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As Portland Gentrifies, Vancouver School District Deals With Higher Poverty

Fewer PPS students require free and reduced price lunches but many more across the Columbia are hungry.

Over the past decade, the percentage of students in Portland Public Schools receiving free or reduced price lunch has ticked down, from 43.3 percent in 2001-2 to 37.1 percent in 2017-18.

That's a significant drop—14 percent.

In Vancouver, Wash, the Seattle Times reports today, free and reduced lunch eligibility, a common measure of poverty, went the other way—rising from 38 percent to 2002 to 48 percent last year. That 10 percentage point increase equals a 26 percent increase.

The Times story doesn't speculate much about the dramatic increase in poverty across the Columbia, although Portland's gentrification over the past 15 years has obviously pushed people north and east.

The Vancouver school district last year provided family-community resource centers in 18 of its 32 schools. The centers give students a place to wash, do laundry, nap and gain access to vital services, including housing and employment referrals.

The Seattle Times reports that among other services, the Vancouver district provided 100,000 pounds to food last year to students' families.

"The district each year spends about $1.7 million to staff the centers. But Superintendent Steve Webb estimated for every dollar the district invests, it receives about $4 of value in in-kind and cash donations from partners," the Seattle Times reports.

"If you build it, they will come," Webb said. "That's what we've learned in America's Vancouver."