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Summer program that provides food for Portland students begins

The City of Portland's Summer Free For All program provides free food, activities and events for students across the city.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A program that gives kids access to food, games and events over the summer has started up again at parks across Portland.

Summer Free For All is a partnership between Portland Parks & Recreation and Portland Public Schools (PPS). Its Free Lunch + Play program takes place at more than 20 parks throughout the city. 

Officials said nearly 60% of PPS students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Summer is a time when thousands of children face hunger, so the meals provided through the program fill a small gap. 

Donald Green brought his 3-year-old son to McCoy Park for the Summer Free For All on Tuesday. 

"It's to get him basically out of the house and around kids his own age so he can meet people in the community," Green said. 

Summer Free For All will consist of concerts, movies and cultural events coming later in the season.

Mark Ross with Portland Parks & Recreation said during the pandemic, they were able to serve kids food but didn't have events due to safety concerns. Ross said staffing shortages are still affecting some programs. 

RELATED: Portland Parks & Rec prepares for scaled back summer programs amid staffing shortages

"We would love to have people come on board," Ross said. "Being a part of the Free Lunch + Play program is a wonderful way to get an introduction into public service and to branch into other areas and make a real difference in the community."

Ross said the summer camps have more crews than Portland's public pools, which are only 40% staffed.

"We are not able to open our pools for swim lessons except for outdoor pools. The more people we get on staff, we can offer more swim lessons," Ross said.

Those who'd like to learn more about the program can visit the Portland Parks & Recreation website.

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