Somersworth Intern, Annie O’Donnell, Shares Her Experience
Read her story!
Have you ever woken up not knowing where your next meal will be coming from? Have you ever dreaded leaving school on a Friday afternoon and counted down the sixty-eight hours until you can go back to school on a Monday morning? It is likely that for a majority of the St. Thomas Aquinas community the answer is no. However, it is a sad reality for almost two hundred children in Dover and Somersworth combined.
Food insecurity or childhood hunger is a rising epidemic in the United States. One in five children are currently estimated to suffer from food insecurity, but with our falling economy the numbers are expected to rise drastically. Food insecurity occurs when children do not get the amount of food they need on a regular basis. Many of the affected children go without meals entirely. This epidemic not only affects them physically, but also emotionally. Children develop an intense fear of hunger which can result in one or more of the following symptoms: hyperactivity, aggressiveness, irritability, anxiety, distress, passive/aggressive behavior, excessive absences, repetition of a grade, difficulty forming friendships or getting along with others, physical illness, and a short attention span.
Luckily for these children, End 68 Hours of Hunger was created in 2011 to fight childhood hunger. End 68 Hours of Hunger was established by Claire Bloom in a small, un-insulated warehouse with no heat, running water, lights, or restrooms. In October 2011 we started feeding 19 local children. As of December 2013 we serve over 700 children per week just in New Hampshire. Schools contact End 68 Hours of Hunger asking for help feeding a student over the weekend. We send the parents of the child a permission form and if consented, will send the child home with a bag of food. Teachers notice the change in the students almost immediately. They reported a 50% increase in reading skills, 30% higher math scores, and children are twice as likely to excel in the third grade which is an early indicator of high school graduation. Recently, the program extended to other areas: Alton, Barrington, Dover, Eliot, Exeter, Hampton, Kittery, Milton, Northwood, Nottingham, the Oyster River area, Portsmouth, Rollinsford, and York. In an effort to expand nationally we have also setup a packing area in Vacaville, California!
Prior to the summer of 2013, the Somersworth E68 and Dover were combined in the Somersworth packing area. However, the demand in our two cities has gotten so high that we had to split into two different teams. When I first started volunteering at End 68 Hours of Hunger in the fall of 2012, the number of students we were helping was at one hundred and eighty-one. Before even one hour was up the number increased to one hundred and eighty-four. That rise is not unlikely. Although the numbers increase on a weekly basis, our budget doesn’t. When Dover and Somersworth split, Dover flourished. Somersworth, however, floundered. Our numbers continued the steady increase and our budget diminished. Despite this setback, one child’s heartbreaking story made me know that I need to continue this service well after my forty hour requirement is met. A little boy in Somersworth was being punished at school by his teacher for acting out at another student on a Friday afternoon. Like most children who get in trouble, he started crying and apologizing. However, unlike any other child the teacher had punished before, this little boy quietly asked, “Will I still get my bag of food?” The answer was yes.
No child is ever turned away by End 68 Hours of Hunger. No matter what the food allergies or needs of the child is, they are accepted. An average bag of food contains a box or bag of nutritional cereal, two cans of soup, one jar of peanut butter or jelly, one can of tuna or chicken, three fruit cups, one box of crackers, one box of macaroni and cheese or two packages of ramen noodles, and two nutrition or granola bars. This is a fair amount of food for $10, but when divided by a family of four it suddenly seems like not enough. We spend approximately $500 per child per school year, but without E68 a child is hungry for 68 hours more per week.
One hundred percent of the funds donated to End 68 Hours of Hunger go directly to buying food for the children. It is run by a complete volunteer team who use our own money for anything other than food costs. It is safe to say that if we do win the cash prize, all of the money will go right to feeding the hungry. I think that it is important to bring to the STA community because most, if not all, of us have never been extremely hungry or put into a situation where we’ve had to deal with people who are that hungry. Our students are part of a generation that turns away from those in need and bringing this epidemic into our school will prove that not everyone is as fortunate as we are. St. Thomas can stop childhood hunger one student at a time. Thank you.
As a result of this broadcast, Claire has been approached by people from 11 states and 20 communities about starting programs! She also received $4780 in donations through the website, and the website held up to the bombardment.
What amazing news! More to come!
We are actively looking for a volunteer to handle corporate development! This means following up on a regular basis with corporate donors, tracking their donations, sending them more information, researching who is actually the person behind the donation, etc . If you wish to volunteer for this, please email us at email@example.com