NASHUA – As part of National Nutrition Month, members of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua’s Torch Club leadership group purchased, packaged and distributed more than 3,000 pounds of food to families in need.
Driven by the desire to help families through tough times, as well as the club’s mission of developing healthy lifestyles and habits, the group banded together to address this need by raising funds through their “Snack Shack.”
“During our Torch Club meetings, we talked about what we could do to help people in our community,” club member Wyatt, 12, said. “I think it’s important because there are many people in our community who need help. It’s a really good feeling to help them.”
Though Torch Club members have been running the “Snack Shack” for more than a year as a way to further develop their leadership group and provide children with healthy snack options in addition to what the club provides for free, they wanted to do more this month by using funds to purchase food packages. The “Snack Shack” is connected to the Club’s Food and Nutrition Program, which incorporates healthy, balanced meals and snacks, nutrition education, and cooking classes. The club also had Junior Staff training programs to help develop personal and professional abilities in kitchen safety and the culinary arts.
“There is a lot of good work being done in the community around food insecurity. I think people will be surprised to learn how much happens just at our club,” Individual Services Director Janail Archer said.
“We are very focused on teaching healthy living skills and providing nutritious meals and snacks for our members. In 2018, we prepared and provided over 53,000 meals and 30,000 snacks to our kids for free. Because 66 percent of our families are low income, we know there is a need beyond when our kids are with us at the club. Our Torch Club members were so excited about serving the community and are learning that it doesn’t take a lot to make a positive impact on those around us. It’s also a great benefit to them, as Snack Shack teaches them responsibility and creating food bags for families teaches them generosity. We are grateful to provide this necessary service to families,” Archer said.
To supplement what they earned from the “Snack Shack,” the Torch Club also organized a “Walk the Plank” fundraising competition. During this event, club members had the opportunity to vote on which Torch Club leaders and club staff members would have to walk off the pool diving board by putting money into their individual donation jars.
In total, they raised more than $300 to help support their food initiative and grow their Torch Club budget. With the money they received from both initiatives, they were able to purchase a total of 3,200 pounds of food from the New Hampshire Food Bank at 9 cents per pound.
“Torch Club is all about doing community service while also having fun with it. Raising money to create food packages made me happy because I knew we were doing the right thing,” club member Rafi, 12, said. “We saw there was a need and we wanted to help. It will be great to help these families and also let them know more about what Torch Club does.”
The food items were picked up and brought back by teen members of the Keystone leadership group. Torch Club members then worked on promoting this additional service to parents and sorting the food into individual bags. They made sure each bag of food contained items for a well-balanced meal. These included fresh produce, grains, cereal, meat, juice, bread, whole wheat pasta, and other necessities. In just three hours, the full bags were distributed to approximately 200 individuals and families.
“I was in dire need of food and I usually am every month. I have two sons and one who has severe food issues. He has allergies to dairy and soy, so I have to spend extra every month on food,” one receiving mother said. “If it wasn’t for the food program here and what these kids are doing now, I probably would have to borrow money or figure something else out. The food program here is really important to me and I am really grateful for it.”
The youth leadership group plans to continue their “feed the hungry” initiative during April vacation when families are unable to rely on school lunches to feed children and, therefore, experience greater financial strain. They hope to provide for even more families in the future.