WASHINGTON, January 28, 2021 – Hunger in this country has spiked dramatically as a result of the public health and economic fallout of COVID-19 but data released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that things would be far worse if not for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and child nutrition programs. We applaud President Biden for his recent actions to address hunger and Congress for taking steps last year in the right direction. Yet both the administration and Congress must make greater strides to ensure millions of struggling households get the nutrition they need and hasten economic recovery.https://frac.org/news/usdadatasnapcncritical01282021
October 1, 2020 – Attorney Laura Milliken has joined NH Hunger Solutions (NHHS) – the leading organization advocating to end childhood hunger – as its new Executive Director.
Attorney Milliken has advocated for New Hampshire people in need throughout her career, including improving the lives of young children and their families.
Prior to joining NH Hunger Solutions, she was Director of Spark NH, the early childhood advisory council for the state. Over the course of a 9 year tenure, she raised over $1.5 million in grant funds; oversaw the creation of the first NH Comprehensive Strategic Plan for early childhood and led public awareness campaigns. Attorney Milliken represented Spark NH on various committees, including the Legislative Wellness and Primary Prevention Council and Lead Poisoning Prevention Stakeholder Group.
Prior to Spark NH, she provided legal counsel to low income clients across a range of civil legal matters, including parenting, guardianship, divorce and other areas of family law.
Before this, attorney Milliken improved policy for domestic violence victims as Facilitator of the NH District Court Domestic Violence Coordinating Councils. In this role, she supported local interdisciplinary councils across the state to better serve victims of domestic violence. She helped draft legislation, testified in support in the Legislature and planned statewide training.
Attorney Milliken began her career as a staff attorney for NH Legal Assistance in Berlin and Claremont, NH.
She earned her Juris Doctor from Boston University School of Law and a Bachelor degree from Barnard College, Columbia University.
According to NH Hunger Solutions chairperson and former Executive Director Elaine Van Dyke, attorney Milliken now brings strong leadership and advocacy skills to address hunger in New Hampshire.
“Laura brings proven, deeply relevant experience to a still pervasive social cause. Her passion advocating for people in need, including children and families, will enable our organization to reach an even higher level of positive impact in the Granite State. Having diligently searched for the optimal candidate, our Board of Directors welcomes her with great enthusiasm and promise.”
Commenting on her new role as Executive Director, attorney Milliken said, “While NH does relatively well on average on measures of child wellness, there are far too many children and families who are hungry in our state and the COVID-19 economic crisis is worsening these numbers. I am excited for the opportunity to make a difference for hungry children and families in New Hampshire.”
NH Hunger Solutions is the only statewide organization advocating for an end to childhood hunger in New Hampshire. To learn more, please visit its website and social media:
On November 14, 2019, Hannaford Supermarkets announced a $185,150 donation to New Hampshire Hunger Solutions that will allow the non-profit organization to establish food pantries in about a dozen schools throughout the Granite State. The announcement was made at Raymond High School with students, educators and administrators in attendance, as well as representatives from Hannaford and NH Hunger Solutions Board members.
The donation is one component of an overall $1 million commitment from Hannaford through its new “Fuel Kids for School” initiative, which is designed to directly address food insecurity and improve access to fresh and healthy food across the northeast. In partnership with area hunger relief organizations, Hannaford will establish, over two years, 90 school food pantries across NH and other northeast states.
Intending to serve as a vital and convenient resource to students and families in need while also increasing access to healthy and nutritious food, the in-school pantries are dedicated spaces where students can select food they enjoy based on their preferences and cooking abilities to provide nourishment both during and after the school day.
During the announcement, Elaine Van Dyke from NH Hunger Solutions said she expected resources targeted at establishing about a dozen school-based food pantries in high schools and potentially another school pantry at a community college in NH. She said, “Prosperity hides poverty and as a state, we must be proud of New Hampshire’s prosperity for it is this prosperity that puts us in a perfect position to tackle our hidden poverty and hunger.”
My Turn: Unpaid meal charges and the shaming of students
The following op-ed appeared in the Concord Monitor on September 3, 2019
Unpaid school meal charges are not a new problem. For years, food service staff helped students who forgot their lunch money. Sometimes it was the teacher who stepped in or another staff member. This has been going on for years. I can attest that as a first-grade student in West Virginia, I forgot my lunch money and the school refused to serve me lunch. I cried, and my older sister was called to the principal’s office to calm me down. Problem solved, sister to the rescue. However, I never forgot the feeling of embarrassment. That meal cost 25 cents.
Meal charging occurs because students do not have funds in their account. This happens for many reasons. However, the end result of meal charging is that administrations discover charging contributes to the school’s unallowable debt dilemma. Students are on the receiving end of frustrated staff, and staff are not always sure what to do. Often meals do not qualify for federal or state reimbursements (failed alternative meal). These unintended consequences have not been good for any party.
The upsetting part is that schools are finding more students are hungry with no funds, and food service is often confused about what they should do when a student is staring at them. Occasionally, a student may be the recipient of inappropriate responses to the lack of funds. And this target is misplaced. Students are not the solvers of this problem. When corrective steps are not in place, the loss of funds is a double whammy. And the vulnerable student loses.
Rarely are regulations easy to understand or execute. And in this case, accepting the charging of meals with poor procedures or giving alternative unqualified meals are not solutions to the issue. There is no financial or social reason to serve an unqualified meal, when the object is to feed the student and receive the most funds for that meal. It must only be the reimbursable meal. This is not a conversation about a la carte choices.
By federal law, charges to school food service accounts may not be recovered from USDA federal funds. Without a policy the school loses the charged funds, and reimbursable funds if an unqualified meal is served, or may find they are discriminating against a group of students by offering only an alternate meal. There are solutions.
Start with this premise: Food service policies come from collaborative local work. Currently, schools receive training from numerous sources, including the New Hampshire Department of Education, the leading regulatory authority for USDA meal programs. An important aspect of any policy is the inclusion of state statute RSA 189:11a III, which states all students must have access to a healthy school lunch, that parents will be informed of the policy, and that no student will be subjected to different treatment from the standard school meal or by any school procedures.
Following this state law should relieve schools of issues of shaming and discrimination. Thanks to former state senator Molly Kelly for sponsoring and former governor Maggie Hassan for signing.
The question remains: How do schools solve the existing debt and future debt? With the development of local solutions. A financial policy should be drafted by local school stakeholders, such as food service, business offices and the community. The group will develop a debt policy that includes setting charging limits with procedures for covering costs; closely monitor student and food service balances; and inform parents in a meaningful way. It will identify school supporters who might set up funds to assist with balances. These proactive steps will help manage the charges that may occur.
There are great best practices in New Hampshire among organizations and individuals, such as nonprofits and PTAs, that are applying their fundraising skills to the task. Some schools have added a line item to the district budget, and there are student-run organizations whose mission is to raise money to support meal charges. Some groups have a debit card system for students.
Solutions must be reviewed to ensure they are working. There is no gold card standard in any of these solutions. But they all represent the voice of the school community. When people are a part of the solution, the outcomes are more often great solutions.
Schools will also improve their food service accounting by quickly implementing Senate Bill 82, the breakfast bill signed by Gov. Chris Sununu. Each student who has reduced-priced meal eligibility will receive breakfast for free. Parents will not have to decide between paying for lunch or breakfast. All of us in the hunger arena are grateful for this legislation.
(Elaine VanDyke is the board chairman of NH Hunger Solutions.)
NH Hunger Solutions plays instrumental role in HB82 being signed into law; will provide free breakfasts to low income students
July 30, 2019 – NH Hunger Solutions provided pivotal advocacy and research assistance in securing approval for HB82 which ensures students who are eligible for reduced cost school breakfasts get it at no cost through state and federal funds. HB82 was passed by the Senate on March 7 and signed into law by Governor Sununu July 30.
NH Hunger Solutions’ Elaine Van Dyke was a key advocate behind the legislation, attending all hearings, speaking with legislators and providing bi-partisan leadership.
The reduced price was formerly $0.30 per meal; advocates said when totaled for an entire school year, this was prohibitive for poor families with multiple kids.
“They often found themselves in the position of having to decide: Do I give them the money for lunch or do I give them the money for breakfast? Usually breakfast fell through the crack,” Van Dyke said.
The program is anticipated to reach about 7,500 students next year. It will be covered mostly by federal reimbursements – about $2 million – and by about $350,000 from the state.
“This bill makes sure all eligible kids will have access to a healthy breakast, fully funding it for low income children in public schools. By no longer charging low-income families, this will help school districts tackle the growing problem of families’ unpaid lunch and breakfast debt,” Van Dyke said.
NH Hunger Solutions worked with several partners in getting the bill passed including NH Legal Aid; NH New Futures; School Nutrition Association and the American Heart Association. Senator Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth) was an instrumental force behind the bill.
HB82 was introduced in January, 2019. Nine hearings were held before the bill crossed over from the House to the NH Senate. This process included review and discussion within the Senate’s education and finance committees. Van Dyke testified the bill would positively impact local communities because by not having to pay for meals, families would have a little more money to purchase other needed goods and services.