The Christian community in Portland has reached out to help children who might be in need of a hot meal during their summer break from school. Members of First Baptist Church Portland launched its Kids Summer Lunch Program to help fight hunger.
During the school vacation, kindergarten through 12th grade students are invited to come to the church gym from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a free lunch provided by a team of members from the church. Other local churches are helping with the program. The team worked with the Oak Street Baptist Church to help get the word out.
Parents were asked to complete a form with contact information, which also included a space for listing of food allergies that a child might have. According to spokesperson Jessica Shadowens, the team created a bus route which picks up children whose parents signed them up for the program. The program is not limited to those that use the bus. Parents can bring their children by the gym on the days of the meals.
Shadowens said, "We range from 30 to 45 students each time. It is different each day. We have 60 children enrolled."
Each day the meals are served, approximately 20 adults come to provide different needs. Some cook and serve while others move about the tables talking with the children. Over 50 adults have volunteered to help with the program.
When the children arrive, they are served a hot meal during the first 30 minutes. After the meal, the younger children meet together and sing songs and learn a scripture verse. The older children have a Bible lesson on various topics.
According to Shadowens, the team is looking toward a different approach to the program for next summer. They are exploring the possibility of taking the meals to the children's neighborhoods and having a picnic-style meal. The team would like to bring the food to designated locations all over town and they hope to involve other Christian churches in town, as they look for ways to expand the program.
Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) research data identifies the Portland area as having a strong need for programs to feed children during the summer.