The YMCA of Greater Nashua Partners with End 68 Hours of Hunger to Confront Childhood Food Insecurity in the Greater Nashua Community
Childhood food insecurity is a national problem, it occurs when children receive insufficient food on a regular basis; in many cases missing meals entirely. After a while, these children also experience “fear of hunger” that affects their behavior as much as physical hunger affects their bodies. There are more than 16 million food insecure children in America today.
The YMCA has partnered with ’End 68 Hours of Hunger,’ an organization fighting food insecurity. The term “68 Hours of Hunger” comes from the time a child is provided with a free lunch at school on a Friday, until Monday when schools provide breakfast. This weekend program, established in New Hampshire in 2011, puts nourishing food in the hands of school children to carry them through the weekend. Currently 35 New Hampshire communities are served by the program.
According to Jenn Morton of the Nashua’s End 68-Hours of Hunger program, “We are entirely volunteer based and 100 percent of funds go directly to feeding at-risk children unless otherwise designated by the donor. This program puts non-perishable nourishing food in the hands of school children to carry them through the weekend. Each bag of food costs $10 each week and provides two breakfasts, two lunches, and three dinners for a child, with some left over to share.”
Food insecurity is very real for some of the families we engage with here at the Y, which makes our partnership with ‘End 68 Hours of Hunger’ even more relevant. Starting last fall, Jenn connected with our staff to inquire about the need for food for families of students enrolled in our YMCA Educational Academy and a need for some to be given weekly food bags during the pandemic. She was very aware that with remote learning, the opportunity to get breakfast and lunch at school had gone away, and the distribution through schools of nourishing food bags needed to be expanded. Recently the YMCA’s Early Education Center (EEC) in Merrimack started receiving 35 bags of food per week to share with families who need the extra help. EEC Assistant Director Kristie Perreault shared that families have been appreciative of the offer. In particular, she spoke of one single Mom who has three children to feed on a small budget. “This Mom looks forward to the food bags. She said her growing children are always looking for snacks and this certainly helps.”
The End 68 Hours of Hunger main food distribution site in Nashua is headquartered on Airport Road and welcomes many volunteer groups and companies to sign up to bag groceries. Last week some members of our staff team bagged groceries and learned more about the program. “We love to have groups in the help us. They get to learn more about the food insecurity some children in our community are facing, the assistance we are providing and get to lend a helping hand in our distribution process,” Jenn said.
“We tell local schools and nonprofits, if you are looking to feed hungry children, we can help you do that. We don’t want to have microcosms of organizations having to run their own food pantries. We know there are hungry kids out there that we aren’t reaching. When kids went to remote learning, we had to find new ways to reach all the kids we need to. We brought in the Y. We also have a great new relationship with Lamprey Health. Pediatricians see kids that are food insecure. We send over 30 bags to Lamprey for families in need. As an early COVID testing sight, parents would come in and test positive for COVID there. They were told to go home and quarantine. Parents were concerned about not shopping for their families. The food helps them provide in the interim until they could get someone else to help out. In an emergency situation, we can get food to them easily and quickly. We are here to support families.”
She added that Nashua is well connected through the Greater Nashua Food Council. “We are lucky in Nashua we have resources that are working together.” This includes the YMCA as a site for fresh produce distribution on Tuesdays at the Nashua YMCA. In partnership with the Nashua Soup Kitchen and the United Way, a table is set up in front of the Y and anyone who needs food can stop by and take what they would like. “We are looking forward to many more years of Y’s involvement. There is no greater involvement that partnering with the Y. It’s great to have that resource in the community. Partnership really beneficial for us and the community at-large,” Jenn said.
As an aside to this story, the Morton family has long been involved in the Y. Jenn taught “Mommy and Me” classes, her kids took swim lessons, and her daughter is now a teaching assistant for the Power Scholars Academy this summer. She shared they have loved being connected with the Y over many years.
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