Portland Parks rolls out summer ‘Free Lunch + Play’

See where, in outer East Portland, kids can get a free lunch and play kits, most days of the week …

At parks and other locations, from Wilkes to Powellhurst-Gilbert and from Lents to Parkrose, canopies like this one welcome area kids to the Portland Parks & Recreation Free Lunch + Play area.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Now, and throughout the summer – the ending date has yet to be set – Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) is once again hosting food and fun for children in parks and other areas on most weekdays, calling it Free Lunch + Play.

“This year in addition to free meals at lunchtime or during the early afternoon, take-home activities are being offered – such as art kits, activity packs, free books, and games,” explained PP&R Summer Free-for-All Supervisor and City of Portland Emergency Coordination Center Food Security Lead Chariti Montez.

PP&R Summer Free-for-All Supervisor Chariti Montez displays a “Grab-and-Go Activity Kit”. This one is called “Watercolor Nature Magic”, and is provided the Multnomah Arts Center Association.

“Like here, at Mt. Scott Park today, our programs are providing a breakfast and a lunch in one bag – lunch for ‘now’, and breakfast for the next morning – free to each kid, up to 18 years old,” Montez told East Portland News.

“Due to COVID-19 coronavirus concerns, we’re encouraging families to take the meals off site, or be eaten in the park, with appropriate social distancing. The child doesn’t need to be present; a parent or guardian can come pick it up, and take it home to them.”

PP&R has been providing prepared meals for youngsters in the summers since back in the 1970s, she said, “Because at least 50% of the children in the area go to schools that are eligible for free or reduced-fee lunches. In the summer recess, they don’t have access for those meals, so we are here to fill that nutrition gap.”

Pausing briefly from distributing lunches and activity kits are PP&R summer workers Sadie Atwell, Sage Cavanaugh, and Kiana Sullivan, while Kaya Freeman prepares to check in the next family.

Adding to their usual summer mission, Montez reminded, “Due to Covid-19, we’re seeing that ‘food insecurity’ is one of the major repercussions of this pandemic – it’s five to eight times greater than what it would be normally.”

Although there aren’t group activities, PP&R hasn’t forgotten about the “Recreation” part of their Bureau’s name, Montez assured. “We know that the play is important as the food – providing creative play will help them be better students when they get back to school, for example.

Neighbors Kimberly Barbara, flanked by her kids, Elizabeth Theodore, say they’re thankful for this Portland Parks program.

“We’re starting off with ‘Grab-and-Go Activity Kits’, each containing all of the materials needed to do an art or play project,” Montez said. Later in the year, the program will provide recreational items, such as jump ropes and foot bags to keep kids physically engaged.

All art kits, activity packs, free books, games, and activities are designed so that participants can maintain six feet of physical distancing at all times.

Participants are welcome to stay, eat and play in the park – as long as they maintain appropriate social distancing.

Outer East Portland Free Lunch + Play park locations in include:

  • Gateway Discovery Park*
  • Lents Park
  • Luuwit View Park
  • Montavilla Park*
  • Mt. Scott Park
  • Wilkes Park


* In lists above and below, so marked locations offer an option to drive up and receive meals curbside; people must exit vehicles for “grab and go” meals and activities at other locations.

Beyond these locations, PP&R also has what they call “Mobile Lunch + Play” sites, which include include:

  • Arbor Glen Apartments*
  • Bellrose Station Apartments*
  • East Holladay Park
  • Eastgate Station Apartments*
  • Gilbert Primary Park
  • Glenfair Park
  • Harney Park just west of Lents and north of Clackamas County
  • Mill Park
  • Raymond Park*
  • Verdell Burdine Rutherford Park* (formerly Lynchview Park)


Days and hours vary. For more information about this program, see PP&R’s webpage: CLICK HERE.

>> On our FRONT PAGE: Helping kids at the park is PP&R summer worker Raina Bilbrew.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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