Twelve Maine school districts will receive up to $150,000 each to help improve the quality and nutrition of meals offered at their schools.

The districts, including those serving Millinocket, Mount Desert, Rumford and Windham, are some of the 264 rural or small districts in 44 states and Washington, D.C., to be awarded a total of $30 million in federal Department of Agriculture funds by the national nonprofit Action for Healthy Kids.

The funds can be used for kitchen updates, food preparation and cafeteria redesigns, staff training and other efforts to improve school meals and support school nutrition staff. The funding was announced Monday during a conference call with news media.

“When we strengthen school meal quality, we strengthen child health,” said Stacy Dean, USDA deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services.

The other school districts to receive funding are those serving Easton, Stacyville, Carmel, Hampden, Hallowell, Somerville, Union and Wells.

The USDA said this $30 million is the largest investment it has ever made in school meal programs for small and rural school districts. About 15,000 Maine students will be served with this money.


“We want to ensure every child in America has the opportunity to attend a school with high quality, nutritious meals and that is an important step in the right direction,” said Dean.

The state of Maine already provides free breakfast and lunch to all students. It began doing so starting in the 2022-23 school year after the federal government’s COVID-related free lunch program sunset at the close of the 2021-22 school year.

This investment will go toward increasing school meal quality, nutritional content and options.

It’s not clear how much money will flow into Maine through this initiative. An Action for Healthy Kids map shows the dollar amount of the allocations for only Mount Desert and Easton, which are to receive $17,298 and $150,000, respectively. Neither representatives from Action for Healthy Kids or the USDA responded to questions about school district allocations in time for publication.

Studies have found that providing healthy school lunches helps reduce childhood obesity, ensures that students have the nutrition they need throughout the day to learn and improves academic performance. 

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