New local partnership to take aim at childhood hunger

Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter executive director Michael Reinke speaks to about two dozen community and agency leaders Thursday at the kickoff of the local anti-hunger program called "Nashua Meals for Kids."

NASHUA – While most people take for granted having three meals a day, an “astonishing” number of children in Nashua don’t know where their next meal is coming from, Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter executive director Michael Reinke told a group of community leaders Thursday.

But there’s good news in those numbers, Reinke added: By working together, “we can find answers and make Nashua a place where every child can be secure in knowing there is enough food to eat.”

Reinke was one of about two dozen people, most representing social services agencies, who gathered at Temple Beth Abraham Thursday afternoon to launch “Nashua Meals for Kids,” a collaboration of agencies, schools and city officials set to debut this summer.

“When Michael came to Nashua, he told me, ‘I think we can run this program here in Nashua,'” Mayor Jim Donchess said, referring to Reinke being selected in January to succeed the retiring Lisa Christie as NSKS director.

The launch program coincided with the arrival Thursday of a large, mobile exhibit belonging to the national anti-hunger advocacy organization Mazon, which will be set up through Friday afternoon in the Temple’s parking lot on Raymond Street.

Tickets are available for Friday’s several sessions. See information box for times and details.

As for the local program, Reinke said several two-member teams of volunteers will meet at the soup kitchen, 2 Quincy St., each morning and noontime to pick up breakfasts or lunches and bring them to certain selected locations for distribution to children.

The first meals will go to the city’s Crown Hill and French Hill neighborhoods, where the percentage of children receiving reduced-cost or free school lunches.

Donchess and Reinke said roughly 300 Dr. Crisp Elementary School students – some 80 percent of its enrollment – qualify for reduced or free lunches.

The program will ramp up for summer when children are most likely to go hungry, according to studies. Up to three prepared dinners will be available each week for the children in the Dr. Crisp neighborhood to pick up and take home.

The program will be evaluated by researchers at Rivier University who will check in on its effectiveness before it is launched at other city schools.

Staff Writer Damien Fisher contributed to this report.

INFO BOX INFO BOX

The visit to Nashua of Mazon’s mobile anti-hunger exhibit continues Friday.

WHEN: Friday, May 19; 45-minute sessions begin each hour from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

WHERE: Temple Beth Abraham, 4 Raymond St., Nashua

HOW MUCH: Tickets are free, but must be reserved in advance by going to http://thisishunger.org/the-tour, pull down city to Nashua, select “reserve tickets,” then “select a date.”