HUDSON — District officials are joining forces with the local food pantry to bring the “End 68 Hours of Hunger” program to Hudson’s schools.
The program sends home weekend food packages with children enrolled in the federal Free and Reduced Lunch program.
Under the End 68 Hours program, a child’s food bundle might include such items as a box of nutritional cereal, cans of soup, boxes of macaroni and cheese, jars of peanut butter and jelly, fruit cups, bread and crackers.
Dover-based program founder Claire Bloom said the volunteer-initiated program helps combat what she described as “an invisible problem.”
Volunteers use donated funds to purchase and pack the bundles, then deliver them to school offices, according to Bloom. School employees then deliver the food each Friday afternoon to the classrooms of participating students.
Over 20 Granite State communities currently participate in End 68 Hours, as well as a handful of Maine school districts.
Following a brief discussion at Monday night’s Hudson School Board meeting, the board voted unanimously in support of the program.
Pauline Boisvert, director of the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry in Hudson, said the local pantry does its best to help hungry children during the summer months, when children aren’t getting free or reduced meals at school.
Boisvert said she’d be happy to support the new Hudson program.
“Whatever is needed, we’ll find a way to do it,” she told the School Board this week.
Alvirne High School junior Erin Beals, along with her sister Emma, a freshman, and their mother, Regina, will serve as program volunteers.
“A lot of great organizations like the Lions Club have offered to help us,” Erin said, noting that the Alvirne chapter of the National Honor Society likewise offered its support.
Regina Beals said that unlike other fledgling End 68 Hours programs, Hudson has an advantage as it already has the local food pantry to serve as a local donation and storage headquarters.
Erin said some concerns have arisen about keeping food recipients anonymous, however she stressed that those issues have already been addressed in the districts during related programs like Catie’s Closet, an initiative at Alvirne High School helping low-income students with clothing and shoes.
The Beals said they wouldn’t rely solely on the food pantry for donations: the plan is to get additional support via student and staff sponsorships as well as state organization officials.
The family already holds neighborhood food drives for the pantry.
“We definitely don’t want to drain the food pantry,” Regina Beals said. “The goal here is to add to the food pantry.”
Boisvert said the pantry wouldn’t ever be given students’ names, they’d only be told the number of students in need at each respective school.
Board member Meaghan Pollack said the new initiative might have a welcome side effect for the local food pantry.
“I think this is definitely going to affect visibility and funding, and I really don’t feel this will be a question of choosing one over the other,” Pollack said. “And I think there are plenty of Alvirne students that will want to step up and help.”