From left are Alisa Roman, director of nutrition, and Curt Manchester, assistant director of nutrition, for Lewiston Public Schools. Contributed photo

PORTLAND —  The Maine-based nonprofit organization Full Plates Full Potential has awarded new “School Meal Mobile” delivery vans to three school districts because of a contribution from the Hannaford Supermarkets Fuel Kids at School initiative.

These vans will be put to immediate use, ensuring students are fed during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The three districts receiving vans are Lewiston Public Schools; School Administrative District 58, serving Phillips, Avon, Kingfield and Strong; and Regional School Unit 12, serving Sheepscot Valley students in Alna, Chelsea, Palermo, Somerville, Westport Island, Whitefield and Windsor. The vans will allow the districts to open 11 new meal sites and serve an estimated 1,220 additional students per day.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the important role transportation plays in ensuring all kids have consistent access to nutritious meals,” said Justin Strasburger, executive director of
Full Plates, according to the release from the Portland nonprofit. “But even before the pandemic, school nutrition directors, particularly those from Maine’s many rural areas, viewed transportation as critical to meeting the needs of their communities. We are thrilled that Hannaford recognized this need and stepped up to fill the gap.”

A steadfast advocate for increasing food security in Maine, and longtime supporter of Full Plates Full Potential, Hannaford was quick to respond to the rising need for transportation support. “Providing nutritious food for children at risk of going hungry is crucial, but not enough; we have to ensure children have access to that food too. Fuel Kids at School is built on the idea that we need to get food to kids, in their schools, in their homes, in their neighborhoods,” said Eric Blom, Hannaford spokesman, according to the release. “Thanks to the innovation of Full Plates Full Potential and this new initiative, we are driving that concept even further into the community, providing Maine kids with the help they need to grow, thrive, and build our state’s future.”

Full Plates Full Potential & Hannaford launched the Fuel Kids at School Van Grant in March and received 30 applications. In addition to the custom-wrapped van, districts received insulated
cooling blankets, and a cash award of $5,000 to support maintenance, insurance, and registration costs.

“This is not only good news for this year, but for the future as well,” Lewiston Public Schools school nutrition director Alisa Roman said in the release. “Last summer, we spent $58,000 on commercial vehicle rentals. This is going to be such a big help serving our over 30 meal sites.”

Mike Flynn, school nutrition director for RSU 12, agreed. “At RSU 12, 100% of the students are rural, which creates limited access to transportation, healthy food on a regular basis, and
partnerships with area services. With our School Meal Mobile we will be able to increase and improve services for remote learners and for all students during non-school sessions,” said Flynn.

From left are Michele Grant, district business manager; Leslie Burgess, administrative assistant to the superintendent; and Howie Tuttle, superintendent of schools, all of RSU 12. Contributed photo