PHOTOS: Rep. Pingree, Gov. Mills welcomes Maine's USDA agriculture minister, highlights success of Maine's Free School Meals Program

PHOTOS: Rep. Pingree, Gov. Mills welcomes Maine’s USDA agriculture minister, highlights success of Maine’s Free School Meals Program

Congresswoman Chile Pingree (D-Maine) and Governor Janet Mills today hosted U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in Gorham, Maine to highlight the state’s Free School Meals Program, which ensures free and universal access to school meals. On a tour of Gorham Middle School, Vilsack, Mills, and Pingree, along with Maine Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Amanda Bell, got a first-hand look at preparing school meals, met with school staff, and learned more about how Maine is taking action to eradicate child hunger. In our schools and communities.

“In Maine, we know that nutritious school meals are as essential to success in class as pencils and notebooks. Maine’s historic Free School Meals Program has given all children in our state a fair opportunity to excel academically without the burden of hunger or financial stress that distracts them from their education,” Pingree . said. “I am grateful to Secretary Vilsack who came to Gorham Prep School today to see firsthand how the Free School Meals Program in Maine can be a model for the country. The Secretary’s announcement of $50 million US bailout funding will directly help schools scale up cooking from scratch. , stocking locally grown produce, and providing the tools they need to deliver healthy school meals. This funding, which complements the funding I fought for on the Appropriations Committee, embodies the commitment of the USDA and the Biden-Harris administration to promoting healthy and fair school meals. I am proud to have Secretary Vilsack, Governor Mills, her management, and countless farmers and educators as partners in providing greater access to healthy school food for every child in America.”

“I am pleased to join Governor Mills and Representative Pingree this morning to underscore the importance of ensuring every student in Maine and across the country has access to healthy, nutritious meals,” Minister Vilsack said,. “As evidenced by the release of the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, the USDA under Biden Harris is committed to developing a pathway to provide healthy, free school meals for all. Providing all schoolchildren with healthy, nutritious meals will promote better health and give them the tools to reach their full potential, which means A better and more complete future for our nation.”

“We all know kids can’t learn on an empty stomach,” Governor Mills said. “I am proud to say that here in Maine, we have taken pioneering action to ensure that all children can continue to eat free during the school day. This investment in our children prepares them for future success and gives parents peace of mind. I hope other states will follow our lead.”

On Tuesday’s school food tour, Vilsack, Mills, Bingri spent time in the community garden of Gorham Prep, which teaches students to care for vegetables, herbs, flowers and berries — all donated to the Gorham food pantry. There, they met Heather Whitaker, Maine’s Teacher of the Year for 2020, who runs the park.

“We are very proud and honored to host Secretary Vilsack, Governor Mills, Congressman Pingree, and Commissioner Bill in the garden of Gorham Middle School today, as our community has worked together over the past 19 years to grow and donate an average of 1,000 pounds of produce each growing season to Gorham Food Pantry,” Heather Whitaker said. “I am proud to live, raise children and teach in a nation that understands that all students should have equitable access to fresh, locally sourced foods in our school feeding programs. School meals for everyone, farm and sea to school have a direct and positive impact on the health and well-being of our students.” Today, additional funding for school feeding programs will expand these opportunities and provide much-needed equipment to schools throughout Maine and the country.”

Vilsack, Mills, and Pingree subsequently met with more than a dozen local farmers in Augusta for a closed-ended roundtable discussion on farm-to-school initiatives, our food system as a whole, hunger, and other issues farmers and schools face.


As a senior member of the House Committee on Agriculture and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Pingree has made fighting hunger, reducing food waste, and expanding access to healthy food a top priority. Pingree, which in 2018 launched the first-ever bipartisan conference on food recovery, co-founded the Food and Medicine Working Group, and co-sponsored Experimental law for medically designed homemade mealsShe is the lead sponsor of the Kids Eat Local Act to support local and regional food systems and encourage healthy meal choices among school-aged children.

In July, the local Kids Eat Act and three additional major bills I co-sponsored — the School Food Refund Act, the Improvement Food Donation Act, and the No Fault in School Act — were introduced through the House Education and Labor Committee as part From HR 8450, Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act.

She has also written several bills to reduce food waste and tackle hunger, including Food Donation Improvement Act That would allow companies to donate food to those who need it without fear of liability and the Food History Label Act to ensure Americans don’t feel obligated to throw away safe, consumable food. In April 2022, Pingree introduced the FIND Food Act to expand existing tax credits and deductions and create new tax deductions and credits to better incentivize farmers and suppliers to donate food.

In August, Pingree was part of a A successful bipartisan effort to extend 12 critical exemptions that allow the USDA to feed millions of school-age children.

Pingree serves on both the House Committee on Agriculture and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, and in 2018 launched the first bipartisan food recovery caucus. Pingree is a sponsor Global School Meal Program Lawwhich will permanently provide breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack for all schoolchildren regardless of income, eliminate school meal debt, and strengthen local economies by stimulating local food purchases.

In April 2022, Mills and the Maine Legislature He approved 27 million dollars of the state supplementary budget to cover the cost of school meals that the federal government does not reimburse.


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