STATEWIDE — Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, unveiled his plan to help students in schools access free meals on Thursday.
Jackson announced his Kids First Plan, which includes two proposed bills, the first to provide free meals in schools and the second, childcare for Mainers.
Students who said they received free meals during the pandemic said it alleviated stress and shame.
“Addressing school hunger hits close to home, growing up it was just me, my mom and my brother. For years we bounced from house to house while my mom bounced from job to job,” said Keagan Becvar, a high school junior.
He said it was hard adjusting to a new school every year and he didn’t want others to feel the shame he did not have food on the way to school.
“There is currently a requirement to submit paperwork to get free lunch this is an issue because not only does the school lunch staff see it but other students and your friends know because they see you handing it in,” said Becvar.
Sen. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, said he struggled with childhood hunger and said he is thankful he is now able to address this issue.
“Like many of the kids who are being talked about here today we probably would have gone without meals my sister and I from the time we left our house in the morning to get on the bus till later on in the evening when mom got back home from work,” he said.
The proposed bill would give free breakfast and lunch regardless of income status but would require parents to fill out a form to determine eligibility for state and federal food programs.
“Both my younger brothers have been put on the free lunch plan and we have had that going on since,” said Matthew McGovern, a high school senior.
“Studies show that removing the barriers of school meals releases better outcomes making sure our kids don’t fall behind through no fault of their own and school meals make sure our kids get what they need early on and it pays off. I really think that it’s also just the right thing to do,” Jackson said.