Community gets a taste of Nashua Food Council at Food Celebration dinner

Staff photo by Katherine Glosser Attendees engage in conversation while eating together at the Community Food Celebration Friday at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center.

NASHUA – Southern New Hampshire Medical Center was aglow with smiling faces from all walks of life Friday afternoon for the Community Food Celebration dinner.

Volunteers put food on their plates, eager to make sure no one ended up going away hungry, as people of all ages, demographics and ethnicities shared something in common: They came to celebrate the community’s achievement of educating and helping the public with local food-related issues.

At the heart of the dinner was an award ceremony honoring those who gave back to the community to ensure everyone in Nashua would have an opportunity to feed themselves healthy food. The room was full of people, with more than 50 showing up. As names were called one-by-one, people cheered and clapped while they proudly held their award. Among those being honored was Grace Tavares, Mohammed Mustak, Jasmine Torrez, Shanna LaFontaine and Nashua Food Council Program Director Justin Munroe.

“Without all these pieces to the puzzle, we couldn’t make the food system work better,” said Director of the Nashua Food Council Jessica Gorham, of the businesses, people and organizations that helped the Nashua community with their food campaign.

Gorham, who was the mastermind behind the event, said the food at the dinner was supplied by at least 10 different organizations. Turkey, rolls, locally grown apples and green beans were just a fraction of the food served at the event. Gorham added that this will be the of many such events.

“I really enjoyed putting this event together. I love the concept of it being a community dinner and then having it be free,” Gorham said. “All the different organizations we partnered with were able to showcase their food and things they serve at their organization.”

Among the sponsors of the event was Ameriprise.

Ameriprise Financial Advisor Ken Angell said this is the first thing he has been involved with for the Nashua Food Council.

“Creating awareness and learning more about what the various organizations do for the community is important.” Angell said. “Getting people involved and together tends to bring motivation for change.”

Munroe, who helped coordinate the event with Gorham, said he was happy with the turnout.

“I am grateful every day for the amazing people that are in this community,” Munroe noted.

Keynote Speaker Anne Palmer has been working with food policy councils for decades, and helped Munroe and Gorham with planning and coordinating the dinner.

“It is really an honor to be with you all tonight. I am so excited to be able to come out to the community. I actually think it’s really these that make our work come alive,” Palmer said.

Palmer gave a presentation on her work with food policies and statistics while sharing some of her own personal experiences. She said most people who work on a food council do not do it as a full-time job. Palmer said over the last 40 years there have been many changes to how people farm such as ownership, farmland loss and development in general noting issues with climate change and sustainability.

Palmer also noted food quality has gone down and portion sizes have dramatically increased. Supermarkets in the 1970s had between 15,000 and 17,000 products. Today, Palmer noted, that number is now between 40,000 to 60,000.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of farms in the U.S. has fallen by more than 4 million since 1935. The farms back then totaled six million. In 2012, that number decreased to two million. In New Hampshire, according to Feeding America, 119,770 people struggle with hunger, with 29,740 of them being children.

Nashua Soup Kitchen Community Outreach Coordinator Meghan Bolton said Nashua has a lot of resources to take advantage of for people that are struggling, as well as people looking to volunteer.

“Definitely look into your local nonprofits, whether it be you’re looking for something to do as far as contribute, or you are looking for services provided.” Bolton said. “Nashua has an amazing community, and there really is no reason to be without anything while living in Nashua.”