by Sarah Harpster, New Hampshire Bulletin
July 12, 2023
KEENE – Later this month, The Community Kitchen in Keene will be welcoming our hot meals guests back into our dining hall for the first time since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic challenged everyone, including our guests and volunteers, and social isolation was especially corrosive. Sitting down and breaking bread as a community is a core value of this organization. Handing out meals in plastic take-out containers, while necessary during COVID, made it hard to build fellowship and community with our guests.
The Community Kitchen’s return to in-person dining on July 24 comes at a time when the need for supplemental meals and groceries for our state’s most vulnerable residents is greater than ever. Rising food costs, the expiration of federal food-related social programs, climate change, global conflict, and other threats to our increasingly complex food supply share responsibility for this.
Forty years ago, a group of college students, professors, church mission committee members, political activists, and civic group members launched The Community Kitchen to help serve meals and provide groceries to neighbors who were challenged to afford enough food in the Monadnock Region. The hope then was that someday food insecurity would be eliminated and our organization and others like it would no longer be needed.
Sadly, that day has not yet come, nor does it appear to be on the near-term horizon. That means it’s important for New Hampshire communities and residents to do their part to make our regional food system more resilient, this summer and beyond.
Here are a few ways for residents and food pantries to do that:Make sure local governments are financially supporting food pantries. Without local food pantries like The Community Kitchen, local government would have to figure out how to meet these gaps in their residents’ basic needs. This is our expertise, and thankfully local leaders recognize that. But, our costs are going up, and support from municipalities should reflect that. Continue supporting local charities, such as the United Way. The era of the large anchor employer has passed and support for annual United Way drives has been on a downward trend. Remote workers should make an effort to contribute to the United Way to support food security and other important regional causes. We are the grateful recipients of a three-year $285,000 Monadnock United Way grant to oversee an effort by eight area food pantries aimed at improving food security in the Monadnock region. Donate to your local food pantry or volunteer to work there. We can use your help more than ever. The Community Kitchen is marking its 40th anniversary with a $40 for 40 Years fundraiser. The $40,000 goal will help cover rising food costs and reduced food donations against a backdrop of increased need. Use social media to keep informed – and inform others – about persistent food insecurity in the Granite State. Following food pantries on social media and spreading the news about food drives, fundraisers, and programs can help raise awareness and support. Advocate for food security by collaborating with other social service agencies, area municipalities, donors, and nonprofits to help eliminate hunger in the area.
There are so many more threats to food supply stability today than there were 40 years ago. While doing the front-line work of hot meals and grocery distribution, we’re also seeking to make our regional food system more resilient by building networks and collaboration. Together we can build an equitable food system that nourishes everyone.
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