Supporting School Climate and Safety through Food Security

 

Maine School Safety Center supports Food Security

Hunger is often a symptom of a much bigger problem: poverty.  The economic and social well-being of all Maine citizens is important, and it is negatively impacted by food insecurity and malnutrition. On average, 1 in 4 children in Maine is at risk for hunger, and 37% of them do not qualify for public assistance.

Built by an Americorps VISTA to fight poverty and end hunger for students in Maine, this webpage is intended for a broad audience.  It is only through genuine school-family-community cooperation that we can create a safety net for our students and future neighbors. School staff will find a variety of resources meant to foster resilience and reduce ACEs related to financial insecurity for their students. Families will find resources that might help budgets stretch further or make life more comfortable so students can have what they need to grow and learn.  

This project directly supports the mission of the Maine Student Safety Center (MSSC) which strives to ensure that Maine schools are inclusive, healthy, safe, and supportive communities where every student thrives. MSSC endeavors to coordinate resources and programs that promote equitable, psycho-socially, physically, and environmentally healthy school communities for all.  MSSC recognizes that Maine’s most precious resources are our students; along with our school staffs and families, their mission work every day to assure a level of physical and emotional safety that all parents desire for their children.  

Raising the next generation is a shared responsibility. When families, communities, and schools work together, students are more successful and the entire community benefits- both now and in the long term. Thank you for helping Maine to be the best place to grow up!

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Parents and Guardians 
Click here for Parent & Guardian Resources

This resource hub is intended to provide guidance for community resources and services to inform families about supports available to the family.  Many, but not all, of these services are intended to support low-income families. 

FAQs
Teachers
Click here for Teacher Resources

Maine Agriculture in the Classroom has many standard-aligned resources.  MAITC Brochure & Remote Learning & Online Resources Guide & School Garden Curriculum Connections

Maine School Garden Network promotes and supports education gardens.  Funding opportunities for school garden projects in Maine- widely applicable to outdoor learning, STEM education, and all will teach students to grow food, offering long term protection against food insecurity.   General informational brochure here MSGN Brochure 3.0

Nutrition Education in the Classroom is offered through the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) for schools meeting the threshold for free/reduced lunch.  New Youth All Classes

Most families with children in Maine qualify for SNAP.

  • SNAP Brochure for more information
  • Encourage families to Apply online
  • Phone, Fax and Paper applications also available: 855-797-4357
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PTA & Community 
Click here for PTA & Community Resources

Salad bars increase daily access to fruits and vegetables in schools, they are a great way to utilize school garden veggies and let kids taste what they’ve grown, and they can be free to your school through a Salad Bars to Schools grant. You can encourage your district to introduce a salad bar into your food service program.  Resources 

Including Farm to School wording in Wellness Plans is a concrete way to strengthen local food supply networks (avoiding crisis when supply chains are threatened) and invest back into the local community- reducing food insecurity and improving access for people across the economic spectrum.  Farm to Child Nutrition

School Nutrition programs are the  most cost effective way of reducing food insecurity for students.  Find more information here 

Learn more about Food Systems- bridge the gap between community food sources and your school.  Help students be aware of their place on the food map, and how they can make healthier choices for themselves, their communities, and our environment. Nourish Food System Map

If you are in a low-income, low-access area, please consider creative ways to improve access to food for your neighbors!  Here is a toolkit with recommended best practices, legal resources, and case studies. 

Here is a model school wellness plan that includes language about supporting farm-to-school activities, school gardens, and learning about local agriculture and regional foods. Example Wellness 

 

Most families with children in Maine qualify for SNAP.

  • SNAP Brochure for more information
  • Encourage families to Apply online
  • Phone, Fax and Paper applications also available: 855-797-4357
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Administrators 
Click here for Administrator Resources 

Support your food services folks and your local food supply chains by creating a group invested in farm-to-school initiatives.  FTS-Planning Guide

Here is a model school wellness plan that includes language about supporting farm-to-school activities, school gardens, and learning about local agriculture and regional foods. Example Wellness 

Maine School Garden Network promotes and supports education gardens.  Funding opportunities for school garden projects in Maine- widely applicable to outdoor learning, STEM education, and all will teach students to grow food, offering long term protection against food insecurity.  https://www.msgn.org/grants/ General informational brochure here MSGN Brochure 3.0

Nutrition Education in the Classroom is offered through the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) for schools meeting the threshold for free/reduced lunch.  EFNEP outcomes

In a time that is emphasizing the importance of sustainable living, responsible consumerism, and self-reliance, there is a solid argument for reintroducing or revamping consumer science classes.  FCS_STEM

Promoting positive community norms and creating an effective way to assist students in need are both central to school and community wellness.  While these resources don’t specifically address food insecurity, they are a great lens from which to approach food policies.  Incorporating wellness language into community norms and student assistance models is also a pragmatic approach to fostering genuine connections and a sense of caring.  Student Assistance & Promoting Positive Community Norms

 

Most families with children in Maine qualify for SNAP.

  • SNAP Brochure for more information
  • Encourage families to Apply online
  • Phone, Fax and Paper applications also available: 855-797-4357
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Support Staff & SROs
Click here for Support Staff & SRO Resources

Here is a model school wellness plan that includes language about supporting farm-to-school activities, school gardens, and learning about local agriculture and regional foods. Example Wellness 

 

Most families with children in Maine qualify for SNAP.

  • SNAP Brochure for more information
  • Encourage families to Apply online
  • Phone, Fax and Paper applications also available: 855-797-4357
FAQs
Food Authorities
Click here for Food Authority Resources

Here is a model school wellness plan that includes language about supporting farm-to-school activities, school gardens, and learning about local agriculture and regional foods. Example Wellness 

Why School

Schools are already involved in the fight against hunger. The National School Lunch & Breakfast Programs are the largest antihunger programs, other than the Supplemental   Nutrition Assistance Program. Students across Maine rely on school meals; this work is a continuation of these efforts- reaching students when school is closed. School staff have intimate insight into students and families lives- in and out of school. Often the first to identify red flags, teachers, school nurses, counselors, social workers, school resource officers, administrators, and other trusted adults set the tone of response. The relationships that already exist, hopefully make a safe space for sensitive conversations and sharing resources with families in need. We are social beings. We look for cues in our environment about how to think, act, or belong. Teachers, and other adults in the learning environment, role model social emotional learning and skills to become more resilient.

Why Safety

The climate of the classroom depends on the wellness of everyone in it. At any time, in the typical classroom in Maine, there are 10 students on the Free/ Reduced Lunch program, 3 students living in poverty, 8 students in single-parent homes, putting them at increased risk of economic insecurity. Even 10% of teachers are facing food insecurity. Hungry people are more likely to be cranky, hyperactive, aggressive, reactive, impulsive or even anti-social. Food insecure students are more likely to engage in bullying or high-risk behavior. Dysregulated individuals can quickly impact the safety of the people around them- a few friends, a classroom, or the whole school. The Maine School Safety Center emphasizes the preventative, proactive, “public health” approach to safety by employing systematic, pragmatic, and collaborative methods. Well fed, well rested, cared for students are going to be better regulated, ready to learn and

Why Community

Family-school-community partnerships are essential for helping students achieve their maximum potential. Research shows that, at both the elementary and secondary level, when schools, communities, and families work together, students are more motivated; they stay in school and attend more frequently; and they earn higher grades. High quality schools connect with community resources and families to improve student outcomes in all domains cutting across the spectrum of social, health, and academic needs to help students be successful. Food provides common ground; it opens the door for conversation, relationships and building trust. Families who need food support can often benefit from a broader range of services, but food is regularly the easiest to identify and address. Providing a comprehensive safety net for our families, the model of family-school community partnerships is responsive to what each village needs, rather than applying a cookie-cutter formula or trying to impose one-size-fits-all solutions.

What We Do

Improve access immediately. By networking schools and local food distribution groups- such as food pantries- students will immediately have better access to food for evenings, weekends, and school closings. This could include snacks, bags of weekend food, help yourself tables near the exits, or regular communication about what is available at the food pantry, changes in hours or operations, and contacts for delivery where needed/ available. Improve availability of healthy, culturally appropriate, (preferably) local foods. Buying products from Maine strengthens local economies and the long-term food security of the entire community. Farm-to-school, school gardens, nutrition and cooking classes foster resiliency and long-term health. Cross-sector collaboration creates synergy. Food insecurity does not exist in a vacuum; it is a symptom of poverty influenced by housing, healthcare, education, childcare, mental health, and job access. Solutions for long term stability and success must address each of these factors. Finally, a critical look at food culture and food systems reveals the need to reclaim our collective responsibility, center the voices of impacted people, and address systemic factors that contribute to food insecurity and poverty. This is our best chance a building a stronger future for our children.

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Contact

Rebekah Sousa, MPH
Americorps VISTA 21-22; Ending Hunger 2030
(207) 816-1440
Rebekah.Sousa@maine.gov