A new van is ready to bring free meals to 15 sites in Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro.

Fifteen sites in Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro will offer breakfast, lunch and snacks this summer to anyone age 18 and younger.

The Summer Food Program, sponsored by Alternative Organizational Structure 92 and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will kick off at 11 a.m. Monday for all three communities at North Street Playground in Waterville and continue through Aug. 14.

While the program has been in place several years, AOS 92 has expanded it and added new sites.

The Maine Department of Education’s Child Nutrition office helps coordinate the statewide program.

“Anyone 18 and younger can eat for free at any site in the state of Maine,” said Paula Pooler, AOS 92 finance director and food service director. “You don’t have to be from Waterville, Winslow or Vassalboro to come. Any family can dial 211 to find out where sites are, or go online to summerfoodrocks, put in where they are located and it’ll tell you the 10 closest sites.”

The program ensures children from low-income families get nutritious meals during the summer, when school is not in session, at approved sites where there is a high concentration of those children. The meals must meet federal nutritional guidelines. Trained school food service workers prepare and deliver the meals, which must be eaten at the meal sites.

Food will be delivered in 2015 Dodge Ram 1500 van that the Waterville food service program was able to buy, as the 15-year-old Chevrolet van it was using was unsafe and constantly breaking down, according to officials. It has been repaired and will be used this summer to supplement the new van.

The year-round Waterville food service program pays for itself through federal subsidies and meal fees, so no local tax money was used to buy the van and funding for it does not come out of the school budget, according to AOS 92 Superintendent Eric Haley.

The van, which also will be used to transport food during the school year to Mount Merici Academy and the alternative education program based at the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers, is painted with colorful fresh fruit and vegetables and will play music as it approaches summer meal sites, so that children will recognize it and hear it arriving.

Haley told the Waterville Board of Education recently that state officials are excited AOS 92’s summer meals program because of the creative ideas Pooler and Bonnell have brought to the program, including the van art and the playing of music, much as an old-fashioned ice cream truck plays music when it travels through neighborhoods to alert children it is arriving.

“They really like the fact that we are doing as much as we are doing,” Haley said. “They are trying to spread it in the state of Maine.”

Gail Lombardi, program coordinator for the Summer Food Service Program in the state Department of Education’s Child Nutrition office, said Waterville has expanded its summer program over the last couple of years.

“They are getting meals out to a housing site, and that’s good because children are already there,” Lombardi said. “I’m just really pleased with how Waterville has been working to reach more children.”

Lombardi said 600,000 meals were served last summer in Maine through the program.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

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