Free food and fun should prove to be an irresistible combination in Milwaukie and Oregon City this summer.

According to a press release from the North Clackamas School District, 'Project Summer is a joint effort with the State of Oregon, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Hunger Task Force to make certain youngsters are provided with nutritious meals once school lunch programs end.'

Annie Kirschner, a child nutritionist with the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force, described the summer food program as a 'federal program and an Oregon Department of Education program to make up for lunches served at school during the school year.'

She added that the sites are located in areas with high need, where 50 percent of the children are eligible for food relief programs.

The North Clackamas School District and the Oregon City School District will supply the food, Kirschner said.

This is an equal opportunity program in both cities, and no one who is eligible will be turned away; there is a requirement that children must eat the meals on site.

Free sack lunches will be provided Mondays through Thursdays, June 19 to Aug. 17, in Milwaukie, and five days a week from June 19 to Aug. 25 in Oregon City.

There will be no food served on July 4.

Registration is not required, and all young people from age 1 to 18 may participate.

Lunch will be served from noon until 12:45 p.m. at three Milwaukie sites: Ardenwald Park, at 3667 SE Roswell Street; Lewelling Elementary School, at 5325 SE Logus Road and Whitcomb Elementary School, at 7400 SE Thompson Road.

In Oregon City, the hours will be noon to 1 p.m. at Eastham Community School, located at 1404 7th Street, on the corner of 7th and Harrison.

Flyers have been sent to parents, and in Milwaukie have even been translated into four languages, in order to get the message out.

Also in Milwaukie, volunteers have left small flyers on doorknobs, while in Oregon City, notices will be posted at the pool and on the reader board at Eastham School.

'One of the great draws at two of the sites, Whitcomb and Lewelling, will be the summer school program. That helps establish a gathering of people,' noted Leslie Robinette, communication specialist, Office of Community and Government Relations, North Clackamas Schools.

The Ardenwald Park site has 'ties to the [North Clackamas Parks and Recreation] Rec. Mobile,' Robinette said, adding that the Rec. Mobile will be at Ardenwald two days a week, with games and activities.

Although the Rec. Mobile will only be at the park two days a week, Robinette explained that the 'box of fun things will be there all four days,' and volunteers will be on hand all four days to supervise.

'Fun is what draws people - we really want to emphasize the fun activities and ways the kids can connect with each other. There will be storytelling, puppet shows games and sports - the teens can just hang out and play Frisbee,' she said.

Robinette noted that the meals [for children in Milwaukie] will be prepared in the kitchen at Lewelling School, and the emphasis will be on healthy food.

'Studies show that students who are well-nourished have improved performance in school. In fact, school-sponsored nutrition programs are proven to increase math and reading scores, increase attention spans, reduce nurse visits and improve student behavior.

'That's why providing free lunches is important, not just to students in summer school programs at Whitcomb and Lewelling, but to every teen and child in our community,' Robinette said.

She added, 'This is a terrific partnership with the Oregon Hunger Task Force - we see this as community building.'

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