By Dacey Zouzas
Imagine the child sitting next to your child on the bus who doesn’t have enough food to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Operation Nourish is a program of the Merrimack Valley Food Bank that addresses hunger among Lowell public schoolchildren by providing nutritious food for students to take home over the weekends and school vacations.
The program provides Lowell public school students with either a bag of food to take home twice a month or a box of healthy snacks and beverages to enjoy when hungry at school. These snacks include granola bars, fruit cups, pop-tarts, soups, peanut butter crackers, and plenty of other food items that have been generously donated.
The bags children take home over the weekends and school vacations include milk, cereal, juice, applesauce, fruit cups, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti with spaghetti sauce, and crackers that have all been purchased from Market Basket on Fletcher Street in Lowell.
More than 600 children benefit from MVFB’s Operation Nourish program. Seven schools receive drop-offs twice a month of bags for children to take home over the weekend and vacations. An additional seven schools receive 35 pound boxes once a month to provide children with snacks at school.
A total of 13 schools participate in our Operation Nourish program.
The Morey School receives 77 bags, the Robinson School receives 20 bags, Rogers School receives 70 bags, Washington School receives 5 bags, Lincoln School receives 149 bags, the Greenhalge School receives 90 bags and the Moody School receives 200.
Other schools included in our program are Stoklosa, Lowell High School Freshman Academy, Lowell High School Career Academy, which receives monthly drop-offs, B.R.I.D.G.E. program, and the McAuliffe and Literacy Lab.
MVFB team member Tammie Dubois is our Operation Nourish Program coordinator. Tammie is from Lowell, and first started at MVFB as a volunteer for nine months back in 2010. Now she is a full-time employee, single mother of three children, and recently became a young grandmother. Hunger was no stranger to Tammie. When laid off from her previous job, Tammie and her family struggled with food insecurity, and received help from several food pantries.
The hardships endured by Tammie and her family are a true testament of her perseverance to continue to help others, not only for the MVFB, but throughout the communities. When asked what inspires her on a daily basis, Tammie says she “feels from the inside, always wants to help others, and always knows that there is someone out there more in need.”
Dacey Zouzas is director of development for the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, Inc. (MVFB), which operates eight food programs that benefit low-income individuals and families who lack the financial resources to purchase sufficient quantities of nutritious foods while struggling to pay other household expenses. For information about MVFB, call 978-454-7272 or visit www.mvfb.org.