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Final week for PP&R’s Free Lunch + Play: Free meals and grab 'n' go activities still available

News article

The majority of program sites wrap up on Thursday, August 20, 2020.

Published


Katie MacDougallCity of Portland

(Portland, OR) –

This is the final week for nearly all of Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R)’s 26 Free Lunch + Play locations, and families are encouraged to take part. The majority of program sites wrap up on Thursday, August 20, 2020.

See portlandoregon.gov/parks/freelunch or the tables below for site-specific program end dates.

Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) adapted the Free Lunch + Play program this year to incorporate face coverings, physical distancing, sanitizer, and plexiglass, so the bureau could continue safely serving food to Portland families. PP&R has delivered this crucial community service since the 1970s. 

“There is a gap in the summertime – not only where there is no school in session, but the free and reduced lunches that schools serve are no longer available to our kids and families,” says Kellie Torres, Development Manager at PP&R. “That’s why Free Lunch + Play is so important.” 

When COVID-19 shut down schools, the Free Lunch + Play team knew that they would have to reconfigure their meal service in order to make sure that schoolchildren could still access healthy meals. In some parts of Portland, the number of families experiencing food shortages is five to eight times higher than before. 

In a typical year, Free Lunch + Play serves 100,000 meals to children between the ages of 1 and 18. When figures are calculated, PP&R expects to have had similar success this summer, even in the face of the pandemic. This feat is possible because even with hundreds fewer summertime staff due to COVID-19 impacts, PP&R prioritized their limited capacity and resources in order to continue providing meals and support to Portland families in need. 

PP&R works with school districts and local partners like Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) under USDA criteria to identify areas where the program is needed. Eligible sites must be in areas where 50 percent of the population qualifies for free or reduced-price lunches. (Citywide, during the school year, 57 percent of Portland schoolchildren meet those criteria.) PP&R’s Free Lunch + Play is then able to ensure that Portland children have access to healthy food when school is not in session. This summer, PP&R made sure that parents or other caregivers could get food and takeaway activities for their children, who didn’t have to be present to enjoy the program’s benefits. And for the first time, the PP&R made drive-up options available at many sites. 

COVID-19 Response 

This year, Free Lunch + Play played an important part of the regional COVID-19 response by alleviating food insecurity for thousands of Portland families. As it became clear that COVID-19 would affect the City all summer, PP&R staff stepped up. PP&R’s Professional Maintenance and Repair Services (PMRS) team was inspired to make plexiglass barriers and physical distancing markers for the safety of workers and program participants. 

“Our PMRS crews used their creativity and delivered safety components quickly. We worked to have refrigerated trucks and to place physical distance markers on the ground,” said Chariti Montez, Program Supervisor for PP&R. “And at the lunch sites, our employees helped to keep folks physically separate so we could come together as a community.” 

“We’re ready and able to assist, however we can – particularly when it comes to safety,” says Don Joughin, the PP&R Facility Maintenance Supervisor who oversees painting, carpentry, and utility work. “All the carpenters - as well as I - work for Parks because we love public service. We want to help our neighbors, particularly in tough times.” 

Activities and Accessibility

Everyone at Free Lunch + Play sites is required to observe health and physical distancing guidelines, including staying six feet away from others and wearing a face covering.

To follow these guidelines, this year free meals and activities had to be picked up and taken off site. In the past, youth were able to use the playgrounds, engage with on-site activities, and eat lunch in the park. As a solution for safe-distance activities, Multnomah Arts Center Association created free grab ‘n’ go activity bags that included books, games, and art kits, that were designed with physical distancing requirements in mind.

“It has been a different summer than any other but nonetheless, we have again helped make special, lasting summer memories,” says Kawana Bullock Clayton, Free Lunch + Play Coordinator for PP&R. “In good times and in bad, PP&R steps up to make a difference – and even in the shadow of COVID-19 we continue to do so.”  

In an effort to offer services to more families during the pandemic, Free Lunch + Play guides were shared with community partners citywide in 16 languages, including Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, and Somali. Guides included Free Lunch + Plays locations and times, safety guidelines, and additional hunger relief partners. More information about Free Lunch + Play is available at portland.gov/parks/freelunch

The City of Portland working together

Addressing food insecurity within Portland’s communities is one of the highest priorities for the City of Portland’s Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) on the COVID-19 pandemic. Free Lunch + Play is just a small fraction of the work that the City is doing to address food security. The ECC has also unveiled programs like the PDX Cares Card, which provides pre-paid cards to community members hit hardest by structural inequalities, or the Culturally Specific Foods program that provides proteins and produce for families who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) grown by BIPOC farmers. The city is continually evaluating its outreach plans to make sure that all of Portland’s communities are able to access these food security initiatives. Community-based organizations are essential partners in this work. 

Additional Resources

  • Oregon Food Bank’s Food Finder is an interactive map that lists free groceries, free meals, free produce, and other food resources. It shows the resources closest to you.   
  • The Summer Meals Map shows sites with free meals and snacks for youth age 1-18 – through September 4. You can also text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877 for meal locations.

Katie MacDougall is writing a series of articles about the City of Portland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She can be reached at katie.macdougall@portlandoregon.gov. 


North Portland

LocationWeekdaysMeal timeEnd Date
Columbia ParkMonday – Thursday12:30 pm – 2:30 pmThursday, August 20 
Kenton ParkMonday – Thursday
Food Market on Tuesdays
12:00 pm – 2:00 pmThursday, August 20 
Peninsula ParkMonday – Thursday
Food Market on Thursdays
12:00 pm – 2:00 pmThursday, August 20 
St. Johns ParkMonday – Thursday12:30 pm – 1:30 pmThursday, August 20 

Northeast Portland

LocationWeekdaysMeal timeEnd Date
Alberta ParkMonday – Thursday
Food Market on Thursdays
12:00 pm – 2:00 pmThursday, August 20 
Cully Park

Monday – Thursday
Free Produce on Mondays

12:00 pm – 2:00 pmThursday, August 20 
Irving ParkMonday – Thursday12:30 pm – 1:30 pmThursday, August 20 
Khunamokwst ParkMonday – Thursday
Food Market on Thursdays
12:30 pm – 2:30 pmThursday, August 20 
Montavilla ParkMonday – Thursday
Free Produce on Wednesdays
12:00 pm – 2:00 pmThursday, August 20

East Portland

LocationWeekdaysMeal timeEnd Date
Gateway Discovery ParkMonday – Friday11:00 am – 12:00 pmFriday, August 28
Luuwit View Park

Monday – Friday
Free Produce on Mondays

12:30 pm – 1:30 pmFriday, August 28
Wilkes ParkMonday – Thursday12:00 pm – 1:00 pmThursday, August 13

Southeast Portland

LocationWeekdaysMeal timeEnd Date
Essex ParkMonday – Thursday12:00 pm – 1:00 pmThursday, August 20
Harrison ParkMonday – Thursday
Free Produce on Mondays

12:30 pm – 2:30 pm 

Thursday, August 20
Lents ParkMonday – Thursday
Food Market on Thursdays
12:00 pm – 2:00 pmThursday, August 20
Mt. Scott ParkMonday – Thursday
Food Market on Tuesdays
12:00 pm – 2:00 pmThursday, August 20

Mobile Lunch + Play

LocationWeekdaysProgramMeal timeEnd Date
Arbor Glen Apartments2609 SE 145th AvenueWednesday 10:00 am – 1:00 pm11:30 am – 12:30 pmFriday, August 21
Friday2:00 pm – 5:00 pm2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Bellrose Station Apartments7911 SE 92nd AvenueTuesday10:00 am – 1:00 pm11:30 am – 12:30 pmWednesday, August 19
Wednesday10:00 am – 1:00 pm11:30 am – 12:30 pm
East Holladay ParkTuesday10:00 am – 1:00 pm11:30 am – 12:30 pmThursday, August 20
Thursday10:00 am – 1:00 pm11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Eastgate Station Apartments100 NE 120th AvenueMonday2:00 pm – 5:00 pm2:30 pm – 3:30 pmThursday, August 20
Thursday2:00 pm – 5:00 pm2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Gilbert Primary ParkTuesday 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm2:30 pm – 3:30 pmFriday, August 21
Friday 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Glenfair ParkMonday 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm2:30 pm – 3:30 pmThursday, August 20
Thursday2:00 pm – 5:00 pm2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Harney ParkMonday10:00 am – 1:00 pm 11:30 am – 12:30 pmFriday, August 21
Friday10:00 am – 1:00 pm11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Mill ParkWednesday 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm2:30 pm – 3:30 pmFriday, August 21
Friday10:00 am – 1:00 pm 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Raymond Park
Food Market on Mondays

Monday10:00 am – 1:00 pm11:30 am – 12:30 pmWednesday, August 19
Wednesday2:00 pm – 5:00 pm2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Verdell Burdine Rutherford ParkTuesday2:00 pm – 5:00 pm2:30 pm – 3:30 pmThursday, August 20
Thursday10:00 am – 1:00 pm11:30 am – 12:30 pm