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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

RI Community Food Bank report shows need grows while giving declines

Recession causes need for food assistance to double
By Will Collette

If you visit any of South County’s programs that are part of the RI Community Food Bank, such as RI-CAN, WARM or the Jonnycake Center, you’ll quickly learn that the economy has taken a terrible toll on our community. Unemployment is still high – Charlestown’s unemployment rate climbed from 9.9% in September to 10.3% at the end of October.

Long-term unemployed are running out of extended benefits. All federal extended benefits will be terminated on January 1 if Congress allows us to go over the “fiscal cliff”.

Since the recession began in 2007, the number of people seeking help from food pantries affiliated with the Food Bank have doubled. The number of Rhode Islanders on food stamps has more than doubled.
But while the need is growing, donations of money and food have dropped off.

The RI Community Food Bank reports that food donations have dropped off by more than 25% over the past four years – that’s two million pounds less food in 2012 than in 2009.

Click here to read the RI Community Food Bank’s new report, the 2012 Status Report on Hunger in Rhode Island.

Hunger goes hand in hand with many other problems – poor health and, ironically, obesity, learning disabilities in children, bankruptcy, foreclosures and homelessness.

In Charlestown, there’s a lot of denial that we do indeed have people who are hurting and in the vast majority of cases through no fault of their own.

But we can see the trouble in our community – and how the recession’s effects still have an impact on our entire community – simply by looking at Zillow’s map of distressed properties. We have dozens of homes in various stages of distress, ranging from delinquent mortgage payments, preforeclosure, foreclosure, short sales and forced auctions.

Click to enlarge - distressed properties in Charlestown
These distressed properties are scattered throughout Charlestown, including some in our more exclusive, upscale beach neighborhoods. As long as these properties remain distressed, general home values stay depressed, affecting every homeowner in Charlestown.

Charlestown has no power to change the statewide, regional and national conditions that affect the broader economy. We need more jobs, a fairer taxation system and effective short-term programs to assist families in need.

But Charlestown can do its part by making it easier for small businesses to start, grow and prosper in our town, rather than face the barriers we have set up to suppress small business development. And we need middle-class tax relief. These were important election themes that were drowned out by the Charlestown Citizens Alliance’s disinformation campaign, they aren’t going to go away.

But that’s for next year.

For now, please consider a substantial holiday gift to the RI Community Food Bank, perhaps in lieu of some of those expensive foreign-made goods bought from a big box store like Wal-Mart. We’ve been doing this within our family for years. Also consider making a regular monthly donation, which can be automatically charged to your credit card, or writing the Food Bank into your will.

Click here to donate to this important cause in our community.

Also, B101 is hosting a radiothon to benefit the Food Bank this Thursday from 6:00 AM to 6:30 PM.

The Food Bank is also holding an open house at their headquarters at 200 Niantic Avenue in Providence on December 15. Click here for more details.