Every year, many children look forward to the opportunities for relaxation, spending time with family and outdoor exploration that summer vacation provides.
But some might miss the guarantee of a healthy meal that is available during the school year.
"Because our area has a high food insecurity rate, a lot of kids don't have the opportunity for wholesome meals (during the summer)," said Julie Theander, nutrition services coordinator for the Estacada School District. She noted that 53 percent of students in the dist-
rict receive free or reduced-price lunch during the school year.
To help connect children with healthy meals during the summer, school district leaders have partnered with the Oregon Department of Education to participate in the Summer Food Service Program. The program was created by the U.S. Congress in 1968 and is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This summer, free meals will be available at Clackamas River Elementary School, Eagle Creek Elementary School, Eagle Creek Mobile Estates and the Estacada Public Library. From Mondays through Fridays through Aug. 11, lunch will be available at all sites, and breakfast will be available at Clackamas River Elementary School during the same time frame.
To receive a free meal, participants must be 18 or younger. Though the program is primarily targeted to children, adults can purchase a meal for $3.50. No proof of income is required. Participants reside in the Estacada School District.
Theander noted that about 200 children participated in the program each day last year. However, this only represents a small number of the students who are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch during the school year.
Theander attributes this discrepancy to transportation, adding that program administrators set forth specific requirements for meal sites, such as common eating areas that offer protection during inclement weather.
"The (Estacada School) District is so large that we aren't able to reach all areas where students live," she said.
She hopes to see the program expand in years to come.
"I would love to see participation (increase) and be able to add more sites," she said. "The students really need the meals."
For further information about the Summer Food Service Program, including details on when meals are served, visit www.summerfoodoregon.org.