On Friday, June 23, Portland Timbers and U.S. Men’s National Team player, Darlington Nagbe visited the Summer Meals site at Human Solutions Family Center, in southeast Portland. It was a hot afternoon, but that did not stop kids and families from showing up to get healthy lunches and have fun.
The mood was vibrant, with kids eating, talking and playing soccer. And when Nagbe arrived, that joy only increased.
Nagbe gave autographs and took pictures but also engaged with the kids on a personal level. They talked about sports and even challenged him to a juggling contest. It was clear that the health and success of kids is an important issue to him.
“No kid should skip a meal during the summertime just because school is out. Summer should be about playing, staying active and eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and protein!” Nagbe commented. In an interview with KOIN-6, Nagbe spoke to the benefits of community programs that offer food during the summer, especially for kids from low-income families.
Nagbe shed light to an important problem that faces Oregon families and children. Only 16 percent of children who received a free school lunch during the school year also received free meals through last summer’s nutrition programs.
The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)’s June 13, 2017 release of the annual report, “Summer Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report” reveals that Oregon is holding steady in the number of children receiving free meals in the summer, at roughly 34,500 a day for both 2015 and 2016. However, the number of kids who were eligible for free or reduced price school meals increased, slightly widening the gap between those who need assistance and families being served. One of the greatest barriers is getting the word out. Families can find information on sites near them by visiting www.SummerFoodOregon.org, calling 211, or texting “food” to 877-877.
Successful summer meal programs in every corner of the state grow out of key partnerships, determined individuals and community support. By going to low-income communities and pairing critical services such as housing and food, more kids participate—as Home Forward and Human Solutions have both seen at their housing and summer meal sites in prior years.
We want to thank Human Solutions, Home Forward, the Portland Timbers, Providence Health & Services, and Oregon Department of Education Child Nutrition Programs for partnering with us on this event.