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New Hampshire Housing is giving away a $200 Visa gift card to a New Hampshire nonprofit. The staff members nominated five organizations from around the state, but they need help making the final decision.
From 9 a.m. on Monday, January 20, until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, January 31, make your voice heard by voting for one of the nominees: Liberty House in Manchester; the New Hampshire Food Bank; The Friendly Kitchen in Concord; the Manchester Homeless Services Center; or End 68 Hours of Hunger.
The nonprofit that receives the most votes will receive the gift card.
Voting is easy:
1.) Like their page, www.facebook.com/NewHampshireHousing.
2.) Visit http://woobox.com/cee44q or click on the “Visa Gift Card Giveaway” box at the top of the page (next to the “Likes” box).
3.) Click “vote” under the organization you want to receive the gift card.
4.) Spread the word! Encourage your friends to join us in helping local nonprofits by inviting them to participate in the poll, or share the poll on your timeline. You can vote once a day, so come back and vote again to give an extra boost to the nonprofit of your choice!
“End 68 Hours of Hunger” Fundraiser
Brewster’s Draft House
2 Main Street Somersworth, NH
January 31, 2014
from 6pm to 9pm
All-You-Can-Eat Spaghetti Dinner
ALL PROCEEDS GO DIRECTLY TO THE PROGRAM!
We will also be collecting non-perishable food donations and monetary donations all weekend.
50/50 Raffle and Additional Raffles as well!
Visit www.end68hoursofhunger.org and facebook.com/brewstersdrafthouse for more information.
In October 2011, the newly formed organization End 68 Hours of Hunger delivered 19 backpacks of food to serve 19 Dover children who would otherwise go hungry every weekend. Today, just two years later, there are 17 programs serving 696 children in 24 schools throughout the Seacoast and beyond.
And there is no end in sight, as the Dover-based program looks to expand its model nationwide.
“When I consider I started all this just to feed hungry kids in my community, it blows me away,” said Claire Bloom, founder and director of End 68 Hours of Hunger. “Towns find out about the program, and say, ‘I wonder if we have hungry children here?’ They investigate and say, ‘Oh my God, we do.’”
End 68 Hours of Hunger is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization that provides food to area schoolchildren who might otherwise go hungry from Friday at school lunch until Monday at school breakfast. The organization, which comprises individual, volunteer-led programs, provides either backpacks or bags of food every Friday, which students pick up at the end of the day before going home for the weekend.
Bloom, a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, said she began the organization after a teacher friend told her she knew of children in her Dover classroom who were going hungry on the weekends.
“That was the instant I said, ‘I have to do something about this. I can’t go through my life knowing that there is that kind of hunger in my town,’” Bloom said.
Anecdotal information suggests that between 10 percent and 15 percent of students who receive free and reduced meals at school are “food insecure” and receive help from End 68 Hours of Hunger, she said. Students are provided with between 3,000 and 7,000 calories of food each weekend, usually peanut butter and crackers, oatmeal, fruit cups, canned soup or pasta, and a canned meat or fish.
The cost of the program averages out to $10 per student per week, over the 44-week school year, or $440 per child a year.
“Multiply that by the number of students being served, and you get an idea of how much money or food each program has to collect,” Bloom said.
End 68 Hours of Hunger provides $1,000 for shelving and $1,000 for food in startup funds, and after that, each program is expected to be self-sufficient. Two volunteer directors for each program are required to find the resources within their community through fund-raising, collaboration with local companies, banks, civic groups, churches, businesses, grants and food drop-off sites.
To date, the group has programs in Eliot/South Berwick, Kittery and York in Maine; and Dover, Exeter, Hampton, Portsmouth, Rollinsford, Somersworth, Durham, New Durham, Nashua, Alton, Barrington, Barnstead, Milton and Northwood/Strafford in New Hampshire.
Soon, the town of Vacaville, Calif., where Bloom and her husband have professional ties, will be starting its own End 68 Hours of Hunger program. And thanks to the organization’s board, Bloom said she has developed a manual and online training so the program can be replicated anywhere in the United States.
“I am so excited that there are so many people excited about feeding hungry kids in their communities,” she said.
Need is there
Make no mistake, area program coordinators said, there are hungry children in every community across the Seacoast.
Typically, programs serve elementary school and middle school students. With few exceptions, such as Traip Academy in Kittery, high school students are not included because of the perceived stigma involved.
“They’re fine in elementary school, by sixth grade they’re not sure, and by seventh grade they’re saying, ‘No way,’” Bloom said. End 68 Hours of Hunger has made canvas bags available for the older students, but she said many programs are finding teenagers often choose not to be involved.
In Kittery, 8.9 percent of the school population, or 70 students, receive food from the program, according to coordinator Kris Lynes.
“I just didn’t think there were that many hungry children,” Lynes said. She told the story of a young girl who told a teacher after Thanksgiving break, “When do we get our backpacks? Our house is out of food.”
“Those are the children we know we are helping,” Lynes said. “I taught for 30 years, and I knew there were hungry children on Monday morning who couldn’t focus on learning. My goal is to help them be lifelong learners.”
In Hampton, SAU 90 Superintendent Kathleen Murphy said the program helps children in different life circumstances. Some are homeless or living in winter rentals, at least a few have a parent who is employed but sudden medical bills have left the family scraping by, or a breadwinner’s work is only part time and insufficient to fund all the family’s needs.
“We know that the most important thing youngsters need is nutrition to sustain them,” Murphy said. “If they don’t have food, they are not able to be attentive to learning.”
The Exeter program delivers food to children in all the SAU 16 towns — 62 students in all. The program began with three students in February 2012.
“We were very surprised at the numbers, given our demographics,” coordinator Kim Army said. “However, the schools weren’t surprised. The school system could see the need every day.”
The Portsmouth program serves 110 children in six schools, coordinator Jen Berry said.
“There is a definite need in the Portsmouth schools for this program,” she said. “There are families who are really struggling to make ends meet and there are children who don’t get enough to eat at home as a result.”
One of the newest programs is in York, which began last April with seven students and is already up to 25. People do not necessarily think of York as having this kind of deep poverty, but it does exist, coordinator Carol Davis said.
“I think there are more children out there who need a backpack, but (they) either don’t want to be stigmatized, or their parents are too proud to admit they need help,” she said.
Program coordinators said they have been overwhelmed by the generosity of their communities — by the number of volunteers who have stepped forward and by the donations from the community.
Each program has a different story.
In Eliot/South Berwick, the Eliot PTO and Brixham Danceworks held a fund-raiser, coordinator Nina Jenssen said. Each week, the food is packed by a different community group of volunteers, including the Eliot Historical Society, Eliot Police Auxiliary and the Eliot/South Berwick Rotary Club.
In the Exeter area, the Stratham Recreation Department, On the Vine Market, Zev Yoga, United Methodist Church, Exeter Hospital and the Exeter New Car Dealers, among others, provide support or volunteers.
In York, the local Masonic Lodge, Lions Club, York Rotary Club, the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary, Village Fire Department, Village Business Association and various Scout troops have pitched in.
Kittery has close to 100 volunteers and receives help from a variety of sources including the Kittery Outlets and a local foundation.
“People have been most generous in their giving,” Portsmouth coordinator Berry said.
With upward of $1,000 a week required for some programs to continue providing food, there seems to always be a need for more generosity, coordinators said.
Bloom said that on the one hand, she has been stunned at the growth of her organization. But on the other, it makes sense, because so many people love children and are drawn by one simple equation.
“We all share the belief that we can’t stand the idea that these kids are not eating,” she said.