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True Stories

Beyond Food: Pantries Offer Respect and Comfort

Every Thursday morning in Johnston, St. Robert's Food Closet sees a steady stream of residents who depend on this food pantry to fill the gaps in their food budget. If you didn't know them personally, it would be hard to tell the client from the volunteer. They are all part of a community that is trying to make its way through hard times.

"I was doing good, back when I was working full time," said Michelle Leone, single mother of a 16-year-old daughter. "I lost my house. I'm going to have to move out of Johnston if I don't find a job soon. The food pantry is a great help to me and my daughter. The non-food items help, too."

Pictured here with Michelle (left) is Joanne Miele (right), co-director of St. Robert's Food Closet, one of 178 member agencies of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. They serve more than 400 Johnston residents every month. Their shelves are filled with healthy, non-perishable foods, fresh produce, and basic health and beauty products like toothpaste.

Standing in line with Michelle that day was Rudolph "Rudy" Cardillo, a lifelong resident of Johnston.

"We were better off 50 years ago," said 86-year-old Rudy (pictured right). "If you had a couple of dollars in your pocket, you had something. Now, even $200 won't get you much." This World War II veteran relies on his visit to the food pantry to keep food on the table.

"When Rudy's not here, we worry about him," said Joanne. "We've seen a steady increase in seniors over the last two years. It's very disheartening to hear their stories. They just can't make ends meet, between the price of heating oil, medications and food. Many of them don't have family around. These are people who have worked all their lives. Some of them used to donate here. We try to make them comfortable."

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