Story by Caitlin Burke and Sonia Schmanski
The State of Oregon is consistently ranked in the top five nationally for hunger. More than 240,000 people ate meals from emergency food boxes each month during the 2008-09 fiscal year, a 20 percent increase from the previous year.
To respond to this important community health issue, Commissioner Fish has created the Healthy Portland Initiative. The Healthy Portland Initiative builds on existing services provided by Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) by finding new and innovative ways to ensure that more Portlanders have the opportunity to eat healthy foods each day.
In "City Program Turns Attention to Food," a Lund Report story from June 16, author Jennifer Willis quotes Nick: "Communities who have easy access to healthy food and opportunities to exercise are healthier communities - our parks system is at the heart of this movement."
Willis also spoke with Policy Coordinator Emily Hicks about Parks' Community Gardens Initiative. "When Fish found himself in charge of the Portland Housing Bureau and Portland Parks and Recreation," she writes, "his office discovered a wait list of over a thousand people for participation in community gardens...His team worked to bring together community leaders, public agencies and local businesses to come up with creative solutions to offer more opportunities for Portlanders to grow food." This process will help Parks reach its goal of adding 1,000 new community gardens plots by the end of 2012.
To fulfill the initiative’s mission, Parks is partnering with local community organizations to implement several exciting other new projects, which include:
- A new federally-funded pilot project at St. Johns Community Center that provides free and healthy meals to kids enrolled in after-school programs
- Expansion of the summer playground program, which increases the number of sites students can go to for free and healthy lunches
- Healthier snack options in all of Parks' community centers beginning this week
Commissioner Fish will continue to champion the Healthy Portland Initiative, encouraging the City to work with community partners to increase the number of Portlander who have access to healthy foods every day.
To learn more about hunger in Portland, visit the Oregon Food Bank’s fact page. For more on the Healthy Portland Initiative, call us up at (503) 823-3589.