WATERBORO — Primary schools, secondary schools and universities in Maine waste more than 7 million pounds of food every year, according to the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

A law passed in June is designed to reduce that figure by having schools work with shelters and food pantries in an effort that also will benefit students, taxpayers and the environment.

Patricia Hambleton, a member of Massabesic High School’s student accountability staff, brought the idea for the bill to Rep. Heidi Sampson, R-Alfred.

Having been in the school district for 20 years, Hambleton decided that something had to be done about Massabesic’s continual battle with food waste. Working with Sampson, they crafted the basis for L.D. 541, An Act to Reduce Food Waste in Schools.

After a unanimous review by the Educational and Cultural Affairs Committee, the bill passed through the House of Representatives and the Maine Senate, and reached the governor’s office.

“It went through so quickly that we didn’t have the opportunity to go up for a signing ceremony,” Sampson said.


The bill became law by June 3, but won’t take effect in January while the Department of Education reviews relevant food safety statutes and regulations. The department will be responsible for formulating the guidelines for schools to follow as they endeavor to support the bill.

As Maine school districts begin to implement the law, their programs will cater to the shelters and food pantries in their area that will benefit from their efforts. Thus, each school will have a unique approach to L.D. 541.

“I see Massabesic as being the leader, they’re going to be the one that other schools are making contact with,” Sampson said.

The legislation is bound to educate high schoolers about the community-wide impact of their actions.

“The high school students are going to see that the actions they take, or inactions … can impact people in the community, in a positive or negative way,” Sampson said.

Students are seeing another example of this in a related bill that passed in April.


L.D. 167 – an act to prevent food shaming in Maine’s public schools – reinforces respect due to low-income students during lunch periods and in the serving line.

While L.D. 541 has yet to come into effect, the logistics of transporting, storing and distributing food safely is a priority. Maine schools will face a variety of regulations that will define how the bill is practically implemented. The potential benefit to students is what most excites school faculty like Hambleton.

“I think it’s a win-win for the school and the community,” she said.

As students familiarize themselves with the communities they serve, they are likely to become activists and volunteers, building a foundation of service for others.

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