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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Several South County groups benefit from xmas eve grants

Rhode Island Foundation awards $180,000 in grants to feed RI’ers in need
By Chris Barnett

Sparked by a recent study reporting that thousands of Rhode Islanders are going hungry every day, the Rhode Island Foundation today announced $180,000 in emergency grants to seven social service agencies that provide food to low-income households.

"While we continue to pursue long-term solutions to poverty, we also support these organizations in providing immediate and critical assistance to struggling Rhode Islanders," said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

The announcement comes as proposed cuts to federal safety net programs threaten to overwhelm the state’s food pantries, which are already near capacity. According to the R.I. Community Food Bank’s 2019 Report on Hunger, Rhode Islanders in need missed over 11 million meals last year.

“The economy is strong, with low unemployment, but there are still thousands of Rhode Islanders who cannot afford three healthy meals a day. Demand for food assistance remains high at our member agencies as families struggle to afford basic household expenses,” said Andrew Schiff, CEO of the Food Bank, which received $50,000.

The money will help the Food Bank acquire 150,000 pounds of food-- enough to provide 185,000 additional meals. The organization will buy staples such as baked beans, rice, tomato soup, fresh produce and canned carrots, corn and peas for member agencies like the East Bay Food Pantry in Bristol, Progreso Latino in Central Falls, the R.I. Center Assisting those in Need in Charlestown and the West Warwick Senior Center Pantry.


Also receiving grants from the Foundation are the Comprehensive Community Action Program in Cranston, Connecting Children & Families in Woonsocket, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Newport, the East Bay Community Action Program in East Providence, the Jonnycake Center for Hope in South Kingstown and the Jonnycake Center of Westerly.

The Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP) in Cranston received $35,000 to provide the families it serves with food and housing assistance. Last year, CCAP’s food bank distributed more than 230,000 pounds of food.

“Everyone needs a little help from time to time. Our food bank enables clients to tailor their selections based on preferences and cultural or dietary needs. That atmosphere of participation and choice lends dignity to a process that is difficult and humbling for many of our neighbors and friends,” said Joanne McGunagle, president and CEO.

Connecting for Children and Families (CCF) in Woonsocket received a total of $25,000. The organization received $15,000 as the fiscal agent for the Woonsocket Protein Collaborative. The six member agencies will use the funding to stock their pantries with high-protein food items such as peanut butter and beef. CCF was also awarded a $10,000 grant to supplement the work it does to support success among Woonsocket children and families.

“Children and families here in Woonsocket face tremendous challenges each and every day. We are grateful for our ability to help them find safety in crisis, and to support them in their efforts to improve family stability,” said Terese Curtin, executive director.


The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Newport received $25,000. The funding will enable the center to stock its Mobile Food Pantry with enough meat, milk, eggs and produce to continue making its regular twice-weekly visits to local low-income housing complexes for three months.

“With the costs of living in Newport County on the rise, it is more important now than ever to provide innovative solutions to hunger,” said Heather Hole Strout, executive director.

The MLK piloted the Mobile Food Pantry program in 2018, with the goal of increasing access to healthy food. The Mobile Food Pantry brings food, personal care and household items to low-income housing complexes across Newport County, where lack of transportation is a common barrier.

“We are committed to not only meeting the basic needs of the community, but providing the means for a long-term healthy lifestyle change,” said Strout.

The East Bay Community Action Program (EBCAP) in East Providence was awarded $15,000 to support the operations of its community food banks in East Providence and Newport. The organization’s food pantries assist more than 5,000 households annually.

“This support comes at a critical time for our busy food banks. They are often the first place that new clients come to our agency for services. We will be able to assist families with nutritious food and work with them to determine if they are eligible for additional program supports such as food stamps or heating assistance,” said Dennis Roy, EBCAP’s president and CEO.

The Jonnycake Center for Hope in Peace Dale was awarded $15,000. The funding will enable the agency to maintain the quantity and quality of the food distributed, despite the rising cost of food. The Center spends approximately $110,000 on food each year, in addition to the food it receives at low or no-cost from the R.I. Community Food Bank.

“Our food pantry has become a vital source of food for hundreds of local households every month. Grants like this allow us to meet the demand and ensure that the food we distribute is healthy,” said Kate Brewster, Jonnycake’s executive director.

“As the cost of housing continues to climb in South County, and federal food programs remain under threat of cuts, close to 2,000 local residents know they can count on us for food,” said Brewster.

The Jonnycake Center of Westerly received $15,000. The funding will enable the agency’s food pantry to provide an additional 125,000 meals. The organization serves more than 3,000 residents of Westerly, Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton annually.

"Throughout the past year, we have seen a rising need from the community for food and emergency assistance. Thanks to this generous contribution, we will be in a good position to start the new year well-equipped to continue serving local neighbors in need," said Lee Eastbourne, executive director.

“We’ll use the funding to prepare food baskets containing milk, eggs, meat, bread, fresh produce and a variety of non-perishable groceries. Our ‘Power Pack’ meals provide nutritious, delicious meals for children on weekends and holidays as well as holiday meal baskets packed with turkey and all the trimmings for a traditional Christmas dinner for income-eligible clients,” said Eastbourne.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $114 million and awarded $52 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2018. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.