A debit card program issued by a Saco banking institution has lead to the purchase of 5,070 school lunches in total for school departments in York and Cumberland counties. In Biddeford, 722 school meals will be able to be purchased, a figure shown here by Biddeford School Department nutrition staff. Courtesy Photo

SACO — Consumers who use a specific Community Debit Card from a local bank are helping provide lunch to students in local schools.

This year, Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution will donate $14,300 to school nutrition programs in York and Cumberland counties through their Community Debit Card Program. The funds raised will provide approximately 5,070 meals for students in Biddeford, Old Orchard Beach, Saco, Scarborough, South Portland and Westbrook. In Biddeford, 722 meals will be purchased; 1,718 in Saco and 1,652 at Old Orchard Beach schools, for a total of 4,092.

Each time someone uses a Community Debit card designated for their school department, a donation is made toward school lunches. In Biddeford, that means a Tiger Pride card issued by Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution; in Saco, the Thornton Academy and Saco Schools card, and in Old Orchard Beach, the Gulls card.

More than 45 percent of students statewide were eligible for free or reduced cost lunch during the 2019 fiscal year, according to the Maine Department of Education.

Locally, a March 2020 report by the Maine DOE noted that 45.52 percent of students in Biddeford schools were eligible for free lunch and 7.46 percent were eligible for lunch at a reduced rate. In Old Orchard Beach, which is RSU 23, 46.33 percent of students were eligible for lunch at no cost to them, and 5.4 percent at reduced price. In Saco, 23.11 percent of students in public schools were eligible for free lunch, and 7.42 percent for reduced price lunch. Because Thornton Academy is a private school where Saco high school students are tuitioned, there is no state data available.

“No child should go without food and it is our honor to step up and help,” said Bob Quentin, president and CEO of SBSI. “The Community Debit Card Program has continued to build on the momentum of its first year and raise awareness about this important issue. This is only made possible through the participation of our partnering schools and the continued support of our customers.”

In two years, the program has produced nearly $25,000 in donations, which are primarily generated every time SBSI customers swipe their Community Debit Cards for a non-ATM transaction. The $14,300 raised from these transactions in 2019 is a significant uptick from $5,424 raised in 2018, Quentin noted in a news release. In its inaugural year, the program led to the bank receiving an award — which came with a prize of $5,000 to benefit a community cause of their choice — bringing the 2018 donation total to $10,424.

“The impact this donation has on our local families makes a tremendous difference,” said Caroline Trinder, Food and Nutrition Services director at RSU 23. “This year’s donation helped eliminate the majority of our debt and we are grateful to the bank and their customers for making this possible.”

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