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11/16/17







Nashua Soup Kitchen's New
Director Wants to Get M
ore Meals Out the Door
                                                                                                           

New Hampshire Public Radio logo 
By & FEB 6, 201
Michael Reinke
CREDIT MICHAEL BRINDLEY

There are programs in many New Hampshire communities for those in need, but it’s not always easy for people to get to where those services are available.

That’s exactly the problem the new director of the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter is trying to tackle.



Michael Reinke took over at the nonprofit last month. He’s hoping to find ways to get meals out to people in the area who can't get to the soup kitchen itself.

He spoke with NHPR’s Morning Edition

 

There are programs in many New Hampshire communities for those in need, but it’s not always easy for people to get to where those services are available.

That’s exactly the problem the new director of the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter is trying to tackle.

Michael Reinke took over at the nonprofit last month. He’s hoping to find ways to get meals out to people in the area who can't get to the soup kitchen itself.

He spoke with NHPR’s Morning Edition.

Click here to listen to audio.

How do you think the city is doing as whole in addressing the issue of food insecurity?

Comparatively speaking, we’ve been doing really well. One of the fantastic things about the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter is we do have a food pantry that’s serving as many as 100 families on any given day, or 500 families a week. That’s huge. We’re really getting out there. And we have a great relationship with our local grocery stores, whether it’s Hannaford, Target, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, or Whole Foods, we have a truck that’s going around and getting the surplus food that they can’t sell, bringing it here, and we’re able to give it away to families that are food insecure. So we have a good supply chain, we have a good process, we’re getting people food.

Our problem is really a logistic problem. How do we get food into communities where people don’t have access to reliable transportation? Maybe they have some mobility issues. If you look at the different neighborhoods in Nashua, whether that’s French Hill, Crown Hill, or the Tree Streets, you’ll find convenience stores just about every other block. But if you go into that convenience store, they’re looking for things that have long shelf life. So they’re selling chips, they’re selling candy, they’re selling beer, cigarettes, and lottery tickets. If you want a yogurt, you’re going to have to look far and wide to get that yogurt.

You’ve talked about wanting to bring the organization’s services out to people around the community instead of having to get to the soup kitchen. What kinds of changes do you have in mind?

I’m thinking about how we develop partnerships; maybe it’s with that convenience store, maybe it’s with a church in the area, maybe it’s with some place that’s always open, maybe a fire station. If we were to partner with our supply chain to bring fresh produce to this area maybe to do pre-packaged meals and put it in one of those slide-top refrigerator freezers that you got ice cream out of when you were a kid, and locate that in the fire station, in the church, in the convenience store. A family could then come along who can’t make it all the way to Shaw’s or Hannaford or Market Basket, but right here in my neighborhood, there’s a place where I can make sure I get fresh fruits and vegetables, where I can purchase a prepared meal that’s healthy, low in sodium, low in sugar, and tastes good for myself and my family. That’s how we can increase access to good, healthy food and make sure the health problems that are related to not having enough to eat, we can bring those costs down, and make sure kids are healthy when they go to school.

Just about everybody believes that kids should have enough food to eat. And if we call come together, I believe there are resources in our community to be able to solve this problem.

 

How do you strike a balance with the shop owner, who needs to make a profit, in order to do this and offer you the space? And how do you offer the logistics on your end when it comes to more time and staff?

It’s going to have to be a partnership. We can’t just do it on our own. We’re going to need to develop partnerships with people like Meals on Wheels, or like E86, which is an organization that’s trying to make sure kids have food to get through the weekend. So we need partnerships with organizations like those with the food pantries around town. It’s going to be hard for any one organization, it’s going to be hard for the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter to be able to solve the big, hairy, audacious problem by ourselves. But I believe if we partner with these organizations, partner with the mayor; I mean, just about everybody believes that kids should have enough food to eat. And if we call come together, I believe there are resources in our community to be able to solve this problem.

Do you have a model that you’ve seen elsewhere in the country that you’d want to replicate here?

There’s an organization down in North Carolina called Food Runners that actually has a mobile truck, like a food truck, that will go out to different neighborhoods and will say any kind in the neighborhood can come out and get a meal tonight and maybe even take a meal home for tomorrow night. So maybe we want to take that model and bring a food truck to French Hill, Crown Hill, the Tree Streets, and other areas where we know there are kids who don’t have enough to eat…and kids know they can go there and make sure they’re going to have a meal for that evening.



About 2,000 free backpacks
being distributed to Nashua kids

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
August 22. 2017 10:06PM

 

William Lutz, 10, of Bedford, assists Ashley Sullivan and her daughter, Irelynn, in distributing backpacks and school supplies to children Tuesday in Nashua. (Kimberly Houghton/Correspondent)

 

Volunteers organize about 2,000 backpacks being handed out to children this week at the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter in preparation for the new school year. (Kimberly Houghton/Correspondent)

NASHUA — Before students head back to the classroom next week, some of them are receiving free, brand new backpacks filled with all of the school supplies they need.

About 2,000 backpacks are being distributed this week at the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter to children who may need a helping hand getting ready for the upcoming school year.

“They are so excited to pick out their bag,” said Carol Weeks, community outreach manager at the soup kitchen.

On Tuesday, hundreds of families visited the facility to pick up their new backpack and school supplies as part of a program hosted by the soup kitchen for at least 26 years, said Weeks.

She said many families rely on the program each summer, adding it is a challenge for many Gate City residents to afford new school supplies for their children each August.

About 540 backpacks were distributed on Monday, and Weeks expected about the same number to be handed out on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

“I just love seeing the kids with their new bags. They are so grateful,” said Rosean Drew of Nashua. She was one of several volunteers with the educational, charitable and humanitarian organization helping to distribute the school supplies.

According to Weeks, several businesses, agencies, groups, churches and individuals donated supplies for the backpack drive, which she said would not be successful without the generous contributions.

“The community is always so good to us,” she said. “To get this many donations is just incredible.”

The lower level of the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter was converted into a makeshift assembly line as dozens of volunteers from all over the state filled the backpacks with notebooks, pencils, erasers, crayons, markers and more.

Calculators and flash drives were also available for older students, said Weeks.

Stephanie Lemoine, 14, of Bedford, said it is heartwarming to see all of the donations and volunteers helping those less fortunate.

“No matter what social class you are, you can still help out,” said Lemoine, one of Tuesday’s volunteers at the shelter. “This is all about helping the community and getting involved.”

Weeks said that each bag is special, and is personally filled with items based on the student’s grade-level and gender. Families do not need to be associated with the Nashua Soup Kitchen in order to receive the free backpacks, she said.

khoughton@newstote.com