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ConVal group works to support food insecure families

  • Pat Kamel, of Peterborough, lays out food that will later be bagged and handed out to ConVal students who are in need of food assistance. Staff photo by Abby Kessler

  • Peg McLeod, of Hancock, bags food items that will later be handed out to students in the district who are in need of assistance on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. The effort is part of a nonprofit called End 68 Hours of Hunger, which started in Dover but has since spread to distrcit’s across the state and beyond. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Food is lined up and ready to be bagged and distributed to students in the district in need of food assistance on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Peg McLeod, of Hancock, bags food items that will later be handed out to students in the district who are in need of assistance on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. The effort is part of a nonprofit called End 68 Hours of Hunger, which started in Dover but has since spread to distrcit’s across the state and beyond. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, December 20, 2016 7:3AM

In a narrow room in the ConVal SAU office, shelves are stocked with food that will be distributed to the district’s hungry students.

“The public is in shock that people are food insecure in Peterborough, and in the rest of the district” said Linda Caracappa, who is one of three coordinators for the ConVal branch of End 68 Hours of Hunger.

Martha Dahl, a volunteer for the group and a member of the Union Congregational Church in Peterborough, echoed the point, “People think, ‘Oh, not in this town.’”

The reality is that the numbers are higher than people might imagine, according to members of the organization.

Four women involved with the organization spoke with the Ledger-Transcript on Wednesday morning.

The group is part of a larger effort that began in Dover and has since spread to 38 school districts across 7 states. The program provides food for school-aged children who are identified by the district and are given a grocery bag filled with items to feed them from the time school lets out on Friday through when it starts again on Monday morning, or approximately 68 hours.

According to the the program’s website, childhood food insecurity is a national problem. It’s defined when children receives insufficient food on a regular basis, and in many cases, when they miss meals entirely. In time, these children can experience a “fear of hunger” that affects their behavior and physical well being. The website says there are more than 16 million food insecure children in America today.

After months of preparation the group started bagging food, transporting it to schools in the district and handing it out to students in need on the first week of November.

During the first week, the group of volunteers filled 40 bags worth of food for students in need. Since then, it has doubled the amount of food it’s giving away to students. Caracappa said that number is only projected to go up, too, with estimates that 170 students will soon be receiving food through the program.

Around the holidays the organization will hand students two bags worth of food to take home so that they are not going hungry over vacation.

Coordinator Carol Cleary said each bag includes about $10 worth of food. The organization gives food away for 44 weeks out of the year, meaning feeding one student costs roughly $440. Extrapolating that number out over 80 students ends up being a fairly hefty sum, she said.

The group has pulled in the support of more than 50 volunteers who help with every step of the process from bagging the food to transporting the items to schools within the district. Of course that number doesn’t include all of the people who have chipped in to donate a can of food or shelled out money to benefit the cause, which adds to the large community fabric of support.

“It’s been a community builder,” Caracappa said about the organization, adding that she wouldn’t have forged friendships with many of the volunteers if the project hadn’t brought them together.

The group only accepts certain food items, which are listed on its website. Monetary donations are preferred so that a volunteer can make a run to the grocery store and pick up the items it absolutely needs, the group said.

 

“If we can just make an impact on one child, then it has been worth it,” Caracappa said.