By Maggie Miller, Bowdoin Fellow Summer 2021
It’s a warm, sunny Tuesday and I’m sitting outside of Curtis Memorial Library. I have a crate of milk to my left and an assortment of lunches on my right. As kids begin to arrive at my table, I greet them, ask them about their days (which they always have an enthusiastic response to), and hand them a lunch and milk before they head on their way.
This is just a brief look at my experience as a Bowdoin Fellow working in Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s Summer Food Service Program. Summer vacation can pose a challenge for many families when it comes to obtaining food. Children who typically eat breakfast and lunch in school no longer have access to those subsidized meals.
In response to this challenge, the federal government created the Summer Food Service Program to ensure that anyone up to 18 years old who needs food will have access to nutritious, free meals over the summer.
The program works by distributing lunches to kids at different community locations such as rec camps and libraries. Each meal is carefully curated with dairy, fruits and vegetables, grains, and meat or meat alternatives to meet nutritional standards.
Ensuring that all children have access to the healthy meals they need and deserve during the summer is critical, especially considering how prevalent child hunger continues to be. The nonprofit Save the Children estimates that in the United States, 17 million children struggle with hunger. In Maine, Feeding America reports that about 1 in 6 children (or more than 44,000) experience hunger. It’s a burden that no child should have to face, yet so many do.
Unsurprisingly, these numbers have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Save the Children also reported that an additional 6 million children became food insecure due to the pandemic. In total, about 1 in 5 families in the US now say they do not have enough food.
Child hunger is a pressing, persistent issue which remains far from being solved. Through programs like Summer Food Service Program and Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s in-school pantries we can ensure that kids have the food they need now while we work to address the root causes of food insecurity in our state. The recent passage of Maine’s Act To Address Student Hunger through Expanding Access to Free School Meals is an important step in the right direction.
Maggie Miller is the 2021 Bowdoin Fellow at MCHPP. Originally from Los Angeles, she is currently an Environmental Studies and Psychology major at Bowdoin. This summer Maggie worked with MCHPP as part of our Summer Food Service Program.