In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to nutritious food is more vital than ever. As I understand, prior to the crisis, about 180,000 Mainers, or about 14 percent, lived with food insecurity. Good Shepherd Food Bank has estimated that number will rise by 68,000, bringing it to 21 percent of the population. Many of these are children who might otherwise be receiving their meals at school.

Justin Alfond raised excellent points on the importance of school meals in his recent Maine Voices commentary (April 26), and Full Plates Full Potential is to be commended. With schools closed indefinitely, many Maine children are at risk of going without the healthy meals provided through their schools.

As the United States prepared for World War II, military leaders testified that many draftees were rejected for service because of malnutrition. Congress passed the National School Lunch Act in 1946 as a matter of national security and to safeguard the health and well-being of our nation’s children. As a member of Mission: Readiness, I know firsthand how crucial proper nutrition is for young people—and for our national security.

In the midst of COVID-19, we must adapt our nation’s school meals programs to better serve our nation’s children. Congress should act to improve school meal options for packaging, preparation and distribution of nutritious and balanced meals, while also fostering innovation that allows states and local schools to tailor school meals programs to our ever-changing conditions. Doing so will help us get through this public health crisis, and strengthen our children and our national security.

Richard Mayo

vice admiral, U.S. Navy (retired)

Harpswell

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