While school has come to a halt for the summer, the need for meals that districts provide during the year has not.

Some meal programs are through the national Summer Food Service Program, while others are independent programs.

Regardless, the message is the same, that all students should have free, fresh meals. Food banks and community programs have ensured the meals through mid-August, right before the return back to school for the fall.

Norman Thombs oversees the packaging and distribution of hundreds of meals for school children across Maine from the summer camp he oversees in Winthrop. Volunteers cook, assemble and distribute meal packs at Camp Mechuwana for children from Salem Township to Monmouth. The food had been shipped by 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, and Thombs was serving meals to campers in the Camp Mechuwana kitchen, which loaded with packaged food at 12:30 p.m. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Last year, Camp Mechuwana in Winthrop served 64,000 meals to the Winthrop, Monmouth and Skowhegan areas.

Camp Mechuwana Director Norman Thombs said he doesn’t expect the number of meals given out this year to be as high as last year for his program because towns are conducting their own. But, for the month of June, Mechuwana has delivered 1,600 in the short first few weeks of summer.

“I think the families coming in now are really depending on it, and really need it,” Thombs said.

According to Good Shepherd Food Bank, food insecurity in Kennebec County is expected to rise to 17,030 residents in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year in the county, 20.6% of children are projected to be food insecure.

Thombs and his staff are providing free meals to all children younger than the age of 18, as well as running Camp Mechuwana’s day camp program. The meals are available in the Monmouth Town Office parking lot from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They are fully prepared, bagged and distributed by the camp staff.

“I think people are getting back to work. And I think last year, we were right in the middle of a major shut down and the world has changed a little bit, but there is still a need out there, ” Thombs said. “It also highlights how even before the pandemic, there was a great deal of food insecurity in this area, and a lot of it is hidden and some people don’t realize.”

The national summer meals program covers most of the cost for the meals, but Thombs said Camp Mechuwana alumni from across the country have sent the camp Amazon orders of paper bags, among other donations to keep the program running.

People outside central Maine can go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website to use the interactive tool to find free meal sites in their location.

AUGUSTA

Augusta Public Schools, have meal pick-up sites Monday through Friday throughout the city until Aug. 14. The meals are free for all students ages 18 and younger, and recipients do not have to be members of the Augusta Public Schools, according to Maureen Thompson, director of the Augusta Nutrition Program.

Thompson said the program is giving out about 250 meals per day. She expects the number to go up to around 300 in the coming weeks as summer progresses.

Pickups are at the following sites:

• Glenridge Garden Apartments from 10:30 a.m. to 10:50 a.m.

• McCall’s Playground from 10:55 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

• Williams Park playground from 11:20 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.

• Mill Park from 11:50 a.m. to 12:05 p.m.

• Calumet Park playground from 12:10 p.m. to 12:25 p.m.

• Lincoln Elementary School from 12:35 p.m. to 12:50 p.m.

The Augusta Food Bank is giving out Kid’s Packs, too, which are meal bags that include breakfast and lunch for students throughout the summer. The packs are free to children younger than 18, but they have to make an appointment with their guardians to receive a kid’s pack.

On Thursdays, the bank has “Free Food Thursday” from 9 to 11 a.m., where no appointment is needed and participants do not have to be registered members of the food bank to receive food.

BELGRADE

In the Belgrade-area school district, all children 18 and under are able to pick up a free meal Monday through Friday.

Messalonskee Middle School, Atwood Primary School, James H. Bean School, Belgrade Central School and Rome Community Center offer meal pickup from 10 to 11 a.m. China Middle School has meal pickup from 9:45  to 10:30 a.m., and Oakland Boat Landing has pick up from 11 a.m. to noon.

GARDINER

The Tiger Food Pantry will have limited hours for the summer.

The food pantry is run by Maine School Administrative District 11 and Raye Anne DeSoto. Those interested in picking up food will have to register online, via a Google Form on the pantry’s Facebook page. It will be open July 12, 19 and July 26. In August, it will be open Aug. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30; it will be closed Labor Day.

Pick-up hours are between 3 and 6 p.m., and those interested will have to provide the number of individuals in their family and identify their needs.

In addition to the Tiger Food Pantry, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley will provide meals to children younger than the age of 18, and those who receive a meal do not have to be members of the club. Pick up is between 11 a.m. and noon, Monday through Friday and is curbside.

RICHMOND

Richmond Area Food Pantry has limited hours — from 4 to 6 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month and 9 to 11 a.m. the third Saturday.

Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program is offering free meals as part of the national Summer Food Service Program at Marcia Buker Elementary School. The times when the meals will be served are still up in the air, according to Youth Services Coordinator Haley Dolloff, but the days will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The meals will be available starting July 13, and available for all students younger than 18.

SKOWHEGAN

Monday through Thursday, until Aug. 12, students in Maine School Administrative District 54, or in the general area, can get free meals at a number of sites.

• Smithfield General Store on Village Road in Smithfield from 10:45 to 11:15 a.m.

• Boynton’s Greenhouses on Madison Avenue in Skowhegan from 10:50 to 11:20 a.m.

• Riverside Terrace Community on Riverside Drive in Skowhegan from 10:50 to 11:20 a.m.

• Franklin-Somerset Federal Credit Union on Leavitt Street in Skowhegan from 10:50 to 11:20 a.m.

• Canaan Elementary School on Main Street in Canaan from 11 to 11:45 a.m.

• Bucky Quinn Field on S. Factory Street in Skowhegan from 11:30 a.m. to noon.

• North Elementary School on Jewett Street in Skowhegan from 11:30 a.m. to noon.

• Skowhegan Area Middle School on Academy Circle from 11:30 a.m. to noon.

• Mill Stream Elementary School on Mercer Road in Norridgewock from 11:30 a.m. to noon

• Cornville Town Office on West Ridge Road from 11:30 a.m. to noon.

WATERVILLE

All children younger than 18 will be able to receive a free meal every weekday. Waterville has set up several locations throughout the city for accessibility and all sites range in time.

According to the school, all children, no matter their economic status, are allowed to take a meal. Folks do not have to be a resident of the corresponding town, either. The sites and times for Waterville are as follows:

• George J. Mitchell School from 9 to 11 a.m.

• Village Green from 9 to 9:15 a.m.

• Armory Road Housing from 9 to 9:15 a.m.

• Waterville Junior High School from 9:20 to 9:35 a.m.

• Home Place Housing from 9:20 to 9:30 a.m.

• Chaplin Street Playground from 9:35 to 9:55 a.m.

• South End Teen Center from 9:55 to 10 a.m.

• North Street Playground from 9:55 to 10:15 a.m.

• Western Avenue Play Area from 10:05 to 10:20 a.m.

• Albert S. Hall School from 10:25 to 10:40 a.m.

• Waterville Senior High School from 10:45 to 11 a.m.

WINSLOW

The same program as Waterville will be running in Winslow. Students can get meals from the following locations in the town:

• Winslow Elementary School from 9 to 11 a.m.

• Vassalboro Community School from 9 to 9:20 a.m.

• Olde Mill Place from 9:30 to 9:45 a.m.

• Norton Street Playground from 9:50 to 10:05 a.m.

• Halifax Street Playground from 10:10 to 10:25 a.m.

• Bellevue Street Park from 10:30 to 10:40 a.m.

• Clinton Avenue Playground from 10:45 to 11 a.m.

WINTHROP

Anyone under the age of 18 will be able to get a free lunch at Norcross Point from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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