Portland held its Bigger Than Ever Summer Success Picnic at Deering Oaks on Thursday. The picnic was hosted by Portland’s Feeding Bodies and Minds collaborative project to raise awareness about the Portland Summer Meals Program, promote summer learning, reading and exercise.

The meals program offers children 18 and under free lunch at 18 sites this summer. It is an open, anonymous program, which means participants do not have to register or meet any qualifications to participate. The program is administered by Portland Public Schools and the Opportunity Alliance and receives funding from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

Greg Piotrowicz, program specialist with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, said the USDA Summer Meal Program fed 600,000 meals to children in Maine last summer and hopes to increase the number by 15 percent this summer. Piotrowicz said the meal program tries to bridge the gap that occurs during the summer for children who normally receive free and reduced-price lunches during the school year.

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