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Annual Summer Picnic a Success with Kids, Teens

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Annual Summer Picnic a Success with Kids, Teens
Posted on 07/13/2016
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In Deering Oaks Park on July 13, throngs of kids and teenagers enjoyed a delicious free lunch, engaged in fun activities and took a “Pledge for Summer Success,” promising to do such things as read and use the Portland Public Library, be active physically, eat healthy foods and draw, paint, dance and sing.

It was all part of the Portland Public Schools’ annual Summer Success Picnic, put on in association with the United Way’s Starting Strong Program and the Maine Hunger Initiative, Preble Street. The event celebrated the free summer meal program for children and teens that is happening across the city of Portland this summer through mid-August. All youngsters age 18 and younger may receive a meal free of charge at any of 16 different locations. 

Only one in five low-income children in Maine who need meals are receiving them, according to a national report called “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation,” released by the Food Research and Action Center. In July 2015, 58,599 low-income children received summer meals in Maine, a significant increase of 15 percent from the previous summer. The picnic celebration not only celebrated the lunch sites in the city, but also spread awareness of the hunger gap across the state of Maine.

All the youngsters attending the picnic received a nutritious free lunch, consisting of a chicken drumstick, pasta and potato salad, watermelon slice, a juice box and chocolate milk.

They also were given a book courtesy of the Altrusa Club of Portland, ME, and a bag courtesy of the United Way of Greater Portland. Other partners included Crusher from the Maine Red Claws, Slugger from the Portland Sea Dogs, the Portland Library Book Mobile, 4-H  Summer of Science Team, the Portland police and fire departments, and special musical guest Tyson Weems of 3D Health Alliance, who performed hit songs such as “Veggie Time” and “Our Gym.” Youngsters also played games and other activities.

Special guests attending the event included Portland Public Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana; Maine Sen. Justin Alfond, who represents Portland; members of the Portland Board of Public Education; and USDA Northeast Regional Office representative, Greg Toitrowicz.

PPS Food Service Director Jane McLucas thanked all the event’s partners for helping make the event a success. In addition to those listed above, the partners included the Maine Afterschool Network, the Maine Dairy & Nutrition Council, Snap-Ed/ Healthy Portland and the YMCA.

Botana delivered a short address, noting that “one of the great things about the city” is the willingness by many groups and individuals to get involved to help the community’s children. Botana also urged kids and teens to “stay connected to learning through the summer.”

In addition to the free meals at the various sites, fun enrichment activities for kids and teens also are being offered to combat the "summer slide" in learning some students experience. The activities include 4H science, reading activities and physical activities, such as Hip Hop. To learn more about enrichment activities, click here.

More information regarding summer meal sites and times is available at 211maine.org, or by calling 2-1-1, or by clicking here.

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