Beginning the first Monday of summer break, as most schools go dark, the cafeteria at Parkrose High lights up.
Children stream in at 8 a.m. for fruit, milk and cereal. At noon, they’re back for pasta, apples and graham crackers. Laughter and summer light bounce across the tables. Summer meals like this will be served every weekday until school resumes.
“The secret of our success is that we are here, period. The only day we take off is the Fourth of July,’’ Ellen Christensen, Parkrose Food Service Director.
Last week, Chair Deborah Kafoury joined tables of chattering children and families dropping off kids, and staff at Parkrose High to visit the Summer Food Service Program. The federal program pays for about 200 million meals nationwide during summer break. Chair Kafoury joined one table just as a group of girls ages 6 to 10 descended into a giggle fest. The children were attending a Portland Parks & Recreation summer camp by the County-sponsored SUN System, a school-based web of services that support kids intellectually, socially and emotionally to assure graduation.
"Summer meals are a critical part of supporting working families in our community,'' Chair Kafoury. "And the great thing is, at a program like the one at Parkrose, kids are getting healthy food and they're having fun."
As many as 150 students will receive a meal at Parkrose a day. That’s down from the 4,000 meals served during the school year. But the Summer Food Service Program targets children who would otherwise go hungry.
The program is one of 145 sites in Multnomah County that serves healthy meals to children and teens every weekday at SUN schools, Portland parks, apartment complexes, churches, libraries and mobile food sites.
All 85 SUN Community Schools offer at least four weeks of summer programming and serve meals during that time. And the libraries at, Midland, Rockwood and Gresham also serve meals.
Many sites are open just four weeks, so 15 SUN Community School in mid-and East County also double down, especially in neighborhoods where there are few parks offering summer meals. Find meal sites here.
You can also call 211info or Text "food" or "comida" to 877-877 to find the nearest site.
"Schools are the hub of almost every neighborhood and we want families to know we are here for them, even during the break,'' the Chair said.