Our final 2013 forum, a screening of “A Place At The Table” at The Colonial Theatre, downtown Keene, played before a packed theater and served as the backdrop to a post-film panel discussion, moderated by N. H. Sen. Molly M. Kelly, D-Keene. Panelists included: Phoebe Bray, Executive Director of The Keene Community Kitchen, Kin Schilling, Founder of The Cornucopia Project, Donna Reynolds, ConVal Food Service Director, and Olivia Zink, activist and member of the NH Citizens Alliance.
After viewing the film for the second time, Senator Molly Kelly shared she felt a mix of emotions; she was sad because a child went hungry for too long, angry because in this rich country people are going without food essentials, and disappointed at elected officials for not doing enough to find solutions.
Many of the panelists stated the minimum wage in New Hampshire is not a livable wage and, until that increases, hunger will remain a major concern locally, including Olivia Zink who, as a member of the NH Citizens Alliance, works to engage grassroots activists in lobbying the legislature for policy changes. She also gave testimony to the impact of cuts made to social services programs, like food stamps.
(L to R: Olivia Zink, NH Citizens Alliance; Phoebe Bray, Exec. Director, The Community Kitchen; Kin Schilling, Founder, The Cornucopia Project; Donna Reynolds, ConVal Food Service Director; and State Senator Molly M. Kelly - D, Keene)
Phoebe Bray shared how volunteers are trying to direct people toward better food choices and teach them how to cook with locally grown produce. She also shared about the new Gleaning Project at The Community Kitchen. Run by coordinator, Sarah Harpster, volunteers go to local orchards and farms in Cheshire County and harvest fresh fruits and vegetables that producers would otherwise not sell. Rather than these products going to waste, they are no being distributed to area food pantries and used in local school lunch programs.
Kin Schilling and Donna Reynolds highlighted the collaborative efforts between the ConVal Regional School District and The Cornucopia Project, a nonprofit organization that seeks to provide children with hands-on experience in growing organic gardens. Schilling feels "that the younger children are taught about healthy food choices, the better". All eight ConVal schools receive fresh produce from the The Cornucopia Project farm, based in Hancock.
Reynolds added that she "sees children in ConVal's schools who are hungry and not receiving well-balanced meals at home." Reynolds recalled one of her favorite moments in the documentary, when a teacher introduced her class to a honeydew melon for the first time. When asked if the students would choose the melon over a bag of chips, the majority said they'd take the fruit.
Local programs like Double Up Veggie Bucks that matches EBT card purchases up to $10; providing customers the capability to “double-up” their purchase of fresh food at the Keene Farmers Market; Monadnock Menus - an online ordering platform - for schools, institutions, and restaurants to easily purchase local farm products; and "Healthy Food for All" at the Monadnock Food Co-op providing a 10% discount on all food for qualified customers; seek to improve accessibility to and making healthy food more affordable for everyone.
In our region alone, 3000 children do not know where their next meal will come from, 33% of children attending Monadnock regions schools qualify for free and reduced lunch, and 6,352 people qualify for food and nutritional programs. To find out more about LOCAL STATS ON HUNGER, CLICK HERE. Thank you to Erin Languille for putting this together for us.
A Call-to-Action guide was distributed to audience members detailing how to get involved in these and numerous other initiatives working to stem hunger locally and nationally. For a printed copy, please email: email@example.com.
If you care about educating on the importance of eating healthy, locally-produced food, please join our Education Working Group. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Thank you to our sponsors without whom there would be no event: Cheshire HEAL, The Community Kitchen, Monadnock Food Co-op, Badger Balm, C & S Wholesale Grocers, The Keene Sentinel, The Colonial Theater, Cheshire Medical Center/DHK, Cheshire County Conservation District, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Participant Media and Active Voice.
Thank you also to our coalition planning committee for making this forum a huge success: Phoebe Bray, The Community Kitchen (TCK); Karen Balnis, KSC Dietetic Internship; Jen Risley, The Monadnock Food Coop; Maryanne Keating, Cheshire HEAL; Linda Rubin, Healthy Monadnock 2020; Kelsey Plifka, Champions Coordinator; CMC/DHK; Sarah Harpster, Gleaning Coordinator, TCK; Carol Jue, NH Kids Count; Libby McCann, Antioch New England; Katy Locke, Transition Keene; Jill Comerchero, NH Citizens Alliance; Jess Gerrior, Franklin Pierce Sustainability; Mary Jensen, KSC Sustainability; KSC Dietetic interns - Martha Kataura and Song X'iang. Thank you to our photographer, Andrea Cadwell, and Wendy Keith and Jim Gordon, our musicians, in addition.
Jen Risley, Marketing Director, Monadnock Food Coop and MFCC member
"A Place At The Table" depicts the state of hunger and its link to obesity in America, the competition for public funding between agricultural subsidies (which benefit primarily large-scale farming enterprises) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and the devastating physical, social, and economic impact of hunger. "A Place At The Table" is available on Netflix. To preview the film, go to www.takepart.com/place-at-the-table/film.
*Portions of this were taken from "Region takes a hard look at hunger around the country", The Keene Sentinel, Monday, November 18, 2013 edition.