Cheers went up as a convoy of tractor-trailers loaded with 600,000 pounds of food destined for the shelves of the region’s food banks pulled away from Ocean State Job Lot’s North Kingstown headquarters on Tuesday.
The 15-vehicle procession marked the kickoff of Job Lot’s 11th annual “Three Square Meals” hunger relief program, which is expected this year to bring 78 truckloads of food to 13 food banks in New England and New York. It is the single largest food donation of its kind made by a private company in the region.
“Our Three Square Meals event is intended to bring attention to and help alleviate the growing food crisis in our region,” said Ocean State Job Lot owner/partner Alan Perlman. “We’re leading the fight against hunger … It’s exciting to see our Three Square Meals program grow and become an important catalyst for change.”
The Three Square Meals program this year raised a record $1.4 million. Job Lot, in what has grown into a holiday tradition, invites customers across seven states to donate $1 at the register through Dec. 31.
That funding – the first $100,000 of which Job Lot matched – goes to buy items for local food banks. Job Lot utilizes its wholesale buying power to make the most of the funding, and donates fuel, labor and other services to ensure all of the money raised goes to fight hunger.
The food that will be distributed includes shelf-stable items such as pasta, cereal, canned vegetables and fruit, soup, canned tuna, dried beans, rice and more. Donations will go to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank in Providence, along with food banks in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and New York.
At Tuesday’s event, Perlman provided remarks along with state Department of Health Director Dr. Michael Fine, RI Community Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras.
Organizers also applauded those supporting this year’s initiative, including companies and organizations that for the first time in the program’s history were invited to sponsor truckloads of food. They include Bank of America, Kellogg’s, the Providence Journal Charitable Fund, Polar Beverages and Bob’s Red Mill.
Tuesday additionally provided an opportunity for Job Lot to announce a pair of new initiatives related to its hunger prevention efforts. “Sow and Grow,” a community gardening initiative, will launch as a partnership with the URI Master Gardener program, Burpee Seeds and Scotts, while the “Food IQ” meal preparation and nutrition education partnership will be launched with URI SNAP-Ed, Johnson & Wales University, Culinary Institute of America and the New England Patriots Alumni Club. Both are kicking off this spring.
“These are complementary programs to Three Square Meals, helping us provide access to food from garden to table,” said Perlman.
Former Patriots players Pete Brock and Steve Grogan were on hand for Tuesday’s event to highlight the Alumni Club’s role in Food IQ.
They, along with two members of the team’s cheerleading squad and mascot Pat Patriot, helped send off the truck convoy, which was escorted by Rhode Island State Police, the Blue Knights motorcycle club and North Kingstown Fire Department. The East Providence High School Band performed as the trucks pulled away.