Category Archives: Hunger

Aetna at the Weekend Backpack Program

Aetna NotesThe 275 children who participate in our Weekend Nutrition Program must have been pleasantly surprised when they opened their green backpacks to find the usual suspects and then some. Raisins. Pretzels. Cheese & Crackers. An extra pudding. A fruit cup. Oh my.
When Aetna’s Learning & Performance for Sales and Underwriting contacted Engagement about a team-building community service project a couple of months back, they were immediately drawn to our Backpack Program. On November 28th, nearly 30 employees arrived via school bus to South Church ready to pack 300 bags with kid-friendly foods over a 2-hour period. The company made a $3,000 donation towards the purchase of the food (2 breakfast items, 2 lunch items, snacks, drinks, etc.); this contribution afforded Hands On Hartford the ability to purchase the staple products along
with the extras.
The emploAetna Group Shotyee volunteers formed two lines on either side of the fully stocked assembly tables. At the end of the assembly line, the employees went to the note writing station to pick up inspirational hand written note-cards that their colleagues prepared to include in each child’s sack. Each volunteer had an opportunity to write cards and pack bags. The room was filled with laughs, festive music, a friendly competitive spirit and lots and lots of bags. During the project, we also took small groups down to tour the newly revamped food pantry. The volunteers were genuinely excited about the pantry and even asked great questions such as “when you get new packs of meat weekly, do you turnover thAetna Bags and Signe older content?”
The sales team finished packing the bags well within the 2 hours. They were uber efficient and energetic – one employee even commented on how much time it took him to complete a bag and wondered what the record was. After the bags were completed the team headed downstairs to a more intimate space for a reflection activity. When asked what is one word that you would use to describe today’s experience…many uttered grateful and blessed. We were also joined by two sixth grade students from Grace Academy who shared their thoughts on the Weekend Nutrition Program. They both commented that their absolute favorite food item in the bags are……you guessed it – “Goldfish.”
The reflection was two-folAetna Lined: a time to reflect and a time to celebrate as it was the birthday of two of the employees. Everyone, including the invited students were able to partake in the celebration and cake. At the end of the reflection, employees continued to ask great questions and even expressed interest in returning with their children to pack bags. The employees also collected a cash donation for the Backpack Program prior to departing. It was truly an afternoon well spent. Aetna’s Learning & Performance for Sales and Underwriting truly went above and beyond with their contribution of financial resources, man-hours and enthusiasm. Thank you Aetna for bringing smiles and much needed meals to the children we serve!

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Keeping Peace of Mind

Question: How many pounds of food do you think it takes to feed a room full of 100 people for one lunch time?

Answer: 25 lbs of pasta, 15 lbs of sauce and 100 pieces of bread

On an average week day we see between 100- 150 clients for lunch. That is anywhere between 500 to 750 people a week.

People from all walks of life need extra assistance today. Not only needing food stamps to help keep food in their pantries, but also an extra free meal or two to make sure they are getting the nutrients they need and for peace of mind. They know they can come to Community Meals for lunch knowing that they may not have another meal that day.

The MANNA Community Meals program here at HOH is struggling to help keep that peace of mind. The shelves are looking bare, we haven’t been able to provide variety for our clients nor have we been able to give the portion size that we would like. Monday’s, guests used to count on CM to have chicken as the meal – we haven’t been able to serve chicken on a Monday in weeks. Our food supply, along with other soup kitchens in the area is dwindling. Our needs for fresh meats and produce cannot be met simply because the demand is so high. Soup kitchens are running out of staples like pasta, pasta sauce and rice.

We are not only looking to the community for help, we are looking to create awareness. To better address this issue and better serve the people of Hartford who need this service.

Wish list: (quantities need to accommodate 150 people)

  1. Fresh Meat (chicken, beef)
  2. Fresh Produce
  3. Pasta and pasta sauce
  4. Napkins
  5. Cups
  6. Desert plates

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Who can Collect the most Food for the Community Pantry?

We are hoping you will get involved with Hands On Hartford this summer to help stock shelves in our new Community Pantry! As the renovations are getting close to being finished, we want to start filling to shelves with an abundance of food for our clients.

We have designated the last week of each month for easy drop offs of your donations.

The first drop off will be August 27-30 between 9:30 am and 5:00pm. Call to make an appointment. 860- 246-6757.

For other pick up dates call 860-728-3201 or be on the look out on our Facebook and Twitter. OR

Great Food Drive Ideas to Stock Shelves at our Community Pantry:

  1. Get Competitive: Challenge departments in your office, classes in school, or your neighbors to collect the most food during your designated time frame.
  2. Hold a Drive at a Grocery Store: Get people when they are shopping already to give a canned good or other ‘wish list’ item since they are already there!
  3. Have a Targeted Drive: Have people focus on a few staples for the pantry; rice, pasta, PB&J to make sure that the supply of the most wanted items can stay stocked!

Wish List:

  1. Pasta
  2. Pasta sauce
  3. Peanut Butter & Jelly
  4. Tuna
  5. Rice
  6. Soup
  7. Canned mixed fruit
  8. Canned beans
  9. Cereal
  10. Toiletries

Facts about our Community Pantry:

  • Since the beginning of 2012, we have served 126 first time households at Community Pantry
  • In June alone, we served 520 un-duplicated households
  • Total food distribution for 2012: 41,602 lbs
  • Total food donations for 2012: 5,141 from generous supporters of HOH (Thanks!)

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Appetite for Change – Let the Change Begin

   We are excited to announce that our MANNA Community Pantry (formally known as Assistance & Advocacy) is renovating to a full shopping model. This new model will provide more nutritious food options, nutrition education – such as providing recipes and cooking demonstrations, and provide more formalized case management services.

A full shopping model food pantry gives our clients the ability to shop by wandering through assorted aisles, giving them options to best meet their family’s nutritional and cultural needs.


  • 1 person at a time
  • Partial choice of groceries
  • Less nutrition education
  • Not enough time for case management services
  • Occasional volunteer interaction


  • 4 to 5 people at a time
  • Full choice of groceries
  • More Nutrition education such as recipes and cooking demonstrations
  • Ability to help more people with case management services
  • More client-volunteer interaction

Imagine not being able to quickly run to the grocery store to pick up items for dinner. Donate the items  for this recipe so another family can enjoy this delicious meal! 

Campbell’s Kitchen Easy Recipe:

Source: Campbell’s Kitchen

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Makes: 5 servings (about 2 cups each)


1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into cubes

1 jar (24 ounces) Prego® Chunky Garden Tomato, Onion & Garlic Italian Sauce

2 small zucchini, sliced (about 2 cups)

6 cups hot cooked thin spaghetti

Grated Parmesan cheese


  • Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until it’s browned. Remove the chicken from the skillet. Pour off any fat.
  • Stir the sauce and zucchini in the skillet and heat to a boil. Return the chicken to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the zucchini is tender. Serve over the spaghetti. Sprinkle with the cheese.

Appetite for Change is our summer and fall initiative to help fund the renovation and to start filling the shelves with more nutritious options for our clients. Be on the look out for ‘Save the Date’ cards for our fundraiser in November!

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Filed under Events, Hunger