Scenic New Hampshire – Statewide ideas on how to spend your next New Hampshire vacation. Travel Ideas, Lodging, and year-round activities for your enjoyment in New Hampshire.

Img 0652Keeping New Hampshire food pantries stocked is an ongoing, collaborative effort. This year, the need has become more urgent.

According to the NH Food Alliance, about 1 in 6 households around the state is food-insecure. This describes families who don’t have enough to eat and who aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from. Alarmingly, that rate is nearly 2.5 times higher than at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nancy Mellitt, the New Hampshire Food Bank director of development, says the current economic situation in the state and the rising cost of groceries have made it even tougher to put food on the table.

“The cost of groceries has gone up. The cost of rent and fuel have gone up. So I would anticipate that there are more people that are having a difficult time,” says Mellitt.

To help out, the New Hampshire Magazine’s Meals of Thanks program is again partnering with the New Hampshire Food Bank, New England’s Tap House Grille and local sponsors to bring additional meals to struggling families this holiday season.

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, the staff at New England’s Tap House Grille delivered 1,500 packaged, frozen meals — a selection of turkey dinners, stuffed shells and stir fry dishes — to the New Hampshire Food Bank. The meals will be distributed through the food bank’s mobile food pantry in Gorham on Thursday, Dec. 21.

Mellitt says Meals of Thanks is a popular undertaking at the food bank.

“We are very pleased with the Meals program. People love to receive those meals,” says Mellitt, who adds that as many as 400 families visit each mobile food pantry.

New England Tap House Grille co-owner Dan Lagueux realizes that food insecurity won’t be solved by this one undertaking, but hopes to make more people aware of the crisis.

Kjb 8859

New England’s Tap House Grille owner Dan Legueux. Photo by Kendal J. Bush

“This is a drop in the bucket. I’m not going to save the world with just one small action like this. But if I can influence other people to think that ‘we have a responsibility as human beings to be kind to each other,’ because overall we’re all part of the same batch here,” Lagueux says.

Josh Auger, advertising sales manager for New Hampshire Magazine, started Meals of Thanks in 2020, when the pandemic forced many restaurants to shutter or pivot to take-out-only meals. At that time, the focus was to thank nurses for their hard work and dedication during an unprecedented medical emergency.

“They dealt with the sick and dying every day, at great personal risk to themselves and their families,” says Auger.

He vividly remembers one nurse who couldn’t pick up her young child at home until she could safely store her work clothes in garbage bags and shower off potential pathogens.

“Our nurses were truly heroes working on the front lines,” Auger adds.

Since the food bank, the Taphouse, sponsor Harvard Pilgrim and New Hampshire Magazine already had a longstanding relationship, joining forces to address this need through Meals of Thanks was an easy choice to make.

After a successful meal distribution in May, 2020, during National Nurses Month, Auger says everyone has happily continued the partnership.

“We’ve served meals to nurses each May, we’ve worked with the Manchester VA Medical Center to serve meals in honor of Veterans Day, and we’ve worked with the Food Bank to provide holiday meals for families in need,” says Auger.

Kjb 8931

Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Now, three years into the program, they’ve streamlined the process, preparing, freezing, and delivering meals for distribution over several days.

Preparing 1,500 meals is no easy feat, but Lagueux and his staff are up to the task, says Auger.

“The real work is the meal preparation, which is completely handled by Dan’s staff at the Taphouse. Once the meals are packaged, labeled, and frozen, Dan, myself, and a handful of his staff will load them up and transport them to the Food Bank,” Auger says.

Throughout the year, Meals of Thanks and participating organizations are thinking about how to ease food insecurity in New Hampshire.

“Recently, we delivered meals to veterans and their families, all of whom had been previously homeless, but are now working toward a better life here in the Granite State,” says Auger.

Since its inception, Meals of Thanks continues to gain attention and sponsors.

“Since we started the program, Northeast Delta Dental has joined Harvard Pilgrim as an underwriter. This holiday season, additional businesses came on board as well, including Cicely Beston Interior Designs, the Currier Museum, Eaton & Berube Insurance, Franklin Pierce University, Hutter Construction Corp., New Hampshire Federal Credit Union, and Sheehan Phinney law firm,” confirms Auger.

For Lagueux, helping others is simply the right thing to do.

Img 0643

1,500 meals were prepped and delivered by the team at New England’s Tap House Grille this December.

“When you have the opportunity to have abundance in your life, you have a choice and responsibility to actually listen to your heart. I’ve always been told that if you have too much, or even when you don’t have too much, you should always think of other people that have a little bit less than you,” Lagueux says.

Meals of Thanks operates twice a year, but Auger is open to keeping it sustainable year-round – it just comes down to who can lend a hand.

“We just need local businesses who’d be willing to help fund these programs. If businesses are willing to support things like this, I’m happy to do the leg work. We’ve been doing this for a few years now, and each time I’m reminded how lucky I am to live in a state whose business community’s remarkable generosity allows us to help those in need,” Auger says.

Lagueux agrees.

“I’m hoping that I can actually influence my friends, my family, my co-workers, my competitors to do the same so that we live in a better place. My goal is to make everyone not have to worry about their next meal because they’re down and out in their luck. Hopefully it gives a little cheerful spirit,” adds Lagueux.

Categories: Food & Drink, People