Last year the Vernonia Summer Meals Program (VSMP) learned that Oregon has the highest Food Insecurity Rate in the nation. In Oregon, over 200,000 kids depend on free and reduced lunch during the school year; during the summer, only 19,000 of them actually have access to free and reduced meals offered by summer meal programs. That means approximately 181,000 students go hungry on a daily basis during the summer break. To fight this epidemic, the Vernonia Summer Meal Program will again offer free lunches to youth between 1-18yrs and low cost lunches to adults.
The program is possible due to the school district having a 51% free and reduced lunch population. “Often, families don’t believe they qualify. I encourage everyone to apply every year regardless of income because our kids lose out if we don’t,” stated DeAnna Pearl, VSMP Partner.
In the summer of 2011, the Vernonia Summer Meals Pilot Project volunteers prepared and served 4,473 meals. On average, 100 kids were fed a day.
One essential partnership for the VSMP in 2011 and 2012 was with the St. Helens School District who acted as a sponsor while the Vernonia Schools were in the process of building and moving into the new school facility. The VSMP is extremely grateful to St. Helens School District for their help; without them the VSMP would not have been possible the past two years. Now that VSD 47J is officially moved, ther eis a wonderful new development in the program – Vernonia School District 47J has become the Sponsor of the VSMP!
There are a couple changes to the program for 2013: the VSMP will not be providing breakfast – only lunch. The program will be closed the 3rd, 4th and 5th of July for Independence Day.
Since the bulk of the program participants live on the west side of O-A Hill, the VSMP has again partnered with the Vernonia Community Church, 967 State St., to accommodate the meal site. Everyone is welcome regardless of income. The VSMP does ask that all youth under the age of 10 must be with an older sibling, parent or care provider as stated in ORS 163.545.
Meals will be served Monday – Friday, June 17th – July 2nd, July 8th – August 16th from 11:30-1:00pm
For more information or to volunteeer contact Nicholas Welch, Vernonia Summer Meals Volunteer Coordinator at 503-748-9193. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.