Care Packages; teachers work to fight hunger among local youths

NASHUA – Ensuring that hundreds of students have enough food for February break, Nashua teachers and staff packed a week’s worth of food for students who normally rely on free and reduced meals at school.

The event was organized by the Nashua arm of the End 68 Hours of Hunger organization, led by co-coordinators Krista Bordeleau and Jenn Morton.

Morton, Bordeleau and a team of community volunteers prepare bags of groceries for low-income students to take home for the weekend. The goal is for students to have food to last between the free and reduced lunch available at school Friday until breakfast on Monday, or the "68 hours" of food insecurity.

However, the longer breaks from school require more support to meet student needs.

"The Nashua Teachers’ Union donated $4,000, which donates for needy children," Morton said.

A couple dozen teachers and district staff also volunteered Monday to organize and pack food for 200 elementary children at Ledge Street, Fairgrounds, Dr. Crisp and Mount Pleasant elementary schools.

"This is our first packing event with the union," Bordeleau said, adding when her group spoke with the Board of Education recently, they connected with NTU President Adam Marcoux.

Marcoux credited the NTU board of directors for approving $4,000 to cover the cost of food for the week.

Monday "is our professional development day, and they need help packing, so we thought, ‘Let’s get some teachers and staff together,’ " Marcoux said.

Monday afternoon, Fairgrounds Elementary School counselor Mike Plourde organized packed grocery bags into four groups, one destined for each of the four elementary schools.

Plourde said food insecurity among Nashua elementary children has been growing.

"The effects are very evident," he said. "A lot of times, (the student) might also be sleep deprived and have difficulty concentrating."

Having been in the district for 20 years, Plourde said he noticed children going hungry about 10 years ago.

"We didn’t have a resource then, but we were doing lots of other things to help out," Plourde said, noting teachers would keep snacks in their classrooms for students.

Sandy and Lisa Gribben-Perrin launched the Nashua arm of the organization in 2013 before Morton and Bordeleau took over last fall 2016.

"It’s been amazing how much support there is; we get both volunteers making it in to pack and monetary donations," Morton said.

"The community sees the need, for sure," Bordeleau said.

The Nashua team began packing backpacks for 26 students in 2013, and now, the group routinely collects enough food for 200 children at the four elementary schools.

Bordeleau and Morton credited the Nashua Rotary Club with helping them pack food for the holiday and spring breaks, although the February break was previously not covered.

"They would have had a weekend bag of food – that’s it," Bordeleau said.

While the packing event took place at Nashua High School South on Monday, End 68 Hours of Hunger usually meets at the United Way to store and prepare grocery bags. New volunteers can get in touch with the group at nashua@end68hoursof hunger.org.

Founded in 2010 in Dover by Claire Bloom, a retired naval officer, End 68 Hours of Hunger operates about 30 locations in several states, including California and Florida, with the majority of locations in New Hampshire. Nationwide, more than 600 volunteers prepare about 1,800 bags of groceries per week during the school year.

For more information, visit www.end68hoursofhunger.org.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-1246, tforbes@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_ TinaF.