United Way of the Columbia-Willamette is giving $100,000 to help expand the summer food program in Washington and Clackamas counties and to increase the number of summer food program sites.
The grant supports a partnership with the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force and Oregon State University Extension Service in Washington County.
The summer food program serves a free lunch to all children under the age of 18 at local parks and community centers. The program exists in communities where over 50 percent of children in the area are eligible for free or reduced lunch.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski announced the grant while talking to students, parents and public officials at Kenton Park in Northeast Portland recently. After helping serve milk cartoons, Kulongoski ate lunch with more than 50 children who visited the park.
"Even though it's summer and school isn't in session, there are still thousands of Oregon children who depend on free lunches," Kulongoski said. "No child should go hungry in our state. We all have a responsibility to make sure that every child has access to a nutritious lunch during the summer months."
The grant also comes from the financial support of Intel, Hillsboro Parks and Recreation, Tuality Hospital, Washington County Commission on Children and Families, Sunrise Church, Providence Medical Center and the Fred Meyer Foundation.
Last summer, the summer lunch program served more than 330,000 free lunches in Multnomah County. This year, there are over 450 lunch sites throughout the state. In Multnomah County alone, participation has grown by 114 percent since 2003.
"We have made great strides in the number of children who can eat lunch over the summer because of this program," Kulongoski said. "Last year, on average, there were 32,000 free meals served to Oregon children through this program. But, I know that together, through the help of more community grants and support, we can do more to alleviate hunger in Oregon."
Oregon has moved from leading the nation in hunger to ranking 19th as of last January.