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Tualatin summer lunch program stumbles

The school district is still attempting to put together a summer program

More than 3,300 children in the Tigard-Tualatin School District receive free or reduced-cost lunches during the school year.

But during the summer, most are on their own for the midday meal and that's a problem says Holly Wilkalis, program coordinator with the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force.

For the last week, the Tigard-Tualatin School District has been working on plans to offer a summer lunch program. Another attempt for a summer lunch program at Tualatin Elementary recently fell threw. District spokeswoman Susan Stark Haydon said Wednesday that the district is working with the Department of Education and local community groups searching for a way to provide breakfast and lunch to some of the district's students this summer. With the last day of the regular school year already passed, the district currently has no concrete plans for a summer lunch program. But Stark Haydon said the district is continuing to work on it.

Only about 12 percent of children in Washington County who use lunch programs during the school year are reached with lunch programs in the summer.

'The summer lunch programs are supposed to fill a gap for the kids,' Wilkalis said. Unfortunately, in Washington County, there appears to be a lot of gaps.

A summer lunch program for children is nonexistent in Tualatin, and only one site is available in Tigard.

Last summer, between 55 and 75 children of all ages at the Greenburg Oaks Apartments in Tigard were served lunches, according to Shannon Wilson, resident services director.

The Tigard-Tualatin School District does run a two-hour reading program in the summer which this year will provide 311 elementary-age students with a hot breakfast but not lunch.

'There is a concern that there's nothing in Tualatin for a summer lunch program,' said Lisa Vincent, a child nutrition specialist with the Beaverton School District.

Beaverton School District combined with other programs in Washington County including the Oregon Hunger Task Force, the Oregon Food Bank, the Tualatin Valley Housing Authority and officials with the Washington County Commission on Children and Women have combined forces this year to bring attention to areas within the county where children go without lunch programs in the summer.

Plans fell through earlier this month for Tigard-Tualatin School District's first ever participation in the Summer Food Service Program for Children.

In 2004, the program reportedly served 1.6 million children at 30,000 sites across the nation, according to its Web site.

Linda Moholt, volunteer coordinator at the Tualatin Food Pantry, was shocked when she realized children in the city of Tualatin were offered no summertime lunch programs. She began an e-mail campaign to get the ball rolling and she thought it had worked.

After hearing the news that the program was not going to happen, Moholt was again disheartened.

'In all of Tualatin, we have absolutely nothing,' Moholt said. 'It's a sin, an absolute sin.'

Beaverton School District was all set to provide the lunch program for students attending a summer reading program at Tualatin Elementary.

The summer lunch program would have provided hot lunches to 64 Tualatin Elementary students.

'The USDA said we can't have the funding,' said Tualatin Elementary principal Carole Biskar, shortly after hearing the news.

Regulations for the federal program require that the sponsored programs include arts and crafts or recreational activities. The school district's reading programs, however, are academic based.

'We would do it if we could,' said district spokeswoman Stark Haydon.

Stark Haydon explained that the district's summer reading programs are funded through federal Title I money because they are academic based. The program is offered to those students who need help with their reading skills. Changing the programs just to receive funding for the lunch program could mean losing the initial funding.

'It is a rock and a hard place,' Stark Haydon added.

However, now the district is looking for alternative ways to offer both the reading and lunch programs

The district's two-hour summer reading programs offered at C.F. Tigard, Templeton, Metzger, Bridgeport and Tualatin elementary schools will have 311 students this year. Those students will be served hot breakfasts and fresh fruit, Stark Haydon said.

The Beaverton School District has expanded its summer food service program this year.

It will be responsible for providing lunches to residents' children at the Greenburg Oaks Apartments in Tigard.

The Beaverton School District's Web site reads, 'Just as learning does not end when school lets out, neither does a child's need for good nutrition.'