St. Thomas, Dover -- Feeding Kids and Community

Guest Blog from Rob Sylvester, Jr., St. Thomas, Dover, NH

Imagine facing a weekend without food. That’s a reality for more than 1,300 children in New Hampshire and Maine.

“This is a nearly invisible problem,” said Claire Bloom, founder and volunteer executive director of End 68 Hours of Hunger, in an interview with NBC News in 2014. “Kids don’t come to school and say ‘my dad lost his job and we didn’t have anything to eat this weekend.’ “

To help eliminate such hunger, St. Thomas Episcopal Church of Dover is hosting a Cookout for Kids on Friday, Sept. 11, from 5 to 7 p.m. to provide children in the Dover area with food for weekends through the End 68 Hours of Hunger Campaign. The cookout is being supported by the Dover Cooperative Ministries.

The cookout will be held in the St. Thomas Parish Hall, at the corner of Locust and Hale streets in Dover. Tickets are $20 each and are available from many of the Dover area church members or by calling the St. Thomas office at 603-742-3155.

According to the End 68 Hours of Hunger website, end68hoursofhunger.org, the organization “is a private, not-for-profit, effort to confront the approximately 68 hours of hunger that some school children experience between the free lunch they receive in school on Friday afternoon and the free breakfast they receive in school on Monday morning. “  The organization started feeding 19 local children in Oct. 2011. As it closed out 2013, End 68 Hours of Hunger was serving more than 1,300 children a week in New Hampshire and Maine.

The impact on children of not having food for the weekend “is enormous,” according to information on the End 68 Hours website. “Teachers tell us that on Friday afternoons the children who are unlikely to have enough food at home become very edgy and are unable to concentrate. After a week in a structured environment where they have at least two full meals, they will leave school and for 68 hours have little to eat. That insecurity can lead to some behavioral disruptions. On Monday mornings they return to school ill, often spending the day in the nurse’s office. They are unable to focus and concentrate until they once again are nourished.”

Rob Sylvester of St. Thomas is coordinating volunteers for the cookout and says if 500 tickets are sold, the money raised could provide two months’ worth of weekend food for children in the Dover area.  The more tickets sold – but the fewer ticket buyers who actually attend the cookout, though all are of course welcome – means more money for food for the kids. When purchasing tickets, please state whether you will actually attend the cookout so organizers will have a count of how many plan to be there.

Here’s an example of what might be given to a child for a weekend:

  • A box/bag of nutritional cereal
  • Two cans of soup
  • One jar of peanut butter or jelly
  • One can of tuna or chicken
  • Three fruit cups
  • One box of crackers
  • One box of macaroni and cheese or two packages of Ramen noodles.

According to the website, 100 percent of every dollar contributed to End 68 Hours of Hunger goes directly to purchase food for children who have been identified by the guidance counselors and nurses at selected elementary schools as the most “at risk.”

The remaining expenses – bank fees, web site hosting, filing fees (for documents required by the IRS and the State of New Hampshire), solicitation of contributions, reproduction of information for clients, and other administrative expenses – are paid by donors who allocate funds for those purposes. 

Food is purchased and packed into bags by volunteers, and delivered to the offices of elementary schools. From there, a school employee delivers the food to the classrooms of the individual participating students. The students take the bags home on Friday afternoon.

Checks for tickets can be made out to St. Thomas Episcopal Church or End 68 Hours of Hunger.