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Food Bank Marks 30th Anniversary

Providence Journal
May 9, 2012

FUNDRAISER

Food bank marks 30th anniversary

R.I. Community Food Bank has outgrown 2 locations since it opened in 1982

By KAREN LEE ZINER JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
PROVIDENCE –– Three decades ago, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank opened its first warehouse with the cutting of a black ribbon wrapped around cases of canned goods. The nonprofit agency has since outgrown that warehouse, and another, distributing millions upon millions of pounds of food as it strives to end hunger in Rhode Island. On Wednesday, at its 30th Anniversary Luncheon, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank is honoring those who have helped along the way, from warehouse volunteers who sort cans and cabbages and farmers who donate fresh-picked produce, to Boy Scouts and letter carriers who organize yearly food drives, to businesses that donate food by the truckload. From the school child who gives a can of peas, to the grant agencies and private donors who help underwrite operations, to the soup kitchens that serve the food.

Some 700 people are expected to attend Wednesday’s $100-a-ticket luncheon fundraiser at the Rhode Island Convention Center. There are no tickets left. Andrew Schiff, the agency’s CEO, says the 30 years have been marked by both an increased need, and an “increased involvement of the community in the issue of hunger
, and providing food assistance.” He adds, “I think we were only able to deal with this massive increase in need in the last five years because of this incredible spirit of generosity over the years that developed in the community, and a network of agencies all across the state that are working together.” The world’s first food bank opened in Arizona in 1967. The movement spread worldwide. The Rhode Island Community Food Bank opened in 1982 in Providence, and a year later opened its first food-distribution warehouse on Allens Avenue. It moved to a larger facility in West Warwick in 1988; and to its current location, at 200 Niantic Ave. in Providence, in 2003. The Food Bank warehouse occupies 35,000 square feet.

The number of people served since by the Food Bank’s member agencies has grown from 38,000 per month in 2008 to more than 60,000 per month now, Schiff said. Last year alone, the Food Bank distributed 9.4 million pounds of food to member agencies. Those include food pantries, meal sites, shelters and transitional housing facilities throughout the state, as well as non-emergency service providers such as group homes, after-school, daycare and senior center programs. Wednesday’s keynote speaker is chef Jeff Henderson, who rose from poverty, drug-dealing and imprisonment in California to executive chef at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. kziner@providencejournal.com (401) 277-7375