. But she said there are alternatives for families in the region.

“We are working with the Progress Center to provide food there and at other sites where there are heavy concentrations of students,” she said. “Food will be distributed at more locations this summer, just not through the school.”

Truman said there are other state-sponsored options.

“The state is providing additional food assistance through at least June because of the pandemic,” she explained. “It’s called P-EBT (the P stands for ‘Pandemic’). Families that are eligible for reduced or free lunch during the school year can qualify for this program, even if they do not receive regular EBT benefits.

“And the USDA has made adjustments to its federal summer meals program because of coronavirus. Any Maine resident between ages 0-18 can get a free meal at any school feeding site anywhere in the state.”

People can get more information and apply for P-EBT on Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services’ website at https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ofi or call DHHS at (855) 797-4357. Anyone can learn more about Maine’s Child Care Subsidy program, for health as well as nutritional assistance at https://www1.maine.gov/benefits/account/login.html. Additional assistance information is also available at 211 Maine’s website, https://211maine.org/.

To find locations for summer feeding sites, people should visit USDA’s meals4kids website at https://www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids.

SAD 17’s final meal bus run for the 2019-2020 school year was Jun. 10. Supplied photo

SAD 17 wraps up its social-distancing meal delivery program for the 2019-2020 school year on Jun. 12. Since March the district has been sending out breakfast and lunch every Monday and Wednesday morning through regular bus runs. The Food Service Department prepared five days worth of provisions, providing two daily meals for any student who requested it.

“As of last week, June 3, we have distributed 160,433 meals by school bus,” Truman said. “We have it down to a science now. It’s been awesome the way staff from every department in the district have worked together to feed our kids.”

Food service workers start food delivery day, packing meals to be loaded on 24 buses. Each bus is staffed with someone from the food service department, the bus driver, a driver’s helper and an additional staffer, usually an ed tech or administration employee. The buses roll out by 8:45 a.m. and the last one returns by 12:45 p.m. The kitchen, cafeteria and buses all have to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after each delivery day by the district’s maintenance and custodial staffs.

“I have never seen an effort like this,” Truman said. “Everyone has just come together to make sure our students continued to get their meals through the pandemic. And the community has helped as well, Hannaford, New Balance and Walmart have all donated things like bags, boxes, whatever we needed. The athletics boosters have donated gift cards to families, Littlefield’s provided flowers to keep our spirits going.”

As the economy has started reopening and stimulus checks have reached families, the numbers of requested meals through SAD 17 have started falling off.

“With restrictions being eased people have not relied on the school so much,” said Truman. “Kids have been maybe the happiest to get peanut butter and jelly sandwiches delivered. We don’t normally use peanut butter for school meals. But they do make for easy to make and keep sandwiches and they’ve been very popular.”

SAD 17 staff has received walls worth of thank yous from its students during coronavirus. Supplied photo


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.