The Summer Food Services Program will expand in Maine, despite the governor’s effort to prevent it.

Last week, the Maine House voted 92-46 in favor of overriding Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s veto.

The legislation requires schools with a majority of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches to operate a federally-administered Summer Food Services Program if they hold activities like summer school. Schools are reimbursed for 100 percent of the costs of food through the program by the federal government, according to the Associated Press.

Although some schools may have to pick up the program, many schools in this category already offer it, and those that don’t will be serving a population that is in need of regular, balanced meals throughout the summer. These schools have a majority of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches, and that need does not go away when school is out.

The governor said the bill was an “irresponsible unfunded mandate.” That is far from the truth, however, because the U.S. Department of Agriculture pays for the program.

Local school officials have had nothing but praise for the program, and have even worked to encourage more children to attend and expand sites that offer the meals.

In York County, Sanford, Biddeford and Regional School Unit 23 participate in the program.

In 2011, free meals were being offered at about 200 sites throughout the state each summer, and about 450,000 meals were served, according to the state Department of Education.

Last summer, the program expanded even more within RSU 23, with breakfast and lunch being served at sites in Old Orchard Beach and Saco. At the Jameson and Fairfield elementary schools, activities were even offered between the meals to keep kids active and engaged throughout the duration of the program. Offerings including a robotics class as well as nutrition-focused programs.

These summer offerings are a win-win for communities and the state, and it’s appalling that LePage would not support the effort to get summer lunch programs up and running in the communities that have the most need.

Children need three nutritious meals a day, all year-round. It’s clear that many are not getting the food they need, as evidenced by the backpack programs that help keep school children fed on weekends and school vacations, and the rise in numbers of families seeking assistance at local food pantries.

The Summer Food Services Program offers a necessary service for Maine children that is 100 percent paid for by the federal government, and it’s encouraging to see the Legislature stand up for the state’s most vulnerable children.

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Today’s editorial was written by City Editor Robyn Burnham Rousseau on behalf of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski by calling 282-1535, ext. 322, or via email at [email protected]