It was J.R.R. Tolkien who once said, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Tolkien was absolutely right. Unfortunately, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have fallen quickly on hard times and are finding it even more challenging to find the resources to provide for that first item: food.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, from 2013 to 2018 the number of Maine households that experienced food insecurity fell by more than 12,000. That improvement continued into 2020, thanks to a strong economy, low unemployment, and higher wages.

Despite this progress, nearly half of Maine’s student population still qualify for meal assistance. With the sudden economic impact of the outbreak and Maine schools closed, the number of families in need of food assistance will grow. In the long term, the best way to reduce hunger in Maine is to get our economy growing again so that Mainers can once again find meaningful employment at better wages. But we must always remember that food insecurity is a real issue in our state, and it has been highlighted during this unprecedented time.

Several government programs have recently come online to help bolster the economy by putting millions of dollars into the pockets of Mainers over the next several months. This federal investment in our state will take time to have its greatest impact on our economy and the lives of all Mainers. However, the government cannot solve every problem. We must all take it upon ourselves to pay great attention to the needs of our friends and neighbors, starting with the ability of each of them to acquire the healthy food that they need.

Recently, Rep. Justin Fecteau and I had the opportunity to witness the work of one very helpful program being managed by the Augusta Food Bank. Thanks to generous donations to a local food drive we held, we were able to drop off a trunkload full of food for the food bank. Some of this will be used for the weekend “KidPaks” program that gives free food to children 18 and under to help with weekend nutrition. The packs are distributed every Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon. If you are a resident of Augusta or Manchester visit www.augustafoodbank.org to learn more.

While the Augusta School Department is closed for students to attend classes, the School Nutrition Program is working diligently to hand out bagged meals (breakfast and lunch) at various locations throughout the week. Additionally, the Augusta Boys & Girls Club is offering curb-side meals and have served over 2,000 meals to kids in the area. Meals are served Monday through Friday, 12-4 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m.-noon at the Buker Community Center.

For school-aged children, there are meal programs like this all over the state. The Maine Department of  Education has created an online interactive map to help people find these in their area. To see the map, go to www.maine.gov/doe/meals.

No matter where you are in Maine there are food supplement programs you can take advantage of today. To see a longer list of non-school related programs, visit this site: mesenategop.com/food/.

During my time in the Legislature, I have been a strong advocate for programs to address student hunger. While we have made tremendous progress, we still have a long way to go to ensure that all Maine students do not go hungry.

If you would like to help support these efforts in some way, or you need assistance gaining access to these programs, please feel free to call me at 441-9418 or send me an email at [email protected] and I would be pleased to help you. We are all in this together and together we will overcome this challenge.

Matt Pouliot of Augusta is a Republican state senator.


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