What better way to connect with the mission of ending childhood food insecurity than by getting in line at a school cafeteria? When Full Plates Full Potential hosted its first fundraising event in three years, the nonprofit chose Yarmouth High School as the venue and School Nutrition Director Blair Currier as the head chef.

“Tonight’s menu was born out of a desire to get middle school students to eat more scratch cooking,” Currier said. As part of Yarmouth Middle School’s program One Hope, One School, the whole school read the novel “Count Me In” by Varsha Bajaj, which has an Indian American heroine. When the author came to visit, Currier offered an Indian-inspired meal during school lunch. The option was so popular that it’s now on a regular rotation at Yarmouth’s middle and high schools.

And it was the core menu for the June 2 Full Plates Full Potential fundraiser dubbed Haute Lunch Special. Currier’s team served a choice of chicken or chickpea biryani with flatbread, zucchini, farm-fresh salad bar, Maine blueberry crisp and mango-guava juice with ginger.

The 100-person dinner and auction raised nearly $70,000 for Full Plates Full Potential school cafeteria initiatives, including buying salad bar stations, breakfast carts, culinary appliances and reusable lunch trays. Event sponsors included Hannaford, No Kid Hungry by Share Our Strength, Maine Credit Unions Campaign for Ending Hunger, HM Payson, Brookfield Renewable U.S., MaineHealth, Bangor Savings Bank, Native Maine Produce and a dozen other organizations or companies.

“Full Plates Full Potential works to expand access and reach of child nutrition programs, including through school lunch,” said Executive Director Justin Strasburger. “Our hope is to make this an annual event and to take it to different schools in various parts of the state.”

John Woods and Justin Alfond were members of a task force on ending childhood food insecurity in Maine and, in 2014, founded Full Plates Full Potential. Since then, the nonprofit has granted $3 million of support to child nutrition programs statewide, half of which was raised in emergency funding early in the pandemic.


“It’s magical to think of what we’ve accomplished in seven years,” Alfond said. “We have broken down so many of the barriers in our schools.”

In 2021, Maine became one of the first states in the nation to provide school meals to all children at no cost, regardless of family income.

“A culture shift that has taken place in recent years,” said Rebekah Sousa, a Food Security Champion with the Department of Education. “Young people start their days with a shared meal with their friends.”

This was Woods’s dream, one that he helped set in motion as he led Full Plates through its first five years as executive director. But while he was fighting childhood hunger for Maine kids, he was also battling cancer. He died in March 2021.

“This was his life’s work, and now it’s part of what our family does,” said his wife, Diane Woods, who serves on the Full Plates Full Potential board.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at amyparadysz@gmail.com.

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