Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 47

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 2 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE school. Portland and Oregon in general are nationally recognized leaders in some things like farm-to-school and are paying close attention to the quality of the school meals. Is there room for improvement? Of course. They’re preparing those meals with about a dollar per meal to be able to spend on food. But there is a lot of commitment, a lot of talk; there’s a lot of attention being paid to that. What meals look like in school, shockingly, is not equal. Meals oftentimes look much more appealing and much more nutritious in schools that have more resources, and that’s one thing that it would be great for us to be honest about. Even within the school, kids are not getting equal meals. There are also some very simple changes that can be made that we’re working on. You have heard of free/reduced lunch, right? What reduced lunch means is that those children who qualified for SNAP, whose families are living on really low incomes and are at risk for hunger, are asked to bring forty cents for lunch to be able to pay their reduced price bill. And that’s a real barrier for children being able to eat. Food service workers tell stories of kids walking in with a collection of change with lint in it because they had to pull it out from their pockets and their couch. So many children who fall in that reduced price category don’t eat much. Just last week, we got a bill passed so that next year there won’t be a reduced price lunch. All of those children will be able to eat lunch for free. That’s thirty thousand children in Oregon. And it was something that we were able to fix, and that increased access to children. So those kinds of conversations aren’t necessarily sexy, but there are lots of other opportunities like that where by making some small changes at the local level or at the state level, we can really increase access to a lot of children. GF: One of the barriers that we faced to getting our food to the public was having a certified kitchen, and one of the solutions that Hacienda Micro Mercantes offered was having a shared kitchen with other small businesses. And it was certified—it is certified—with the state of Oregon and the Department of Agriculture through the state of Oregon. By having that, you get access not just to us but to other business owners: farmers’ markets, people who want to can their food, and so on have a clean, sanitary, and stable space. They have expanded and have new equipment at the Portland Mercado. It’s state of the art. There are two or three businesses there. They’re labelling their food. They’re getting it to the market, some going big, some going small, some staying at the farmers’ market. Some are taking it to the Zupan’s, the big chains. But that’s one of the solutions: having a community kitchen. And I’ve seen it also at churches. They also rent out their space. But they’re also not certified, but that’s one of the things I like about having a community kitchen. People can process food, make a large amount of inventory and just store it there. And I think that might be something that has helped us out. They want to replicate that model again in 44