Up close with Vancouver City Council at picnic

Low attendance gives east-siders quality time with officials, police




For more information about the Share Backpack Program, go to http://sharevancouver.org and click on "Programs"

For more information about the Share Backpack Program, go to http://sharevancouver.org and click on “Programs”

Instead of its usual weekly meeting, the Vancouver City Council sponsored a food drive Monday evening as part of a community picnic at LeRoy Haagen Memorial Park.

In return for donating food or money for the Share Backpack Program, which provides backpacks filled with nutritious food to Clark County students who qualify for free or reduced-fee lunches, people received a coupon for a meal from a Burgerville food truck at the picnic.

The east-side location — in the Fircrest neighborhood east of Interstate 205 — was chosen in response to criticism that meetings are at City Hall in downtown.

If there really are hordes of east-siders eager to meet with city leaders, however, they didn’t show up Monday.

The council had promised that the first 300 people to donate to the Share program would receive a coupon for Burgerville. More than three-quarters through the two-hour event, Burgerville had received only 50 coupons. Those included the ones turned in by councilors and council candidates.

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt said he was disappointed by the low turnout, but said people who did attend got an opportunity to speak to councilors, and police officers, in a casual setting. For example, a woman told Leavitt she suspected there’s a crack house in her neighborhood, and Vancouver Police Department Sgt. Dave Henderson said he’d check on the residence.

The event yielded about a half-dozen boxes of food for the Share program. According to Share, 42 percent of Clark County students qualify for free or reduced-fee lunches, and in the 2012-13 school year, more than 50,000 backpacks of food were distributed to students and their families.

Each backpack includes seven items: a protein, a grain, canned beans or soup, a boxed meal, a vegetable, a fruit and a snack.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.