A triumphant transition for the 2020 summer lunch program

Librarian hands out books at library summer lunch program at Gresham Library

Some things remain the same, even as they change because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Multnomah County Library’s 2020 Summer Lunch Program is worth celebrating for this reason. The annual summer lunch program for youth transitioned to an outside, walkup distribution of grab-and-go style, cold sack lunches.

Gresham Library and partner Gresham-Barlow School District

Gresham Library staff welcomed kids and parents/caregivers with free bags of reading materials while serving 1,899 meals over eight weeks in June, July and August. 

Gresham Library’s lunch service took off early, and with staff engaging families at the lunch and giveaway book bag tables. The lunch program welcomed families not only to get meals, but also to meet their home-learning needs.

Bilingual staff connected with patrons in their native language and assisted kids with finding just the right bag of books. Parents and guardians appreciated ready resources to help their kids prepare for school in the fall. And there were many memorable moments, including of a parent who was deeply grateful for bilingual staff for helping him check out kindergarten- and first grade-level books for his daughters.

Staff at Midland Library working for summer lunch program

Midland Library and partner Wattles Boys and Girls Club

Midland Library staff served 1,028 free lunches over seven weeks in July and August, and also gave free bags of reading materials to appreciative children and their parents/caregivers.

Recognizing how families were impacted by cancelling of in-person library programs due to the pandemic, staff got creative. They put together simple grab-and-go craft kits to give away with lunches and bags of books. This was one easy way for the library to continue to connect with kids and to connect kids with hands-on activities during summer.

“My son has been very appreciative; not just of the lunch that he has been provided with, but with stickers, smiles, and waves that so many Midland staff have provided,” one parent said. “Since there are so few places I feel I can safely take him, it has been wonderful to be able to bring him to the library just so he can have positive interactions with caring people … even if from a distance behind masks. Thank you to everyone for making these little adventures special to him!”

Kids lined up for summer lunch program at Rockwood Library

Rockwood Library and partner Reynolds School District

Excited kids were greeted with bags of reading materials by Rockwood staff, who served 545 lunches over seven weeks in June, July and August. 

Indeed, Rockwood staff went above and beyond in letting their community know about the lunch program. Facing a pandemic, lunch participants focused on the positive, inspiring and heartwarming ways that manifested in many uplifting stories from families served.

One Rockwood family said they enjoyed their lunches picnic-style. They made the meal special after returning home by having “inside picnics,” as if they were at a restaurant. At the end of the meal, they wrapped up lunch time with a fun activity: singing, dancing, and, of course, reading! 

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