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Education Officials Encourage Maine Families To Fill Out School Meal Applications — Or Schools Could Lose Funding

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Willis Ryder Arnold
Maine Public
Deering High School workers assemble bag lunches in March 2020 from food dropped off by restaurants Little Giant and Chaval.

A provision in the state's supplemental budget passed earlier this month makes Maine one of the first states in the country to provide free school meals for all students. But state education officials say that parents should continue to fill out school meal paperwork — or their schools could be at risk of losing funding.

While school meal applications are confidential, the Maine Department of Education says that aggregate family income data from the paperwork is used to determine federal and state funding for programs including summer school, special education, grant opportunities and teacher student loan forgiveness.

In a notice distributed on Wednesday, the agency says that "if there is no data to inform the needs of the community, it could result in less education funding for your local district and for Maine."

Since the pandemic began, the DOE says far fewer families have filled out school meal applications.

The department says the applications can be filled out online and will also be included in paperwork coming home with students at the beginning of the school year.