The end of the school year should be a time for fun, relaxation, and exploration for children. However, that’s not the case for all kids in the Portland metro area, where 57 percent qualify for free and reduced-price meals during the school year. Without school lunches, summer becomes the time when nearly 50,000 Portland children face hunger daily. To fill the summertime meal gap, the city’s Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) joins forces with organizations like Partners for a Hunger-free Oregon (PHFO), local school districts, and businesses to present the Free Lunch + Play program. The goal is to reduce what’s known as food insecurity and support families by offering nutritious meals and recreational activities during the summer recess.
PP&R coordinates the Free Lunch + Play program to ensure that it meets the changing needs of the community, and that includes deciding who to involve as partners for activities. After supporting an all-ages park jam led by Young, Gifted, & Black/Brown (YGB), PP&R requested to extend its partnership with YGB, which is a community-based, POC-centric arts organization.
The project aims to create culturally-specific arts programming for children and their families at North Portland’s McCoy Park. Located in New Columbia, the state’s largest public housing community, the neighborhood includes a diverse immigrant population from around 22 different countries. YGB has tapped sister organization Deep Under Ground (DUG), a similar but more youth-focused, performance-based arts collective, to assist in its effort by recruiting Black and Brown artists from its community to commit to teaching their art in McCoy Park during the Free Lunch + Play program. YGB’s goal is to facilitate mentor/mentee relationships with Black & Brown young adult artists from DUG with Black & Brown youth in one of Portland’s most underserved neighborhoods with the intent that those connections remain beyond the program and flourish into the fall school year.
Funded by Portland, OR (August 2017)