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Published in the Providence Journal on May 25, 2022
As we approach the end of the school year, students from elementary to high school are preparing for final exams. They are hoping for high marks. The best students like to show how much they’ve learned.
What if we asked children to grade us, the adults, on how we’re meeting their basic needs?
One in four households with children in Rhode Island are food insecure, meaning they struggle to afford adequate food. To feed their children, thousands of parents seek food assistance each month at food pantries that are member agencies of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.
If it were not for COVID-19 relief measures passed by Congress, the prevalence of food insecurity would be even higher. Government programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT), National School Lunch and Breakfast, and the Child Tax Credit provided critical aid that prevented widespread hunger.
The question is how much have we learned in the past two years? Let’s see:
The good news is that we have a chance to improve our grades.
In September, the White House will host a Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. This is an opportunity to advocate for SNAP benefit levels to match the real cost of food and for P-EBT benefits to become a regular part of every summer.
In Rhode Island, we can follow the example of Maine and California and make school meals free for all students. And we can urge our Congressional Delegation to work with their colleagues to reinstate the expanded Child Tax Credit for low-income families.
No child should go hungry in Rhode Island and no child needs to. This is one problem that we know how to solve. It’s up to us, the adults, to do better.
Bella, a trained chef, knows the importance of stretching a food budget for big families like hers and that sometimes you just need a little extra help. As a guest of Westbay Marketplace, Bella had a lifeline when she needed food assistance. As a volunteer, she supports her community members as only someone who has walked in their shoes can.
“I first came to Westbay because I needed some food, and they were very helpful. I asked if I could volunteer after that,” Bella shared. “I love coming here – the people are absolutely wonderful. The staff make you feel at home, like one big family. When I talk to guests at Westbay, I want them to feel that same sense of family.”
As a mom of 7, Bella knows how hard it can be to feed a family on a limited budget.
“I’m a single mother and I raised them all by myself. There were times that I depended on food pantries. I know what it’s like to have the electricity shut off – to have to make the choice to feed my seven children or let go of my lights. I didn’t have any backup. I had to get food, so I took my babies to the food pantry. It was tough back then and I had to learn how to stretch whatever food that was given to me.”
Bella sees many of the pantry guests at Westbay going through hardships that she can relate to. “When I look around and see what we have in the Marketplace, in my mind I’m thinking back to my training as a chef, and how I can help someone stretch what they have until they get their next paycheck,” she shared.
She saw an opportunity to leverage both her culinary skills and her lived experience to help others who were coming to the Marketplace for food assistance. “When I stared volunteering, lots of people were asking what different vegetables were, or how they could cook them. I educated them in how they could do it. Recently, I was asked how you could stretch the pulled pork available here for a family of four, so I explained to them about some of our latest fresh veggies and how you could throw everything into the crockpot to make a stew. I help people with how to budget their meals, and share recipes,” she said.
“It’s those chain reactions that start here,” shared Joslyn, director of social services for Westbay CAP, which houses Westbay Marketplace. “Bella needed food, so she stepped into this pantry, we welcomed her, and now she’s paying it forward. A family that she gives recipes or tips to might pass it along to someone they know. It’s great when folks come back in and volunteer and share their talents with us.”
Bella hopes to continue to support families at Westbay for as long she can. “You’re on the front line here. You’re seeing someone smile when things are so tough. People leave with a full belly and all of this fresh food. They have one less worry because of this food pantry.”
A Healthy Recipe That Goes A Long Way
Bella uses ingredients and pantry staples readily available at Westbay Marketplace and all 150 of our member agencies. Check out her recipe for Slow Cooker Veggie-Packed Pulled Pork here.
“We’re really serving gap families — people who fall through the cracks. There’s at least one parent working but they’re struggling with their mortgage or rent and car payments and other expenses. It’s really hard for them.”
Cameron Kadek coordinates a food pantry in Warwick specifically focused on families with school-aged children so she sees firsthand the impact of the pandemic on parents and kids.
She also said that people are surprised when she talks about the need for food assistance in a working-class city like Warwick. Even with government assistance, working families have suffered such significant financial losses during the pandemic that they can’t afford adequate food and must rely on pantries.
“People who earn their living on tips have been really affected, whether they work in the beauty industry or restaurants and bars. They just can’t earn enough to keep up with the bills. It’s really a terrible situation.”
Living on a fixed income due to their disabilities, Chucky and Andrina have relied on the Bread of Life Food Pantry at the Newman Congregational Church in Rumford for several years. The pantry is a lifeline for them.
Chucky shared, “I walk with a cane, and I’ve been coming here for a few years now. I have a fixed income, being on disability, which my wife is on too. We need to stretch what we have, and so we come here to get food.”
Like many older Americans with limited resources, the assistance they receive at the food pantry is critical to their long-term health and wellness.
Don’t go back to normal, Rhode Island
Read the Opinion piece from Rhode Island Community Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff recently published in The Providence Journal. In it, Schiff highlights the lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic that will help us address food insecurity for years to come. We must not forget the ways we came together as a community to help one another get through this crisis.
Although we can’t meet in person yet, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank brought together our member agencies virtually to show them our appreciation for their hard work throughout the COVID pandemic. These pantries and meal sites are truly on the front lines of the food distribution system, ensuring that Rhode Islanders in need have access to healthy food. Five agencies each received a $1,000 grant for modeling best practices:
Visit our website to check our our Spotlight on Member Agencies.
After a federally funded emergency food program ended last fall, local farms and the Food Bank pushed forward in groundbreaking new partnerships. ecoRI News recently highlighted the collaborative efforts of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and our partners Farm Fresh RI, Hope’s Harvest and Franklin Farm Community Garden.
We recently brought together some of the Food Bank’s community partners to discuss ways that we’re working together to get fresh produce to neighbors in need. Our panel discussion featured:
To learn how you can volunteer at a local farm, click here.
View our previously recorded panel discussion here.
Learn how the staff adapted their approach during the pandemic.
You’ll see how they continued to encourage young people to enjoy nutritious foods and make choices that develop healthy habits to last a lifetime.
View our previously recorded Town Hall.
Thanks to our Congressional delegation, led by Senator Reed, for supporting the American Rescue Plan that will be life-changing and lifesaving for thousands of families who have been the most harmed by COVID-19.
Watch the clip from WPRI 12 News.
Participants include Mario Bueno, Executive Director of Progreso Latino and Angelo Garcia, Founder/Executive Director of the Segue Institute for Learning, two member agencies of the Food Bank serving this community.
It’s been more than a year since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Rhode Island. Our economy was upended, leaving thousands of our neighbors out of work, unsure where to turn for support.
We immediately saw an increase in demand for food assistance as the newly unemployed reached out to the Food Bank and its member agencies, many for the first time.
We responded quickly and with safety in mind, ramping up the acquisition and distribution of food, which was not without difficulties as the supply chain struggled to keep up. We also invested in our network of agencies working on the frontlines.
Some communities were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and faced hunger and economic devastation at higher levels. We targeted greater food resources to those hardest-hit zip codes across the state.
We could not have met the challenges of the pandemic without you.
From the onset of the crisis, the Food Bank witnessed a tremendous outpouring of support that continues today. Our community stepped up to meet the challenge of providing nutritious food to Rhode Islanders in need. We are humbled by your generosity and concern for your neighbors.
We know we have a long road ahead. The Food Bank and its member agencies are committed to meeting the increased demand for food assistance throughout the crisis and recovery.
We move into the second year of this pandemic not knowing how long we will have to maintain our work at this level, but confident that we can count on you to ensure that no one in Rhode Island goes hungry.
COVID-19 Response Continues
Over the past year, so many generous Rhode Islanders responded to the increased demand for food assistance in our community by supporting the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.
Our latest Impact Report shows the huge difference they’ve made in the lives of our neighbors in need.
Although there is a long way to go before our economy recovers, take a look at the amazing work they helped us accomplish.
Farmers to Families Boxes Help Fill the Gap
Last year, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank distributed 13.8 million pounds of food including 2.4 million pounds of fresh produce. As the demand for food increased during the COVID-19 crisis, the Food Bank found new ways to add more fruits and vegetables to the mix. Through the USDA Farmers to Families program, the Food Bank provides neighbors in need with pre-packed boxes of produce, dairy and meat, as well as items that may not be available at some pantries. In 2020, 40,000 boxes were distributed throughout the state.
Watch our recently recorded Virtual Town Hall as Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff and Rachel Flum, Executive Director of The Economic Progress Institute (EPI), discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the cost of living in our state.
EPI’s 2020 Rhode Island Standard of Need highlights the economic challenges faced by low-income Rhode Islanders, particularly during this difficult time as households struggle with expenses like housing, child care and food. Listen to this in-depth conversation and find out what you can do to help.
During this difficult economic time, many Rhode Islanders are out of work and struggling to pay the mortgage or their rent. A number of organizations are working to provide information and solutions to help them. Here are some of the resources that are available:
Eviction Frequently Asked Questions in Spanish and English
Data on Affordable Housing in RI from Housing Works RI
Access to Shelters in Rhode Island for anyone faced with homelessness
Safe Harbor Housing Relief Program for rental assistance
View our Virtual Town Hall as Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff and HousingWorks RI Director Brenda Clement discuss the impact of COVID-19 on hunger and housing.
As the economic downturn continues and we head into the winter months, we face the combined challenges of a shortage of affordable housing, mass evictions and an increased demand for food assistance.
Click here to learn how both organizations are addressing these issues.
Many Rhode Islanders found themselves out of work – often for the first time – and sought assistance at our food pantries and meal sites. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Food Bank has been distributing more food than previous years to meet the demand. There is great uncertainty moving forward as many assistance programs remain in limbo.
Click here for the full report.
Click here to watch the press conference.
Ellen Teller, Direct of Government Affairs with the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), recently joined us to discuss how the 2020 election will affect federal nutrition programs like SNAP and school meals.
Click here to watch her post-election analysis and learn how we can work together to advance policies that improve these programs to help more Americans in need.
Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff recently held a Virtual Town Hall featuring the Executive Directors from four of our largest member agencies.
In a panel format, they provided us with an update on how they’ve been responding to the ongoing need in the community and discussed what’s to come as we prepare for the long winter ahead.
Watch the video for the latest information on our response to this public health crisis.
Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff
St. Philip Food Pantry Coordinator Jim Carroll
Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff was recently joined by St. Philip Food Pantry Coordinator Jim Carroll to discuss how both organizations continue to adapt to meet the needs of guests while maintaining the safety of staff and volunteers. Watch the video for an update on our response to this public health crisis.
“We’re right on the fence of surviving.”
Providence Journal columnist Mark Patinkin visited St Philip’s Food Pantry in Greenville to talk with guests about how they’ve been impacted by the COVID-19 public health pandemic.
Learn more about the work of the Food Bank and its member agencies as they respond to the increased demand for food assistance.
At the Food Bank, we love to have visitors in our facility so they can learn more about our operations. Often they are amazed by the scale and efficiency of our efforts. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have been unable to welcome guests as we adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. But, until we can have visitors again, we’re pleased to offer a virtual tour so you can see the critical work that your support makes possible.
When COVID-19 closed schools, 52,000 Rhode Island children stopped receiving free or reduced-price school lunches.The Food Bank responded by ramping up production of Meals4Kids boxes, which contain five shelf-stable, kid-friendly breakfasts, lunches and snacks. They also contain information on community resources available for children and families. From March through July, the Food Bank distributed more than 23,000 boxes.
The Rhode Island Community Food Bank receives fresh produce grown by a network of community farms around the state. These fruits and vegetables feed hungry Rhode Islanders while utilizing valuable land. Each farm relies on volunteers to get the work done so there are always opportunities for you to help out. To learn more, visit our website and find a community farm near you. Then get to picking fresh produce for our neighbors in need.
The Rhode Island Community Food Bank’s Kids Cafe provides meals to children in collaboration with community organizations like the East Providence Boys & Girls Club and the Pawtucket YMCA. When the COVID-19 public health pandemic first hit, sites were closed and the program was put on hold until it was safe for kids to return.
As a result, many families lost access to a daily healthy meal for their kids. Now that childcare centers and summer program sites have reopened, Kids Cafe is back in action with the chefs of the Food Bank’s Community Kitchen preparing a fresh afternoon meal for participating kids every weekday.
Learn more about our Kids Cafe program at the Pawtucket YMCA in this story from our Winter/Spring newsletter.
As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues, the Food Bank is working to meet the increased demand for food assistance in our communities. Thanks to the support of our generous donors, we’re working to provide our member agencies with enough healthy food to make sure that no one goes hungry.
Since the start of the pandemic, food distribution has increased 45% compared to the same time period last year (March through June).
We have distributed 20,555 Meals4Kids boxes containing one week’s worth of shelf-stable breakfast, lunches and snacks for young people.
In collaboration with FEMA and the RI Emergency Management Agency, we have given out individual and family meal boxes through towns and municipalities totaling nearly 300,000 meals.
As we move into summer, we will have even more access to fresh, healthy produce through our community gardens and local as well as national farm businesses.
Our team will work with food pantries and meal sites around the state to ensure that guests receive these fruits and vegetables.
Click on the image for an update on our response to the increased demand for food as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. CEO Andrew Schiff is joined by Heather Hole Strout, Executive Director of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center in Newport, a member agency of the Food Bank, to discuss the challenges both organizations face as we ensure no one in Rhode Island goes hungry.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center has adapted the way it distributes food to meet the needs of the people of Newport County.
The economy in Newport relies on the restaurant and hotel industries which have been hit particularly hard by this pandemic and the staff at MLK have witnessed the impact on this population.
Between March and May, the Center served 3,068 individuals, including 800 new guests who had never previously visited the pantry.
The MLK’s mobile food pantry delivered food to more than 150 guests on a rainy day in Middletown.
Wednesdays at the Progreso Latino food pantry are a hub of activity. That’s when their weekly food distribution serves hundreds of people from the city of Central Falls, an area hard hit by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
A half hour before the doors open, the parking lot comes alive with people walking, parking and getting in line to receive food assistance. Guests range in ages from small children to seniors – who are served first to limit their exposure to large crowds and COVID-19.
One senior, Humberto, who receives food at the pantry, shared his experience and how things have changed for him during the pandemic. He spoke very openly with the staff at the pantry and it was clear that they built a close relationship over time.
“I get everything they give out here, all the food. And even when I can’t come, Helen [a staff member] is able to bring it to my house and it’s a big help for me. I live here in Central Falls. I’m always very grateful because it’s really good food. Just being closed off has been the hardest part. I’m very, very grateful.”
Distributing Food and Much More
The RI Community Food Bank has been delivering much larger donations than usual to this location, as the volume of guests has greatly changed. Progreso staff member, Jack, shared: “We used to see 15 families [come to our food pantry], now we are reaching up to 300.”
On this day, guests received boxes of fresh, local produce packaged by Farm Fresh RI as part of the USDA Farmers to Families program, which is meant to help farmers and distribute fresh food to families in need during the pandemic. Guests also received staples like pasta, beans and rice.
Additionally, there was onsite testing for COVID-19, sponsored by a local pediatric practice.
Dominga, the food pantry coordinator, pictured right, said that it is critical that all people know they are welcome at the pantry, especially for something as important as testing.
“Sometimes they are concerned about getting tests done because of their immigration status. It’s their choice whether they want to get tested or not, but we make it easy for them to feel comfortable.”
View the video to the right for an update on our response to the increased demand for food as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. CEO Andrew Schiff is joined by Rilwan Feyisitan, Executive Director of the Community Action Partnership of Providence, a member agency of the Food Bank, to discuss the challenges both organizations face as we ensure no one in Rhode Island goes hungry.
“We are literally all hands on deck.”
– Rilwan Feyisitan, Executive Director
Community Action Partnership of Providence (CAPP)
CAPP’s food pantry was only open in their new location one month before COVID-19 hit Rhode Island. The agency provides a wide range of social services and resources to neighbors on the south side of the city, an area hard hit by the pandemic.
“The need has been phenomenal,” says Rilwan, shown here preparing food for distribution. “It’s been an unprecedented time. Half of our normal staff are not working during this time. We are actually standing up and manning our pantry with senior staff and a handful of volunteers. We are literally all hands on deck making sure we are taking care of the thousand plus people who are coming through our doors.”
Adapting During the Crisis
CAPP only recently moved to a new location, a larger building and former community center with a huge kitchen and storage area, and space for community meals. With only a few weeks of operation under their belt, they radically shifted their procedures to allow for social distancing and safe food pickup. These measures have paid off, and they are able to serve more guests than ever before, safely.
Again, Rilwan shares, “It’s an interesting time. I have a public health background and spent many years looking at social determinants of health, looking at food insecurity and looking at the many other issues that affect our communities.”
Rilwan reported that many of the guests coming to his agency are new, often seeking food assistance for the first time.
“What has been really eye opening is that from April 3 to May 20, we had 1,033 pantry recipients coming through our doors. Of those, 601 were new to our pantry. We are really happy that we can say we’ve not had to turn anyone away; everyone is getting those basic needs met.”
Providence Business News – Starving for Help
“It’s really affecting … many people who never imagined that they would be in this position.”
Heather Hole Strout, Executive Director, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the demand for food assistance has increased dramatically.
Read how the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and its member agencies are responding during this crisis in the latest Providence Business News.
Support Local Food Trucks
Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Food Bank’s annual Truck Stop fundraiser – scheduled for Friday, May 29 – has been cancelled for this year. But we hope you’ll still support the food trucks that were committed to this event.
Visit our website for truck information so you can find their locations and enjoy some delicious food while helping these great local businesses.
A special thanks to our Truck Stop sponsors, including Street Eats Festival Sponsor Stop & Shop, for honoring their commitment to support the Food Bank.
Watch the Food Bank’s Virtual Town Hall
Click here to view the pre-recorded video for an update on our response to the increased demand for food as a result of theCOVID-19 crisis. CEO Andrew Schiff is joined by Kate Brewster, Executive Director of the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale, a member agency of the Food Bank, to discuss the challenges both organizations face as we ensure no one in Rhode Island goes hungry.
Increase SNAP Benefits to End Child Hunger
The Providence Journal recently published a “My Turn” commentary piece by Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff. As food insecurity increases during the COVID-19 crisis, now is the time to implement long-term solutions like increasing SNAP benefits to ensure no families are hungry. Click here to read the commentary.
Door to Door: How Food Gets to the People Who Need It Most
Follow the flow of food from the Food Bank to one of its member agencies, Project Outreach in Providence, as staff and volunteers work together to meet the increased demand for help during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Every day, the Operations Team at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank works tirelessly to prepare food for delivery and distribute it to food pantries throughout the state.
Last week alone, the team moved more than 400,000 pounds of food – that’s 150,000 pounds more than in a normal week before the COVID-19 public health emergency began. Overall, distribution has increased 42% and it’s not expected to slow down anytime soon.
Watch How It Happens
Take a look at this quick video to see how it all happens. From “picking” to delivery, you can see how one 13,000 pound order gets from the Food Bank to the front lines where it’s distributed to neighbors in need at the Project Outreach food pantry.
Volunteers Take the Delivery to the Next Step
The next day, volunteers gather outside Project Outreach, a food pantry in Providence, tucked into a church basement. Each month, they provide food assistance to 1,300 guests from around the Washington Park area, one that has been hard hit by the Coronavirus.
Sorting cans of beans, potatoes and meal boxes, the volunteers work wearing masks, washing their hands often and maintaining a six-foot distance from one another.
As Steve, a volunteer at the site for the past three years, shares “I live right around the corner. I like being here and helping people I know.”
Instead of coming in to “shop” for their food, guests of the pantry now receive pre-packed bags at a pick-up spot.
Feeding People in Need
Project Outreach hosts two pantry days each week to serve the increased need of their community. During that time, they will distribute almost all of the 13,000 pounds of food that they received from the Food Bank.
Another volunteer, Shawndell, helps separate all of the pallets that were delivered into individual bags to make sure that every guest gets a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.
As she explains, “We sort through all of the vegetables. It’s a few hours each day we’re open. We get the delivery and then we break them up into these bags, so everyone gets a little bit of all the produce.”
She adds, “We can’t have as many volunteers here right now and we miss them. We always need more people to help.”
Reaching More Neighbors in Need
During the month of April, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank distributed an unprecedented amount of food to meet the demand in the community.
Compared to the same time period last year, we delivered 42% more food to member agencies, community organizations and through our state, city and town emergency management agencies.
We regularly serve 53,000 guests each month at our 168 member agencies throughout the state. In a survey of just ten of our largest member organizations, they reported that together they saw a total of 3,000 more guests for the month of March when comparing 2019 to 2020.
In addition, we’re providing assistance to thousands of Rhode Islanders at other locations in collaboration with the RI Emergency Management Agency.
By the Numbers
Since the COVID-19 crisis began in March, the Food Bank has distributed:
10,049 Meals4Kids Boxes
These boxes contain a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches and snacks for kids. Contents include soup, crackers, pasta, juice, apple sauce, mac & cheese, fruit cups, oatmeal and milk. They’re distributed through member agencies and community partners.
113,904 Meals, Ready to Eat Kits
We continue to work with the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency to distribute pre-packaged Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs), individually prepared food rations containing one meal, side dish, and snacks.
928 FEMA Family Meal Boxes
These boxes contain 5 breakfasts and 5 lunch/dinner meals, including cereal, milk, rice and beans, canned green beans, canned meats, fruit cups, and snacks. With the distribution of these boxes, families gained access to 9,280 more meals.
Thank you to everyone who has supported the Food Bank during this crisis for helping us continue this important work.
What’s Happening at Our Member Agencies?
One of the neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19 is in the 02909 zip code in Providence where member agency Federal Hill House coordinates two food pantries along with many other critical social services.
Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff recently spoke with its Executive Director and Food Bank Board member Kimberly Fernandez to get an update on how they’re responding to the increased need in the community.
Watch the video of their conversation.
Letter Carriers’ Food Drive Postponed
Help Us Raise $35,000 to Replace Food from Annual Drive This Saturday, May 9, would have been the National Association of Letter Carriers’ food drive, which usually collects 100,000 pounds of food. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the food drive has been put on hold so we can keep our letter carriers safe.
Please join us in thanking and recognizing these front line workers by making a donation to the Food Bank in their honor. $35,000 is needed to replace the 100,000 pounds of food that the Letter Carriers would have collected through this annual drive.
Click here to donate and thank you for helping us feed our struggling neighbors. You can also download a special note that you can leave for your letter carrier.
As we head into the third month responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we wanted to share an update from the perspective of one of our member agencies working to deliver food assistance to neighbors in need.
Being Good Neighbors
“You don’t know how much this means to me. All I have left to eat at home is walnuts. I don’t know what we would do without this help.”
Sandra, on the left with another guest, one of the few “walk ups” who traveled by bus from Woonsocket to get to the pantry.
Good Neighbors, a Food Bank member agency in Riverside provides drive-through service to neighbors in need of food assistance on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Visitors drive their cars up in an orderly line and volunteers fill their trunks, hatchbacks or backseats with pre-packaged bags of food.
The bags contain both perishable and non-perishable items: eggs, lettuce from Gotham Greens, potatoes, meat, cereal, pasta. But there is a noticeable shortage of bread.
“The bread supply has all but dried up,” said Executive Director Ric Wild. “We used to get truckloads donated from local retailers, but it’s just not there anymore for them to give.”
Good Neighbors is seeing more guests than ever at their pantry. On an average Wednesday during the course of the year, they may have had as many as 46 visitors seeking food assistance. More recently, they’ve seen up to 113 in one day, nearly 2.5 times what they’re used to.
According to Wild, “Many of these folks are coming here for the first time. They’ve never needed help before. It’s new to them and they’re new to us so we try to make it as seamless as we can.”
As one guest explained from her car as it was being loaded up for her:
“This will help me until I can get back to work. It’ll last me a couple of weeks.”
Serving More of Our Neighbors
To meet the increased demand for assistance at our member agencies, we continue to distribute food at levels much higher than average, from 50,000 to as much as 100,000 pounds more per week than we’re used to. Last week we distributed 337,045 pounds of food – normally we would be delivering 225,000-250,000 pounds.
Helping Children and Families
Since the crisis began, we’ve distributed 10,000 Meals4Kids boxes which contain a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches and snacks for kids. Contents include soup, crackers, pasta, juice, apple sauce, mac & cheese, fruit cups, oatmeal and milk.
We continue to work with the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency to distribute individual pre-packaged Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs). To date, we’ve given out 119,000 MRE meal kits and the demand continues. FEMA is also providing us with thousands of family meal boxes which include 5 breakfasts and 5 lunches, instead of just one.
The Rhode Island Community Food Bank continues to address the increased demand for food assistance as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Thanks to our generous community of supporters we’re working hard to keep up and distribute more food to our member agencies throughout the state. Please watch this update from Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff on our work to ensure that no one in Rhode Island goes hungry.
We are so thankful for the support we have received since the beginning of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The response from our donors and friends has been overwhelming. Here are a few updates to let you know what you’ve helped us accomplish.
We continue to distribute significantly more food this month compared to April of last year, to help stock our agencies and keep up with the need.
The Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale, one of our member agencies, teamed up with Helping Hands, a food pantry located on Block Island to distribute thousands of pounds of food to 67 families, reaching 215 people. By ferry, the Jonnycake team delivered two vanloads of food, including non-perishables, fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, milk and eggs, and frozen meats and poultry.
This month, we’ve already distributed 3,269 Meals4Kids boxes which contain a week’s worth of lunches and snacks for kids. Last month we provided just over 5,000 of these kits to families, so we are on track to meet or exceed that number again this month.
We continue to work with the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency to distribute pre-packaged Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs). These boxes have been a critical food source, particularly in locations that may not traditionally have been food distribution sites and don’t have access to refrigeration, etc. The boxes can be easily handed out to people. We’ve given out 93,000 MREs and the demand continues.
What the CARES Act Means to You
As you may know, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. It was designed to help businesses, state and local governments and individual taxpayers weather the economic hardships resulting from the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The Act also includes numerous benefits for charitable givers, and we want to make sure you know about a few key provisions that may be beneficial to you as you consider making a gift to the Food Bank. Click here for more information about how you can give and save at the same time.
Why You Give
Many of the donations we’ve received have included thoughtful notes explaining what might have inspired the gift. Here are just a few quotes from our generous donors who are committed to feeding our neighbors in need:
“This donation is for all who need help, I just wish I could have donated more at this time. Neighbors helping neighbors. Hugs to one and all.”
“My children recently set up a road side stand and received an overwhelming amount of donations from our amazing neighbors! They earned $75 which they wish to donate to help families affected by COVID-19. It was all their idea! Super proud mom here!”
Tina, West Kingston
“The Class of 2020 donated their prom money to buy lunch for the staff at the Scandinavian Communities in Cranston. My mother is a resident there and I am grateful to the class for doing such a kind and generous thing. I decided to pay this forward.”
“I am retired and volunteer at a soup kitchen and I know the need to help others.”
Sharon, West Warwick
“I am fortunate enough to have my job and a salary still so this stimulus money from the government can be used better to help our neighbors. Thank you for supporting the Rhode Island community.”
Food Bank Operations Update
The Rhode Island Community Food Bank and its member agencies continue to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency, distributing food to neighbors in need throughout the state.
We know that member agencies are seeing many more people seeking food assistance, in some cases double the amount.
As one example, the Dr. Martin Luther King Community Center in Newport reported serving 1,018 people between March 16-25. That number represents approximately a quarter of the people served there during all of 2019.
Voices of People in Need
Many of the guests visiting food pantries have never done so before. Up until recently, these new visitors were employed and suddenly find themselves in need of food assistance.
Here are just a few quotes from people needing food assistance:
“I’m running out of food to eat to hold me until I get my SNAP benefits. I’m trying to ration out what little I have right now, so I can at least have something to eat.”
“I have 2 school aged children and was wondering how to go about getting the meals4kids boxes.”
“I am a mother of 2 teenage girls working in direct care with COVID-19 patients. I am struggling financially until my next pay period (this Friday) and running low on groceries. How can I get help?”
“I am very sick and quarantined. I have two kids and a husband and we are all quarantined. We need help with food.”
“I just got laid off due to coronavirus. I am an international student here and I have no family members. I have no income as well. How can I receive some food?”
For anyone in need of food assistance, we direct them to the Find Food page on our website, which we update regularly to ensure that everyone in our community knows exactly where they can access food resources. Or they can call 2-1-1, the 24-hour resource guide managed by the United Way of Rhode Island.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank has anticipated seeing an increased demand at food pantries and meal sites throughout the state.
We’re Distributing More Food
Last week, we distributed 350,000 pounds of food – that’s 100,000 pounds more than our normal weekly total. For the month of March, we dispersed 39% more food than we had at this same time last year. Our drivers have been delivering more frequently and added Saturdays to their routes. (Click on the graphic above to expand it.)
We’re also transporting food to sites outside of our existing network of 168 member agencies. Working with FEMA and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, the Food Bank has been dropping off truckloads of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs) to cities and towns in need of additional food assistance. Together, we’re able to reach people who maybe not have a nearby food pantry or, like many seniors affected by this crisis, are unable to leave their homes.
We’re Hearing from More People in Need
On our website and via phone and email, we are receiving increased requestsfrom people asking where they can find food so we expect the number of new visitors to pantries will continue to grow. Many of these contacts are from people who recently became unemployed and have never before sought food assistance. They often express fear and concern as we and our member agencies work with them to access food in their community.
We Miss Our Volunteers
We’re managing this additional work without our normal corps of volunteers who sort and pack food. We sincerely miss their support. Staff members have been stepping up to fill in the gap and we couldn’t be more thankful for their dedication and commitment. We look forward to having our volunteers back when this crisis is over.
We Are EssentialThe Food Bank and its pantries have been declared essential services by the Governor so we will remain operational even while nonessential businesses close. And we rely on you now more than ever to continue this critical work.
Food Bank Member Agencies in the News
Our network of food pantries and meal sites have been adapting to respond to the need in their communities while keeping staff, volunteers and guests safe. Here are several examples that have been highlighted recently in the local media. Click on the agency name to read their story.
Northern RI Food Pantry in Cumberland
Dr. Martin Luther King Center in Newport
Progreso Latino in Central Falls
Jonnycake Center of Westerly
East Greenwich Interfaith Food Cupboard
WARM Center in Westerly
The Food Bank has been working hard to distribute food to our neighbors in need through our statewide network of food pantries and meal sites. We’ve also been adapting our operations to meet the increased demand, particularly among vulnerable populations like children and seniors.
All Are Welcome
Many Rhode Islanders are experiencing food insecurity for the first time as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. They may never have sought food assistance through our network of food pantries and meal sites.
At the member agencies of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, all are welcome – Todos Son Bienvenidos – regardless of background, including immigration status. Our priority is to provide assistance to those most in need, so please help us spread the word that our network is here to help.
Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs)
The Food Bank is working with RIEMA to deliver 45,000 Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs) to towns and cities across Rhode Island. Each community will receive their requested supply and issue them to individuals at the local level. The MRE kits will not be available directly to the public through the Food Bank but a supply will be delivered to member agencies in our network.
Thousands have already gone out, and we anticipate that by the end of the week nearly 75% will be distributed. We expect that we will receive more of these meals from FEMA as the crisis continues. To learn more about MREs, click here.
To meet the increased need at our member agencies, the Food Bank added deliveries on Saturday. Our drivers will be making sure that shelves stay stocked with healthy, nutritious food.
In the past three weeks, we’ve distributed 2,624 Meals4Kids boxes, more than twice the number we usually give out in a whole month. Each pack contains a week’s worth of meals and snacks for kids. We continue to deliver more boxes to our member agencies so that we can meet the demand.
And we’re preparing our Senior Box distribution for April as part of our ongoing monthly Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). Each month, we provide 1,660 older adults with a box of healthy, supplemental food. Normally, these boxes are packed by volunteers, but due to COVID-19 restrictions on groups, our staff are putting them together.
Along with the outpouring of contributions from businesses and individuals like you, we’ve received many kind words. Here’s a quote from one of our recent donors, Janice from Riverside:
“I am proud of the effort to address so many issues relating to this emergency. I am a long-retired nurse who is among the vulnerable population and wish I could do more.”
As COVID-19 continues to impact our community through the closing of businesses and schools, households at risk of hunger become increasingly more vulnerable. We are working hard to meet the increased demand for food assistance in our community.
Before this public health emergency began, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank was distributing food to 53,000 adults, seniors, and children through our partner agency network and direct distribution programs. As more people come to us for assistance – many of them for the first time – we expect to see that number grow and we are committed to serving all of our neighbors in need.
We Are Feeding Our Kids
This week, we have focused on packing more than 7,000 Meals4Kids boxes and distributing them through our network. These boxes contain a week’s worth of healthy meals and snacks for a child, along with information on other resources in the community. We are thankful to Stop & Shop’s Family Foundation for funding this program.
With school closures, children are missing out on the daily breakfasts, lunches and meals they receive through school and afterschool programs. We have been sharing information provided by school districts on their free “Grab & Go” packs that ensure children and their families have access to three meals a day.
We Are Feeding Our Seniors
The Food Bank provides boxes of nutritious food to 1,660 seniors every month at food pantries and senior housing sites throughout Rhode Island. The majority of these distributions are continuing as scheduled.
We Are Maintaining Our Operations
Our fleet of trucks is on the road daily as Food Bank drivers have increased the amount of food and frequency of deliveries to our member agencies. Our staff are also responding to emergency needs and shortages as they arise.
At the Food Bank, we are operating with some modifications to our daily routines. We have currently canceled all volunteer shifts through April 13. Also, many staff who can’t do their regular jobs in the community are now filling in for volunteers sorting food and packing boxes to ensure that food distribution continues uninterrupted.
Our network of 168 partner agencies throughout the state remains strong. Although several have suspended food distributions, we are able to refer guests to alternative locations nearby. We are encouraging all agencies to remain open and follow all Rhode Island Department of Health guidelines, including those for social distancing. The flow of food to agencies is continuing with little disruption, and agencies are serving families and individuals seeking food assistance.
The Food Bank is focused on meeting the needs of the community while also ensuring the health of our employees, volunteers and other stakeholders. Thank you for your continued commitment to our work.
Thank you to everyone who has reached out to ask how they can support the Rhode Island Community Food Bank during the COVID-19 public health emergency. We appreciate your caring and concern for our neighbors in need.
In response to the crisis, the Food Bank has made some adjustments to our operations, but we continue to deliver food through our statewide network of member agencies.
For the safety of our staff and volunteers, we have canceled volunteer shifts for the next 2 weeks. Staff members have been reassigned to sort and pack food in small groups to ensure that we can maintain food distribution.
Our top priority is to ensure that our network of pantries remains strong and able to distribute healthy, nutritious food to those who need it most. The ability of our member agencies to continue to serve guests will change as this crisis develops, so we are regularly updating the Agency List on the Find Food page of our website.
The best way you can help support this critical work right now is to make a financial donation to the Food Bank. We anticipate an increase in need as many people find themselves out of work and the economy worsens. Every donation will ensure that we can maintain our operations well into the future while continuing to acquire and distribute healthy food to some of the most vulnerable populations, including children and seniors.
Again, thank you for your continued dedication and commitment to our work to ensure that no one goes hungry during this crisis. It’s especially heartening to be reminded that we are all in this together.
Thank you for being part of our caring network of individuals who are committed to making sure that no one in Rhode Island goes hungry.
We want to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to provide children and families with the healthy, nutritious food they need during the COVID-19 public health crisis. We are working closely with our network of partner agencies to continue distributing food throughout the state.
At the Food Bank, we care deeply about our community, especially the most vulnerable members of our population. Sixty-six percent of households visiting food pantries include a child or senior adult.
In the latest development, Governor Raimondo today announced that schools will move up the scheduled April break to next week, beginning Monday, March 16.
We understand the need for this preventative action. We are also keenly aware that the closure will severely impact the more than 50,000 children in our state who receive free and reduced-price lunches at school every day.
Many of these families are already accessing food assistance through the Food Bank’s member agencies but will now need more help. As the situation unfolds, we anticipate new families visiting pantries for the first time.
We’ve also been in touch with our Congressional delegation and they are working hard to ensure that emergency SNAP assistance is included among the resources in the relief package provided to states.
All of the people served through the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, whether children, adults or seniors already struggle with food insecurity. A public health emergency like COVID-19 only adds to the stress and strain on their health and wellness. That’s why it is so critical that we continue to provide food assistance to Rhode Islanders in need.
We appreciate your continued commitment and support and we will keep you updated and informed.