(Portland, OR) –
The end of the school year should be a time for fun, relaxation, and exploration for children. However, that’s not the case for thousands of kids here in the metro area and millions nationwide. 57 percent of Portland-area children qualify for free and reduced-price meals during the school year. To fill the summertime meal gap, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) joins forces with Partners for a Hunger-free Oregon (PHFO), Bank of America, local school districts and other partners and local businesses to present the Summer Free For All Summer Playgrounds and Free Lunches program. The goal is to reduce what’s known as food insecurity. The partners have distributed half a million free meals over the last five summers. For the summer of 2015, PP&R and its partners expect to serve around 111,000 free lunches, and to also provide supervised games and playground activities.
Partnerships are key
Combining efforts means more children will get the healthy lunches they need. PP&R teams up with Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon (PHFO), Bank of America, Wal-Mart, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Recreation and Park Association, the non-profit Portland Parks Foundation and local school districts to help fill the crucial summer meal gap with free, healthy lunches at sites across the city. The need is there, even if it’s not always evident.
“Hunger is typically not a visible problem, unless you know somebody who’s experiencing it,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “Many of our neighbors continue to consume meals, but not nutrients. So today we see the faces of American hunger as a single mother forced to skip a meal, as children who don’t get the needed nutrients for learning and growing, and as obesity and its accompanying spectrum of physical ailments.” (See attachment regarding the science behind hunger)
It may come as a surprise that such a large effort is needed to keep kids fed in the summer. But food insecurity is all across the region, according to the experts.
“Hunger looks different here than it does in many famine-struck countries. Children are not starving, but often the calories they have access to don’t provide the nutrients they need,” says Annie Kirschner, PHFO.
Andrea Anderson teaches fourth and fifth grade and observes the threat of hunger in her classrooms. "The difference between the haves and the have-nots is most clear in the month of May at a Title 1 school,” Anderson says. “Children just fall apart this time of year. It is not summer vacation for many of them; summer brings worry, and fear, and hunger.”
Anderson attests that an easily accessible summer meal program that provides consistent and healthy meals can make a huge difference in the kids’ outlook about summer. “Not only do their brains and bodies need it, but also when food is in the equation, they get to be like any other kid… Plus it gets them to try new healthy foods.”
The business community is stepping up
When you want to go fast, go alone. When you want to go far, go together.--African proverb
Portland Parks & Recreation’s Playgrounds and Free Lunches program is a success story of the power of teamwork. The support of the business community is vital so that PP&R and its partners can provide a high level of life-enhancing lunch services to the Portland community. Bank of America is a leader around the issue of hunger in Oregon, dedicating thousands of volunteer hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to help community members in need. For the second year in a row, they are the lead financial supporter of the Summer Lunches program, helping to underwrite this important program.
“Hunger is a critical need that we need to address to ensure kids have the foundation for successful learning,” says Roger Hinshaw, Bank of America President for Oregon and southwest Washington. “As a sponsor of Summer Lunches and other programs to combat food insecurity in our community, we’re working to encourage other corporate partners to support hunger relief efforts in Multnomah County.”
Hinshaw notes that the investment in summer lunches goes beyond just the summer. “Today’s kids are the future of our community. It’s our responsibility as community leaders to give back to ensure Portland’s success for generations to come.”
Families have to know, to go
PP&R and PHFO have found that a lack of awareness among parents about summer lunch programs is one of the biggest reasons that some families do not participate. To find a local site, including the Portland Parks & Recreation Summer Free For All Summer Lunches sites and dates, families can go to www.summerfoodoregon.org. Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon works with hundreds of meal programs across the state, like those run by PP&R, to help make sure families know where and when meals are served, and that they are open to all.
“We all want to live in an Oregon where kids' talents are nurtured, their health is protected, and they have a strong foundation for launching their dreams,” says PHFO’s Kirschner. “That’s what this partnership is all about.”
How to help:
For more information on the Portland Parks & Recreation Summer Lunches program, please visit this link.
PFHO maintains information about food insecurity and its impacts at www.oregonhunger.org
To get involved in building successful sites in your community, donate to PP&R’s non-profit partner, the Portland Parks Foundation, at www.Parklandia.org.
Spread the word on social media, hashtags: #SummerMealsOregon #SFFA and #SummerLunches
The Summer Playgrounds and Free Lunches program is only one part of Portland Parks & Recreation’s vaunted and much anticipated Summer Free For All (SFFA). Summer Free For All is a wildly popular series of free summertime events across Portland which include the Summer Lunches and Playgrounds program, Movies in the Park, Concerts in the Park, Free Open Play Swims, and the Washington Park Summer Festival.
Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon is a charitable organization, tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Service code 501(c)3, 509(a)1.
We envision an Oregon where everyone is healthy and thriving, with access to affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food. To bring that vision into reality, we raise awareness about hunger, connect people to nutrition programs, and advocate for systemic changes that end hunger before it begins.
About the Portland Parks Foundation
The Portland Parks Foundation mobilizes popular and financial support to ensure a thriving and accessible parks system for a healthy Portland.
About Bank of America
According to the Portland Business Journal, Bank of America is Oregon’s 8th most generous corporate philanthropist. To learn more about Bank of America’s corporate social responsibility efforts, visit www.bankofamerica.com/about and follow @BofA_Community.
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