The new ‘Lunch and Learn’ program for children will be offered from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Mondays and Tuesdays from July 15 to Aug. 16 at McArthur Library. FILE PHOTO

BIDDEFORD — A unique program will attempt to educate young students about the importance of STEM-related courses and address food insecurity at the same time this summer in Biddeford.

Sponsored by the Healthy Minds Initiative at McArthur Public Library in Biddeford, the new “Lunch and Learn” program is intended to bridge the gap during the summer months when children miss meals and lose out on learning opportunities. Two organizations, Cornerstones of Science and Maine Campus Compact, have teamed to provide the pilot program, which also will be offered at libraries at Lewiston and Bangor.

Supported by Maine Campus Compact’s AmeriCorps VISTA, this will be the first time the libraries will offer science education activities coupled with a summer lunch program.

“Cornerstones is already working to bring science and STEM education programs to libraries across America,” said Cynthia Randall, Cornerstones of Science executive director. “We’re delighted to be able to bring youth STEM literacy programs to students right here in our home state, and to pair that offering with a healthy lunch.”

According to Randall, Cornerstones of Science will donate STEM-themed science trunks that contain activities for students ages 6 to 12, including lobsters, bugs and butterflies, solving mysteries, staying healthy, and more.

She said that the nutritious lunch will be provided the Maine Department of Education Summer Food Service Program, which was established to ensure low-income children (ages 18 and younger) continue to receive nutritious meals during the summer months when school is not in session.

In Biddeford, the “Lunch and Learn” program will be offered from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Mondays and Tuesdays from July 15 to Aug. 16 at McArthur Library.

The Cornerstones of Science initiative acts as a catalyst, linking public libraries with scientists to bring science alive in communities and its programs and resources help people gain direct experiences of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Randall said.

The Maine Campus Compact is a coalition of 18-member campuses whose purpose is to catalyze and lead a movement to reinvigorate the public purposes and civic mission of higher education. It seeks to transform our campuses in ways that develop better informed, active citizen problem-solvers, stronger communities, and a more just democratic society.

Overall, Maine is ranked as the 12th most food insecure state in the country, the most food insecure state in New England, and has the third-highest rate of very low food security in the United States. Last year nearly 16 percent of Maine households, more than 200,000 people, experienced food insecurity, a measure of a household’s inability to afford enough food throughout the year, according to statistics from the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

Keeping STEM students from dropping out of the STEM Talent Pipeline is essential in meeting Maine job demands for the future.

A survey conducted by the National Science Board in its 2018 Science and Engineering Indicators report shows that $508 million was invested in Maine in 2015 alone for STEM-related research and development. Nationally, about one in 16 workers (6.2 percent or 8.7 million) currently work in occupations as scientists or engineers (4.8 percent), or technical workers (1.4 percent).

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 or by email at [email protected]

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