By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,373)
The summer months can be tough ones for children who qualify for free lunches during the school year, said Michael P. Dixon, executive director, of ConnectED. When school is not in session, a coalition of area non-profits try to make sure they don’t go without that meal. The need for those free lunches is getting greater all the time. There are currently numerous sites on the East End distributing free lunches to those who qualify, such as The Root Cellar, Kennedy Park and others according to Dixon.
Last year this new program gave out 35 lunches. This year 70 lunches were distributed to anyone eighteen (18) years old or younger by the time the Picnic was more than half way over. There was a choice of chicken taco wrap or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Last year was the first year that this program was offered under the Federal Meals program.The picnic ran from 1:00 – 2:00 pm.
The National League of Cities who donated $50,000 to the coordinating effort visited Portland several weeks ago. Representatives of the League told organizers that this was the first time they’ve seen combining lunch and learning into a one-stop event anywhere in the country. League representatives were enthusiastic about the blending of the two important focuses.
Today’s Picnic was a big deal for a number of reasons. On an average day there are about fifteen (15) children using Peppermint Park. Today there were many more. Often members of the Mayo Street Community Policing Office have to inspect the property and clear it of needles and other drug paraphernalia before it is suitable to be used by children said Suna Shaw, of the nearby. Community Policing office. Several years ago barriers at the front of the Park were removed which reduced the number of hiding places for those who don’t belong there. “More lighting here would be a good thing,” Ms. Shaw said. “There are many nooks and crannies around the Park where people can hide here.”
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