SALEM, Ore. — Every year, thousands of Oregon kids in need receive free meals at school. When the summer comes, however, those breakfasts, lunches, and after-school meals all go away.
Oregon's Summer Food Service Program was founded to bridge that gap—bringing free, nutritious meals to children and teens during the summer months.
“We know the important role that child nutrition plays during the school year and it’s just as crucial in the summer months when children don’t have access to school meals,” Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education, said. “We encourage families and caregivers to take advantage of this opportunity to help ensure the children they care for have access to good nutrition over the summer.”
The program isn't new, but neither is it well-known. According to the organizers, it is extremely "underutilized." Across the nation, only one out of every six children who receive free or reduced price meals during the school year continue to receive those meals during the summer.
Meal locations can be found at school, parks, and other central locations in the community. In Southern Oregon alone, there are dozens of sources in nearly every town—from Medford, to Klamath Falls, to Cave Junction.
“The Summer Foods Lunch Program in Klamath Falls allows us to provide lunches to kids who would otherwise go hungry,” said Integral Youth Services Outreach Programs Director Craig Schuhmann. “Over the course of the summer we serve 24,000 lunches at 30 different sites, rural and city, over a ten week period. This affords us the opportunity to combine our efforts with local community partners to provide education and enrichment activities while the youth are gathered to eat. Many appreciative parents have told us that this program helps to stretch an already tight food budget.”
Families can look up meal locations in their area by calling 2-1-1, or texting “Food” or “Comida” to 877-877, or visiting the Summer Food Oregon website. Meals are available for any child 18 and under without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability.
A complete list of free meal locations throughout Oregon may be viewed and downloaded below.