Soup's on

Wednesday November 7, 2012

Windham County is blessed with a wealth of caring, non-profit ventures. People supported. Some people even get paid to do the kind of work they love.

One of those people is Elizabeth Johnson who has moved from volunteer to executive director at Kids Playce on Elliott Street in Brattleboro. Johnson has the kind of enthusiasm that every organization looks for. Just standing next to her and listening to her talk about the work of Kids Playce makes you want to do everything you can to make sure it keeps going forever.

She is constantly looking to make it a better place. When she gave me a tour recently I couldn't help but walk into the small house and pretend being a 7- or 8-year-old again (Something people who know me think is not much of a stretch.) Local artists such as Sara Adams, Misha Ross and Jason Alden have donated their talents and the walls and displays spark the imagination. I can attest to the fact that the hands-on play things are fun. I especially liked the marimba bench.

Johnson has infused new life into Kids Playce and she hopes to focus on science type projects as she moves ahead. She also wants to consider the needs of the families she serves so that is why she was more than willing to support a request by Megan Stafford to provide a soup and bread meal once a week.

They call it the Cozy Kitchen and anyone in the community can stop by on Thursdays for home-made soup and local bread from 6-8 p.m. just below Hotel Pharmacy on Elliot Street. Stafford makes the soup, but the crew is also looking for others who might be willing to make some soup for the evening. She makes two different soups, one of which is vegetarian.

According to Johnson, the goal of the Cozy Kitchen, in addition to providing some good food, is to build community with all families. As she put it, "We can all come together as family."

It is interesting to note that according to Johnson, 20 percent of the children who come to Kids Playce are from families who can't afford the six dollars a day charge. They do not turn anyone away for lack of money but they do require that children be accompanied by an adult. The upper age limit is 8 years old.

It is good to know that the Kids Playce is trying to expand its mission and consider the needs of families in these difficult economic times. It is sad to realize that there is a need for soup kitchens. In fact, there are a number of places around Brattleboro and Windham County where one can get a free meal and that also includes the Boys and Girls Club which provides family meals on Tuesdays.

The statistics about hunger in this country are appalling. Consider this from the World Hunger Education Service. ?The financial and economic crisis that erupted in 2008 caused a dramatic increase in hunger in the United States. This high level of hunger continues in 2010, according to the latest government report.

"In 2010, 17.2 million households, 14.5 percent of households (approximately one in seven), were food insecure, the highest number ever recorded in the United States. In 2010, about one-third of food-insecure households (6.7 million households, or 5.4 percent of all U.S. households) had very low food security (compared with 4.7 million households (4.1 percent) in 2007. In households with very low food security, the food intake of some household members was reduced, and their normal eating patterns were disrupted because of the household's food insecurity."

"In 2010, children were food insecure at times during the year in 9.8 percent of households with children (3.9 million households.) In one percent of households with children, one or more of the children experienced the most severe food-insecure condition measured by USDA, very low food security, in which meals were irregular and food intake was below levels considered adequate by caregivers The median food-secure household spent 27 percent more on food than the median food-insecure household of the same size and household composition."

Thank you Elizabeth and Megan for your efforts to cut down these horrific numbers. I'm sure that if you call, 802-254-5212 or e-mail: Johnson she would love to talk to you about you might be able to help the mission and make life a little better for some of your friends and neighbors.

Richard Davis is a registered nurse and executive director of Vermont Citizens Campaign for Health. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at


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