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Push is on to Feed Hungry Kids in New Hampshire

HENNIKER - A statewide effort to ensure that no New Hampshire child goes to bed hungry was launched at the Henniker Community School on Tuesday, and supporters say that while the problem is complex, the solutions are simple.

The Roadmap to End Childhood Hunger is a program launched by a group of businesses, organizations, and government agencies called New Hampshire Hunger Solutions. Coordinated by the Children's Alliance of New Hampshire, The Roadmap to End Childhood Hunger seeks to ensure kids have access to food, to make sure the systems in place for getting food to those who need it are as efficient as possible, and to promote economic security for all New Hampshire families, said Erika Argersinger, policy director for the Children's Alliance.

"While the challenges hungry kids face are complex," said Argersinger, "the solution is simple - connect hungry kids with food every day."

Joe Carelli, president of Citizens Bank, said his company partnered with the Children's Alliance because a lack of adequate nutrition puts children at a disadvantage both in school and out.

"The basic tenet of this program . is that every child in every school in every town in this state should have three square meals a day," said Carelli.

Commissioner Lorraine Merrill of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture said that despite the abundance of healthy, locally grown food in the Granite State, the food isn't getting to the people who need it most. Creating a program that allows people who receive food stamps to use their EBT cards at farmers markets and food stamps would not only encourage healthy eating, but it would also help New Hampshire's farm families, many of whom are eligible for food stamps themselves, Merrill said.

The Roadmap to End Childhood Hunger was launched in Henniker in part because of the work done to eradicate hunger at the Community School by food services director Marty Davis. Davis, a trained dietician and educator, has seen first-hand the effects of hunger on children both at the school and through her volunteer work at the local food pantry. Her goal at the school was to take the limited resources available, to partner with local farms, and offer breakfast, snacks and lunches so that during the school day, there would be no rumbling bellies.

One of the issues that are preventing kids who need food from getting it is the stigma that being on food stamps, or on free or reduced lunch which is federally subsidized carries.

"We know we are not reaching every kid who is hungry," said Davis. "So we're trying to encourage people to apply for free and reduced lunch, but we have to overcome the stigma."

There also has to be more of an effort to ensure that people who are working, but not earning enough to live on, are taking advantage of tax credits, said Jeff McLynch, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute. For more information visit www.childrennh.org.

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Nancy Bean Foster may be reached at nfoster@newstote.com.


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