NEK Hunger

NEK Food edited-2

One organization in Vermont works everyday towards helping children in Vermont overcome the challenge of starvation.

On December 1st, The Hunger Council of the Northeast Kingdom met to discuss the solution of making Vermont a hunger free state. In past meetings, the Hunger Council has searched for different solutions by creating child nutrition programs like backpack programs, summer meal programs, and more. On December 1st, they explored the options to ensure food security for children throughout the year.

Beth Hetzelt, School Liaison for the Vermont Department of Health's St. Johnsbury District Office, also attended the meeting. She stated most schools in the Caledonia county have a high rate of free and reduced price lunch. She actively connects schools with Hunger Free Vermont. This gives resources to community members by providing meal sites and food shelves in the area.

Hetzelt explained the concept of the backpack program. "In our district we have a lot of schools that are part of the backpack program.  The backpack program is a program that provides a backpack of food for a child for the weekend.  It consists of enough food for six meals, these are meals that a child can prepare. It also includes snacks that the child can pack throughout the week for school.  According to H O P E of Lyndonville, they have over a thousand participants. We also have several schools that have food shelves in the schools."

According to, 64,370 Vermonters do not have regular access to nutritious food. 17,890 Vermont children under the age of 18 live in food insecure households. About 8,000 children participate in summer meal programs. The remaining 31,000 students who rely on school meals during the year may not receive the needed nutrition during the summer. The NEK Hunger Council observed this issue, and created programs for children to receive meals throughout the day.

Lallie Mambourg, the Nutrition Director for the Northeast Kingdom's Council, assists the community by collaborating children and seniors to enjoy each other's company while offering children the chance to eat a nice meal.

The Gilman Senior center has participated in five summers. This program offers children and seniors the chance to enjoy each other's company, while being able to serve lunch to all. Sunrise Manor in Island pond, a participant for the past three years, collaborate with the local library to serve children with fun activities.

Both Gilman and Island Pond's senior centers have offered children meals throughout the summer for many years. During the Hunger Council meeting, it was addressed the principal is hoping to continue to build the intergenerational benefits of students visiting the senior meal site during the school year, instead of just only in the summer.

Mambourg explained, "The folks at the senior centers get a kick out of the kids, and the cook at the Gilman Center, Sue Berry, takes pride in knowing the children's favorite meals. It's such a win-win experience and actually provides additional federal funding to the senior meal programs who continue to struggle along as the Older American Act has remained level-funded for 8 years now."

The next Hunger Council Meeting will be on March 16th.