Meals for Kids helps stomachs stay full

NASHUA – The rain pours onto the pavement Thursday evening as volunteers bring donated food into the Arlington Street Community Center.

One by one, those in need browse for food to feed their friends or family members who struggle to afford healthy food. Inside the building are bags of food, boxes of produce and assembled frozen meals. Two volunteers unload the Salvation Army truck packed with food. Volunteer, Wallace Comeau, drenched in rain, is full of laughs and jokes, completely unfazed by the rain.

Comeau works at Salvation Army five times a week, cleaning and taking out the trash, among other tasks. Every Thursday, he brings a van filled with donated food to the Arlington Community Center for the “Meals for Kids” program and assists with distributing and organizing the food within the building and packing it up for next week.

Comeau said he does it because he loves helping people.

“It’s worth every bit that you do,” Comeau said. “We have homeless people come over here and they only take what they need.”

Meals for Kids is a citywide partnership that started in summer 2017. Every Thursday, organizers set up a space in the Arlington Community Center for people to come and pick up donated food. Since its founding, according to the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter website, Meals for Kids has distributed a total of more than 12,000 meals. There are multiple drop-off locations, including Dr. Norman W Crisp School and Major Drive.

Volunteer Grace Tavares has been volunteering for the program since it first began. Tavares said organizers collaborate with different businesses and organizations such as Nashua Grows, Nashua Soup Kitchen and Sullivan Farms.

“It was pretty much a big community effort to make sure no families go hungry,” Tavares said.

Many of the people who utilize the program are refugees.

One of those who utilizes the program, Yasmin De Jesus, said Tavares’s work with the program has been helpful.

“Everything Grace does is awesome; it’s really a great help,” De Jesus said. Another woman, who asked to be anonymous, picks up food for her friends in need. She said the program is like a gift.

“I think it’s tremendous what they do here,” she said. “It’s God’s blessing.”

Tavares said when a child’s life is impacted, they will grow up knowing that experience and most likely pay it forward. “As these kids grow up, they are the ones that are going to take care of us when we get older … it really is treating people the way you want to be treated and investing in our community’s future,” Tavares said.

“What we do for them helps them grow and give back to the community,” she added.

Those interested in volunteering can contact Tavares through her email: tavaresg@nashua.edu. Her office phone number is 603-966-2111.

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