House joins Senate in overriding veto of Alfond’s bill

AUGUSTA –Tuesday morning, the House voted 92-45 to override Governor LePage’s veto of a measure sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond to help feed hungry students by increasing participation in the federal Summer Food Services Program.

“This is a victory for Maine students. The Legislature stood together in helping potentially thousands of hungry students all across Maine during the summer time,” said President Alfond of Portland. “Our students are Maine’s future and it’s critical we give every student the opportunity to thrive all year around.”

The House vote comes two days after the Senate voted 25 to 10 to override Governor LePage’s veto.

The measure requires eligible schools (schools with more than half of their students qualifying for free or reduced price lunches that hold summer activities) take advantage of the Summer Food Services Program, a federal program administered by the USDA. The federal program reimburses school districts for 100% of the cost of food for a summer food program, and schools can opt out of the program if they cannot find a partner organization such as a church, civic organization, nonprofit, or other school or if the cost is too great.

About 20 percent of children in Maine are food insecure, and USDA research has shown that households with children experience an increase in food insecurity during the summer.

More than 84,000 Maine children qualify for free and reduced-price school meals through the National School Lunch Program. According to the Food Research and Action Center, Maine’s summer food participation rate is 16.5%, meaning more than 70,000 qualified children in Maine did not have access to a summer meal through a summer food program. According to the USDA, Maine has the 3rd highest rate of food insecurity in the nation, up from 7th last year, with one in five Maine children experiencing food insecurity.

The bill will become law ninety days after the Legislature adjourns sine die.

This is the seventh veto of Governor LePage’s that the legislature has overridden. In January, the Legislature overrode Governor LePage’s veto of a bill to help people quit smoking. Last year, the Legislature overrode Governor LePage’s veto of the state’s two-year budget, as well as vetoes of a comprehensive omnibus energy bill, a measure to provide funding to the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Council of Maine, a bill adjusting fees for county registries of deeds, and a bill to require warrants for cell phone tracking.