Here’s how you can help end 68 hours of hunger

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Each week, Meredith Everett and Tracy Stanek, along with a legion of volunteers, package 500 food bags and deliver to 35 local schools. (Photography: Benjamin Margalit)

By Patricia Nugent

Four years ago, Meredith Everett was sitting on the sofa watching the national news and saw a segment about a program in New Hampshire called End 68 Hours of Hunger.

She was touched by the grassroots effort to end the nearly invisible problem of children who go home hungry every weekend, from the time they eat their free lunch at school on Friday until they eat their free breakfast at school Monday morning.

Here in Lake County, according to the group Feeding America, the food-insecurity rate is at 11.1 percent, or about one in 10 citizens who live in hunger.

Meredith couldn’t get the news segment out of her head. Ironically, at the time, she was orchestrating a school fundraiser with her friend Tracy Stanek for Orchard Hollow Elementary. She shared with her the goals of End 68 Hours of Hunger and they both decided to do something about ending hunger for local students.

“People don’t often think about hunger here in their local towns, but it is here,” says Meredith. “When we consider the families we’re helping, we think to ourselves…these are our neighbors, our children’s schoolmates.”

Stopping Hunger = Better Students
The benefits of ending weekend hunger for students are startling. Research tells us that if you feed these children on the weekends, they have 50 percent higher reading scores, and 50 percent are twice as likely to complete the third grade, which is one of the primary indicators of graduating from high school.

What makes End 68 hours different from other charities is that it’s run solely by volunteers and 100 percent of the funds collected goes to the purchase of food.

Each week, Meredith and Tracy, along with a legion of volunteers, package 500 food bags and deliver to 35 local schools. As the need grows, so, too, does the effort, and the ladies report they will be up to 550 bags by the end of the year.

“Within each bag, we pack enough food to feed the family all weekend: two breakfasts, two lunches, three dinners, and snacks, and try to change up the kid-friendly foods from week to week,” says Tracy.

“For instance, we pack things like veggies, pasta and peanut butter. Some families have dietary restrictions, and we adapt to those. And some families are homeless, so we pack foods that don’t have to be heated and are easy to open.”

Since the program is anonymous—and the ladies have never actually heard anyone say thank you—they fondly recall one day they were speaking at a school and a little boy raised his hand and said he used to receive the weekly bags and how much they enjoyed them.

How You Can Help
Several years after establishing the charity here in Lake County (which is the only one in Ohio and the largest in the country)—finding a home, lacking a paycheck and rising food costs haven’t deterred the determined twosome. This herculean effort forges onward.

“The community has been so supportive of our efforts,” says Meredith.

“LakeHealth donated our space and continues to cover the rent, and there are numerous events throughout the year that support us. The next one is the Bike Run, on Saturday, June 15, in Madison. There are details on our Facebook page.”

Food donations are welcome, and the ladies report they are always in need of non-perishable items such as peanut butter and jelly, mac ‘n cheese, canned fruits and vegetables and granola bars. They also welcome volunteer drivers to help deliver the bags to schools each week.

“We shop at the bulk stores for our food, and it’s a hope of ours to someday partner with a local food purveyor who could donate items,” says Meredith.

End 68 Hours of Hunger Lake County is a 501(c)(3) organization located at 1223 Mentor Avenue in Painesville. Call 440-552-5477 or 440-749-0671 (Tracy). Visit for more information, to make a donation or offer to volunteer. The email address is