6/12/2017
Program targets childhood hunger in Nashua

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent


NASHUA — A new initiative will launch this summer aimed at eliminating childhood hunger in the Gate City.

“All kids should be able to eat. Unfortunately, too many kids in our country and too many kids right here in Nashua don't have enough to eat and can't count on what many of us take for granted,” said Michael Reinke, director of the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter.

His organization, in conjunction with the mayor's office, school district, United Way of Greater Nashua, Corpus Christi food bank, Ending 68 Hours of Hunger campaign, Salvation Army and Southern New Hampshire Services, is spearheading a pilot program that will offer three meals a day to children in the Crown Hill neighborhood throughout the summer.

If the program is successful for the students attending Dr. Crisp Elementary School, Reinke hopes to expand its offerings to children enrolled at other schools in the district.

“It is pretty basic. It is pretty simple — children should have enough to eat,” he told the aldermanic Human Affairs Committee on Monday while updating the group on the initiative.

The goal, he said, is to provide children struggling with food insecurity with three free meals a day, and within a quarter-mile from their home so that they can easily access the food.

Different agencies will be responsible for various meals through the week, with Southern New Hampshire Services providing funding for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, the soup kitchen offering frozen dinner meals Monday through Thursday and the remaining organizations distributing backpacks filled with food for the weekend.

Food distribution will be set up at various points, including the Dr. Crisp School playground, Arlington United Methodist Church, Sullivan Park, Cashmere Playground, Belvedere Park, Crown Hill Pool and a community room on Major Drive.

Last month, Mayor Jim Donchess said 43 percent of public school children in Nashua are receiving free or reduced lunches, and at some city schools more than 80 percent of children are eligible. The pilot Meals for Kids program will attempt to reduce the impact of childhood hunger, he said.

“When we provide adequate food to our children now, we make significant progress in reducing the impacts of childhood hunger down the road,” Donchess said recently.

Rivier University will be evaluating the pilot program this summer to determine its success and economic impact, according to Reinke, who is hopeful that Nashua can end childhood hunger within the next five years.

“It is a pretty lofty goal. I hope you are successful,” said Alderman-at-Large Lori Wilshire, who praised the effort.

Aldermen Tom Lopez says there already seems to be community support behind the project, adding he has heard from two people interested in volunteering for the project.

The pilot program is a major step in the process to end hunger, and volunteers will be needed to make it a success, Reinke said.

khoughton@newstote.com
 
 

Too Many Low-Income Children Missing Out on Summer Meals, Face Greater Risk of Hunger, Report Finds

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2017 — After four years of significant growth, national participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs decreased last summer, according to the Food Research & Action Center’s (FRAC) annual Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report, released today. During July 2016, the programs served 3 million children across the country — 4.8 percent fewer children than were served in the previous summer.

“Summer meals play a critical role in closing the hunger gap and supporting summer programs, keeping low-income children healthy, learning, and engaged during summer vacation,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “Clearly, more must be done to close this gap to reduce hunger, fight obesity, and reduce the summer ‘learning slide’ for millions of our nation’s children. Greater investments at the federal, state, and local levels are needed to support improved access to nutritious meals and high quality summer programming for low-income children.”

The report measures the success of the Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program in summer months, at the national and state levels. Success is measured both in absolute numbers and by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. By the latter measure, only 1 in 7 children (15 to 100) who needed summer nutrition received it in 2016.

If every state reached FRAC’s ambitious, but achievable, goal of 40 children receiving summer meals for every 100 receiving free or reduced-price lunch during the 2015–2016 school year, an additional 5.1 million children would have been fed each day and states would have collected an additional $373 million in child nutrition funding in July alone (assuming the programs operated 20 weekdays).

Summer meals are provided at local sites, such as schools, recreation centers, libraries, YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, churches, and parks for children ages 18 and under. Not only do children stave off hunger as a result of free summer meals, they also benefit from the enrichment activities offered at the vast majority of sites — activities that keep them learning, engaged and better prepared to return to the classroom in the fall.

While many states saw decreases in participation from July 2015 to July 2016, 22 states grew participation, with eight growing by 10 percent or more, largely as a result of strong outreach efforts by state agencies and partner organizations.

“Through creative partnerships and increased outreach efforts, we can increase participation among low-income children in the Summer Nutrition Programs and ensure every child has a hunger-free summer,” said Weill.

# # #

About the report: The Food Research & Action Center’s annual summer report, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report, gives data for all states and looks at national trends. The report measures participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. The regular school year is used as a measure because such a high proportion of low-income children eat school lunch on regular school days. FRAC measures national summer participation during the month of July, when typically all children are out of school throughout the month and lose access to regular year school meals.