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Summer 'Free For All' includes free lunch for the needy, in the Portland Parks Bureau program

DAVID F. ASHTON - Feeding hungry children is an important part of the Free Lunch + Play program, says PP&R Director Mike Abbaté. Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) held what they called a "Summer Field Day Celebration" midday on July 10 to kick off their "Free Lunch + Play" programs at Mt. Scott Park, in the Foster-Powell neighborhood.

In the park, some kids were playing in supervised group activities, others were participating making crafts, and yet others were learning the basics of golf.

"We're doing this event today to highlight this program, because 57% of young Portlanders qualify for free or reduced-price lunch during the school year, which means that during the summer months, nearly 50,000 Portland children face hunger daily," remarked PP&R Director Mike Abbaté.

"Our 'Free Lunch + Play' program supports families, by offering nutritious meals and recreational activities during the summer recess," Abbaté told THE BEE, as a brief program got underway to honor major contributors.

The Parks Commissioner, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, joined Abbaté for photos and a brief press conference.

Asked by THE BEE about the cancellation of the very popular summer program long offered in Brooklyn Park, Fritz responded, "We're really focusing on the places that can't do without it; the less affluent neighborhoods. We appreciate when neighbors try to keep their programs. We are finding great turnouts at the sites that we do have; [and where] the children are able to find a way to those. So, concentrating in those areas makes more sense."

At noon, the kids lined up to have their hands washed, then took plastic-bagged lunches. Then, they sat at long rows of picnic tables to enjoy their free summer luncheon meal.

"Portland Parks provides a terrific and steady part of our activities on a daily basis," said parent Christian McKee. "We appreciate having the summer lunch available, and really enjoy participating in the activities that they offer."

Free Lunch + Play sites in Inner Southeast Portland are now located at Creston Park, on S.E. Powell Boulevard – and in Mt. Scott Park, on S.E. 72nd Avenue.

These programs are offered Monday through Friday through August 25, and offer sports, games, and arts and crafts.

For specific times, addresses and other information, see the PP&R Free Lunch + Play webpage: www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/69873

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