Grounded in our Colonial history, America’s harvest feast – Thanksgiving – is a quintessentially New England holiday, a time to be grateful for our region’s rich agricultural traditions of hard-fought bounty and community-minded collaboration.
As we head off to celebrate with our families (as the famous New England poem goes), it is worth remembering that many of our neighbors in New England are struggling, day in day out, to cobble together three meals of good, healthy food. We know that, here in my relatively prosperous state of New Hampshire, more than 1 in 5 households with children experience food insecurity, and more than 130,000 people turn to emergency sources of food like food pantries every year (a number that has more than doubled in the last six years). Hunger and poor nutrition pose special risks for children, who may experience lasting damage to their health, educational outcomes, and economic opportunities.
The stark reality of childhood hunger is one of the driving forces behind CLF’s Farm and Food Initiative, our ongoing work to build a thriving, sustainable food system that grows our region’s farming economy – in rural and urban areas alike – to benefit all people in New England.
In this spirit, CLF is grateful to be a part of a new effort in New Hampshire to tackle childhood hunger, which was formally launched yesterday. Spearheaded by Children’s Alliance of New Hampshire and a diverse coalition of stakeholders known as NH Hunger Solutions, the effort – New Hampshire’s Roadmap to End Child Hunger – has identified three key goals for the state: (1) increase access to healthy food by expanding the number of families that benefit from school meal, food assistance, and nutrition programs, (2) strengthen New Hampshire’s food systems with policies that improve the availability of affordable, local, healthy foods for families of all economic groups and that strengthen farmers’ connections with schools and community food programs, and (3) ensure overall economic security for all families by enhancing public financial assistance for those in need. Yesterday’s rollout of the Roadmap was a terrific event in the gymnasium at Henniker’s Community School, featuring a number of community and food system leaders. You can read more about the event in this NewHampshire.com article.
We at CLF are particularly gratified that the Roadmap recognizes the importance of a strong, resilient food system that connects all people to healthy, affordable foods produced locally and sustainably by New England and New Hampshire farmers. As we noted on Food Day last month, CLF and others are hard at work identifying the policy and practical barriers to this kind of system and developing recommended solutions.
As implementation of the Roadmap begins – in collaboration with the companion efforts of Food Solutions New England to build a statewide Food Advisory Council – we look forward to helping New Hampshire achieve the Roadmap’s ambitious goals. As we share Thanksgiving with our families, CLF and our partners are committed to living up to New England’s heritage of sharing the harvest.