On Wednesday it was announced that the United States Department of Agriculture will now be extending it's free school lunches until June 2022. Specifically, school's and childcare institutions will be able to prepare and serve meals in the fall of 2021 but will continue food services that allow for social distancing until June of 2022.

Since the start of the pandemic, the USDA has been offering school's free lunches to ensure a vulnerable portion of the population has access to food that is safe and nutritious.

This dual plan allows for a transition for schools and child care facilities to return to in-person attendance while continuing to allow for meal pick-ups to allow for social distancing as needed.

The program utilized throughout the pandemic has typically been utilized for the summer months, in between school years, known as the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO).

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According to the Good Shepherd Food Bank, a Maine hunger-relief organization, more than 70,000 Maine kids live with food insecurity. According to Feeding America, an organization focused on hunger-relief in the United States, the pandemic has affected low-income families the most.  The continuation of the USDA free meal program will insure children will still have access to nutritious meals no matter their economic circumstances during the pandemic.

For more information about the National School Lunch Program, visit the USDA.gov website.

To find more information about where to find a food resource closest to you in the State of Maine, visit this map on the Good Shepherd Food Bank website.

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