The Hartford Community Coalition’s Take a Bite Out of Hunger community meals program provides breakfast, lunch, and weekend snack packs for children and adults in Hartford during the summer. This year, the lunch site is White River School, Pine Street, in White River Junction. Starting June 17, bagged lunches will be available for all community members, Monday-Friday, 11am-1pm, during school summer vacation.
Lisa Paquette has been involved with Take a Bite out of Hunger since the program’s inception five years ago.
“I had recently started working with HCC’s Community Health Team through my role as a nurse case manager at the White River Family Practice,” she says. “The community outreach through HCC seemed like a wonderful opportunity: As a member of HCC, I contribute what I learn in my role at White River Family Practice.”
School food programs are unavailable during the summer months. Because of this, many children face food insecurity. HCC responded to this issue by developing the Take a Bite out of Hunger program.
In her role as a volunteer for the program, Lisa coordinates with area businesses (including STAVE Puzzles, RSG, Mascoma Savings Bank, Clerkin Agency, Green Mountain Child Care, Babble On Daycare); churches (Riverbank Church and St. Paul’s); groups of community-minded friends (Main Street Ladies); as well as the Community College of Vermont; the Vermont Department of Health; and the Town of Hartford.
“I contact the groups to see if they would like to participate, and then provide them with empty backpacks and a wish-list of nutritious, kid-friendly food,” she says.
The volunteer organizations fill the packs and deliver them to White River School, the summer food location. Afterwards, Lisa picks up the empty packs from the school and brings them to the next organization to fill.
In her volunteer role, Lisa enjoys meeting people from businesses and groups that she wouldn’t ordinarily connect with. “Their enthusiasm and willingness to help out is wonderful,” she says. “They go above and beyond. Some groups even add special items–like last year when STAVE Puzzles included a coloring activity page.”
Lisa and her colleagues at White River Family Practice hold a book drive every year and contribute books for summer reading to the children who receive backpacks. “I enjoy selecting Harry Potter books for a new generation of readers,” she says.“I would encourage members of the community to donate or assist with the Take a Bite Out of Hunger program because it not only provides needed resources for food insecure neighbors, but it also sends the heartfelt message to the children of our community that we care about them.”