Rachel’s Table was founded twenty-five year ago as a food rescue organization in Worcester. Volunteers transport donated excess, unused perishable and non-perishable food to thirty five shelters, soup kitchens, day programs, group homes, food pantries, and soup kitchens in Worcester. Rachel’s Table also purchases fruits and vegetables for the summer meal program for children run by Friendly House Neighborhood Center at sites throughout the city. Special individually wrapped foods are provided for the homeless for the Homeless Outreach and Advocacy Program. We are a small grassroots organization that tries to help the hungry wherever we see a need.
Rachel’s Table receives funding from the Fred Harris Daniels Foundation for its Children’s Milk Fund program, which was established in 1992 in response to an urgent need from twenty one of the agencies that work with children and families and do not have the money to provide milk on their own.
The milk is provided free of charge. It is either used within the agency or provided for the child’s family to use at home, depending on the type of program (such as shelter or food pantry). The milk is delivered to each agency once a week throughout the year. Last year approximately 18,000 unduplicated children received milk because of this program.
As economic conditions have deteriorated, the need for this program has increased. When milk isn’t available, sugary, non-nutritious drinks are usually substituted. At present, 95% of the agencies that are part of the Children’s Milk Fund get 80%-100% of the milk that they use from Rachel’s Table. Most of the agencies get all of their milk this way and would not be able to supply milk without this help.
With the price of milk increasing and many years of economic struggles, and recent cuts to the SNAP (food stamp) program, families trying to buy milk have been severely affected. The agencies that help them have also struggled because they are dealing with so many new clients seeking food and milk aid. Food pantry administrators have said that parents are coming to the pantry just to get milk for their children. There have been reports of lines on days when milk is delivered.
Thousands of children go to school hungry every day. This affects their ability to learn and can lead to behavior problems and lifelong health problems. Milk is the primary source of calcium in an American child’s diet. Without including milk in a child’s diet, it is very difficult to meet calcium needs through food alone, especially for children in a family that can’t afford to provide a nutritious diet.
In a January, 2014 survey of mothers with children receiving milk from Rachel’s Table, 28% of the mothers, not living in a shelter, said that there were days in the month when there was no food in their house. All of these mothers said that their children were better nourished because of the milk that they receive. 72% of the children enrolled in Worcester public schools are eligible for free or reduced meals. 20.9% of families in Worcester live below the poverty line. 16.9% of families experience food hardship.
Photos courtesy of Rachel’s Table
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