The program puts nourishing food in the hands of elementary school children to carry them through the weekend
By Maxine Mosley, HCR Committee Chair and Sharry Sparks, ESP Issues Committee Chair.
Photos by Jeff Kantorowski
At this year’s Spring Instructional Conference, one of NEA-NH’s main initiatives was to raise attention for the need to feed hungry children in our state. As we all know, childhood hunger is a major social justice issue in our country. The impact on children’s school achievement and other lifelong issues continue to be a focus of our collective work.
NEA-NH management, staff, and members came together to support students and other children who go hungry between Friday’s school lunch and school breakfast on Monday mornings.
The combined contributions from the 2015 Delegate Assembly and from the Instructional conference in March, resulted in donations of over 600 jars of peanut butter and jelly. In addition to the donations, $600.00 was collected by staff, members and participants at the conference to purchase additional food items such as cereal, granola bars, cans of soup and tuna fish to add to the bags filled by volunteers each week.
The morning of the conference, jars of peanut butter and jelly began to come in steadily. Participants who contributed peanut butter and jelly were given raffle tickets to win one of four prizes; a $100.00 Visa card, two Amazon gift cards and a classroom diversity basket filled with teaching tools. The very generous young lady who won the $100.00 gift card donated it back to the End 68 Hours of Hunger program demonstrated how important it is for all of us to “give back” to the children of our state in need.
At this year’s NEA-NH Delegate Assembly, Claire Bloom, the founder and volunteer Director of End 68 Hours of Hunger, was presented with the prestigious Champion of Human and Civil Rights Award. In addition, the Executive Board awarded the program a check for $1,000 on behalf of all NEA-NH members.
“We started feeding 19 local children in October 2011. At the end of 2013, we were serving over 1,300 children per week in New Hampshire and Maine. These are children whose only meals are those they eat at school,” said Claire Bloom, founder and volunteer director of End 68 Hours of Hunger.
After reading an article in AARP MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2014 ISSUE called, “Saving the World as a Second Career”, the chairs of the Human and Civil Rights and the ESP Issues Committees decided to come together on behalf of hungry children in our state. The committees formulated a plan to work together to feed as many children as possible by collecting jars of peanut butter and jelly, two main staples of the program. Dr. Irv Richardson was alerted to the program and suggested that we approach Claire Bloom to be our conference keynote speaker.
“Childhood hunger – or food insecurity – is a national problem. It occurs when children receive insufficient food on a regular basis and 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.”
The goal was to inform our members, and to raise awareness of the rapidly growing problem of hungry children in the State of New Hampshire. Not only did she agree to be our keynote speaker but offered to do a presentation on how to start program chapters in schools.
Claire first learned about hungry children at a book club where a teacher talked about some of her students, concerned that they came to school hungry on Monday mornings perhaps some with very little to eat on the weekends. In her keynote, she shared how hunger was the one aspect of poverty that you could not see. Claire is a true champion for hungry children and believes that they cannot learn and grow up to be strong and productive citizens of our communities.
This program, established in New Hampshire in 2011, puts nourishing food in the hands of elementary school children to carry them through the weekend. Volunteers purchase the food, pack the bags and deliver them to the offices of the selected elementary schools. From there, a school employee delivers the food to the classrooms of the individual participating students. The students take the food home on Friday afternoon. The cycle starts again every week.
Each bag of food costs $10 each week per child and provides two breakfasts, two lunches and three dinners for a child, with some left over to share!
“The impact on the child is enormous. Teachers tell us that on Friday afternoons the children who are unlikely to have enough food at home become very edgy and are unable to concentrate. After a week in a structured environment where they have at least two full meals, they will leave school and for 68 hours have little to eat. That insecurity can lead to some behavioral disruptions. On Monday mornings they return to school ill, often spending the day in the nurse’s office. They are unable to focus and concentrate until they once again are nourished.” (End 68 Hours of Hunger website)
The question for us all going forward is, “do we know who the children are in our classrooms, our schools, and our communities that are hungry? And what do we do about it?”
The ESP Issues Committee and the Human and Civil Rights Committee Chairs (Sharry Sparks and Maxine Mosley) would like to thank our members: Jill Owens, Doloris Humiston, Pat Kisselberg, Linda Royer, Carlene Lyndes, Yvonne Borghetti, Ed O’Brien, Nancy Morse, Terry Burlingame, and Jeff Kantorowski for facilitating and overseeing the logistics of this phenomenal and very successful initiative to help feed hungry children. They set up tables, stacked and boxed peanut butter and jelly jars, handed out raffle tickets, collected money tirelessly and are a credit to the work of the committees.