Announcing Every Meal Matters!

by Alison Killeen

14 listening circles. 168 parents and students. 781 miles traversed. All in pursuit of learning how it would look if we chose to center school meal decisions in what it is the community truly wants.

In the spring and summer of 2018, Hunger-Free Oregon held a series of listening circles from Ontario to Portland, asking families and students about their experiences with and recommendations for school meals. What we learned could be summarized in four themes:

  1. The way a school meal is served has a big impact on whether or not kids can access them — and should be improved,
  2. Students and parents alike want fresher, healthier food on school menus,
  3. School meals should be free for everyone (we’re working on that!), and
  4. Communities want more direct ownership over the decisions made about the meals served in their local school.

This Spring, the work continues, with a new project aimed to engage students and families in decisions made about their school’s meal service programs.

The pilot project, Every Meal Matters, will connect the Nutrition Service Director and other school nutrition staff with families in one school to support changes to school meal programs that reflect the needs of the school and its distinct populations.

Hunger-Free Oregon is seeking to work with one school community in the Reynolds, David Douglas, or Portland Public school districts from March – December 2020 for this project. Every Meal Matters will require a significant commitment of time, resources, and expertise from the partnering school community. Small grants will be provided to partner organizations to compensate for labor costs ($7,000 to a community-based organization and $5,000 to school-based federal meal program) and Hunger-Free Oregon will provide compensation, meals, and childcare to individuals participating in the project.

Back in 2018, nearly all of the conversations we had surrounding school meals turned into questions about what kind of community engagement was possible in determining how meals are served and developing menus. Parents and students alike expressed a desire to be better included in the decision-making processes surrounding food served at the schools.

This year, we’ll be learning together what that looks like, one school at a time.

Want more info?

Read the FAQ for Community Partners
Read the FAQ for School Nutrition Directors and Other Administrators
Visit Every Meal Matters program page
Contact Alison Killeen at Hunger-Free Oregon for questions: [email protected] or 503-595-5501 x305.