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Giving voice to the hungry
Andrew Schiff

This fall, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank visited food pantries and meal programs across the state and asked people to step out of line for a moment to write a quick note on a paper plate about what food assistance means to them. We received hundreds of plates – each a unique, hand-written expression of one individual’s story.

Here in Johnston, we visited St. Robert’s Food Closet, which now serves more than 400 people every month. St. Robert’s Food Closet is one of 178 member agencies that receive food from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

We were moved by the messages written by your neighbors.  Here are some of them:

“St. Robert’s is a tremendous help to my family. With very little money left for food every week, what we are given is a help in feeding my children. Thank you very much.”

“Me and my children rely on this pantry. I lost my husband and this helps us – a lot. God bless.”

“This church saved my dad’s life. He is on dialysis and can’t afford to eat right. He depends on the food from this food pantry to live.”

“At 64 years of age I never thought I would be in such need that I would be the one to receive food rather than give it. So many people hurting and hungry. God bless all the people who give.”

“The food pantry is a blessing to my family not just for food, but emotional support and treating me with respect. The volunteers are amazing for their commitment. Without this supplement, I would not be able to feed my son.”

“I would like to thank everyone that assisted me and my family with food. In the darkest time of my life, they are there for me.”

The paper plates give voices to those facing hunger. Now we want their voices to be heard at the State House. On Feb. 13, we will hand-deliver the paper plates to state legislators.

We hope that our political leaders will take the time to read the comments on each plate. We trust that they will see how critical food assistance is in the lives of their constituents and how essential it is to the well-being of their communities.

We also hope that they will increase their support for the Food Bank. This year, the Food Bank will receive $173,000 in state funding to acquire 500,000 pounds of food. But more funding is needed because food donations are not keeping up with the growing demand for food assistance.

Last year, the Food Bank distributed 9.75 million pounds of food to its member agencies around the state. Please call your state representative and senator and ask them to increase funding for the Food Bank so that we can continue to meet the demand at agencies like St. Robert’s.

Based on this sample of paper plates collected at St. Robert’s, you can tell that the authors are extremely grateful for the food that they receive. For some, it’s more than just a respite from hunger. It is a sign that they are not forgotten; they are not alone. It is an acknowledgment that the community cares about them.

We at the Food Bank are also grateful. Thank you to all who support our work and to the volunteers who serve on the front lines of hunger at places like St. Robert’s, where kindness is handed out on a daily basis.

Andrew Schiff is the Chief Executive Officer of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.


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