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Portland Parks & Recreation expects to serve five times as many meals this summer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COURTESY PP&R - Children receive a free meal during a previous PP&R Free Lunch + Play program.Portland Parks & Recreation is restarting its annual Free Lunch + Play program on Monday, June 22.

The program provides free meals and play events in parks throughout the city. Children do not have to be present for the meals.

Beginning June 22, the program also will be part of an expanded effort by the city and area school districts to provide food security in the wake of the pandemic.

"COVID-19 and widespread layoffs have made hunger one of our community's most urgent needs this summer," said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. "… the Free Lunch + Play program is able to help keep thousands of young people nourished and healthy."

Wheeler also thanked this year's private partners, including Nike Inc. and Bank of America, which awarded the Portland Parks Foundation a $200,000 Neighborhood Builders grant to help expand the Mobile Lunch + Play portion of the program.

Other partners include Portland Public Schools, the Parkrose School District and the Reynolds School District.

"This summer looks different than any other, with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 health crisis," said city Parks Director Adena Long. "But Portland Parks & Recreation has been providing summertime food for nearly 50 years. We are continuing to help people be healthier, life to be more stable, and neighbors to make lifelong summer memories through this flagship program.

According to city officials, 57% of young Portlanders qualify for free or reduced-price lunch during the school year. The parks program has distributed free meals since the 1970s. During the pandemic, the Parks Bureau and its partners expect to distribute nearly 500,000 free meals this summer — nearly five times more than a typical season.

The program will take place at parks in areas with a clear need for free and reduced lunch programs and areas where other free food providers are less accessible. Most of the sites are in east and north Portland.

Meal service will be held at lunchtime or early afternoon at 26 sites all summer long.

Schedules are available online.


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