Portland Parks & Recreation’s annual Free Lunch + Play program begins on Monday, June 22. This year’s program is part of an expanded effort by the City of Portland and area school districts to provide food security in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Free Lunch + Play gives kids a free, healthy meal at convenient park locations – plus several apartment complexes - with activities, games, and/or books for children to take home at each site. The food distribution program continues a Portland Parks & Recreation endeavor dating uninterrupted from the 1970s.
Meal service will be held at lunchtime or early afternoon at 26 sites all summer long; schedules are available at portlandoregon.gov/parks/freelunch. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, children do not need to be present in order to receive a meal as they did in years past.
“COVID-19 and widespread layoffs have made hunger one of our community’s most urgent needs this summer,” says Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “Special thanks to NIKE, Inc., Bank of America, and our other partners who made it possible to expand our service during this time of higher need. As mayor and parks commissioner, I’m proud that the Free Lunch + Play program is able to help keep thousands of young people nourished and healthy.”
57% of young Portlanders qualify for free or reduced-price lunch during the school year. Each summer, PP&R teams up with Portland Public Schools, the Parkrose and Reynolds School Districts, and foodservice partners to provide steady meals during the summer months. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, PP&R and its partners expect to distribute nearly 500,000 free meals to Portland children 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.
“This summer looks different than any other, with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 health crisis,” says PP&R 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. Our thanks to all our city and non-profit partners who are helping deliver summertime fun, food and memories.”
If you’d like to donate to help the Free Lunch + Play program serve Portland’s children, please visit portlandoregon.gov/parks/lunch+play.
Free Lunch + Play locations are:
Schedules vary, and will be updated at portlandoregon.gov/parks/freelunch.
All art kits, activity packs, free books, games and activities are designed so participants can maintain 6 feet of physical distancing at all times. Children do not need to be present in order to receive a meal.
Mobile Lunch + Play offers food and activities at apartment complexes which have no ready park access. Mobile Lunch + Play has doubled in size from 2019 to now as the recipient of a generous $200,000 Neighborhood Builders grant from Bank of America through the Portland Parks Foundation, PP&R’s nonprofit fundraising partner. Additionally, staff will also drive meals to distribute at several outer east Portland parks.
Mobile Lunch + Play sites include:
Mobile Lunch + Play schedules vary, and will be updated at portlandoregon.gov/parks/freelunch. All art kits, activity packs, free books, games, and activities are designed so participants can maintain 6 feet of physical distancing at all times.
*These locations will offer an option to drive up and receive meals curbside; people must exit vehicles for “grab and go” meals and activities at other locations.
Due to the COVID-19 public health crisis, everyone visiting a park and/or taking part in the Free Lunch + Play program must always adhere to physical distancing guidelines - staying at least 6 feet away from others when in a public space.
Portland Parks & Recreation continues to be in communication with, and following the guidance of, the Oregon Health Authority, Multnomah County Health Department, and the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management regarding COVID-19. You can find more information on our webpage at www.portlandoregon/parks/covid-19.