MANCHESTER, NH. — In this after-school hangout, you won’t hear the sounds of video games or movies. Instead, the teenagers here are stepping up to help out.
They’ll pack almost 700 hundred meals a week for students whose families cannot afford food.
High school junior Joe Mikol started Fueled By Kids with his sisters. The family project is now feeding students in 20 schools, making sure lunch in the cafeteria isn’t their last meal.
“There is about 90 percent of kids in most of these elementary schools that we're helping, that will report that they don't get food over the weekends,” said Mikol.
The students here partner with counselors and teachers, like Jennifer Gagnon, of Northwest Elementary. Together they make sure no hungry student is overlooked.
“As the kid picks it up and puts it right into their bag, nobody had to ask,” said Gagnon of the Fueled By Kids program. “Instead, it's just there, and what a relief that can be.”
Gagnon witnesses how tough it is to ask for help. The pandemic has forced many parents to ask for their first time.
“Families really, although it's not something that they like to talk about with their pride, but they thank us because sometimes it's hard and especially at that end of the month where it's, ‘Do I keep a roof over their head, or do I get extra food?’” said Gagnon.
It’s not just Fueled By Kids that’s gotten busier during the pandemic. The need for food has skyrocketed across the country.
In 2019, 1 in 6 kids was food insecure, but now, 1 in 4 children doesn’t get a meal every single day.
Teachers in this New Hampshire community said, over the summer, this will only get worse.
“If we have an increase of need just for the weekend, you can imagine a whole summer going without having the two at least two meals here a day,” said Gagnon.
That is why Fueled By Kids is preparing to drop off even more bags at summer camps and schools.
“The need doesn't stop when the school bell rings,” said high schooler and Fueled By Kids volunteer Caitlin Fitzgerald. “The summer is still a time when a lot of kids are happy, but a lot more of them are even more stressed about their food.”
For Gagnon, providing a snack is her small way of nurturing students beyond her classroom.
Because despite her credentials, one title will always come first: mom.
“I have two boys. As a parent, I can't imagine how hard it is for them to make a choice, and I don't think they should have to make a choice, and if we can help them with making one less choice, it makes me feel good,” she said.
It's a goodness that's filling more than empty stomachs.
“We want to help,” said Fitzgerald. "We want to try and make a difference.”
If you’d like to donate to Fueled By Kids and help purchase food for children in need, click HERE.