Although the need for food increases in the summer months, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank sees decreases in their donations. To combat this gap in nutritious food, the Food Bank kicked off their 2016 Summer Food Drive June 21 at their headquarters in Providence.
More than 50,000 children participate in a free or reduced lunch program through their school in Rhode Island, and for many families it can be difficult to supplement those meals during the summer months. Between the 50,000 free and reduced lunches and an additional 30,000 who receive free or reduced breakfast every school day, that’s nearly 400,000 meals a week children could be missing during the summer.
Andrew Schiff, CEO of the Community Food Bank said, “Those are critical meals kids may be missing out on when they aren’t in school. We have a lot of families turn to us in the summer and we need to work to ensure our food bank stays filled so that every family and every child this summer has access to a nutritious meal.”
About one third of the 60,000 people the Food Bank and their 167 member agencies, serves every month are under the age of 18. Just under 13 percent of all households in the state face food insecurity and are unsure of where their next meal will be coming from. Almost 5 percent are in hunger.
The Food Bank is looking to businesses, community leaders and organizations as well as individuals to spread the word, to host drives, and put out collection boxes.
Schiff said people expect him to talk about the state of hunger in Rhode Island as head of the Food Bank, and that when others discuss the issue it can have a “bigger impact.”
“Every donation makes a difference and it is crucial we receive this food because hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation,” Schiff said.
First Gentleman Andy Moffit, chair for the 2016 Summer Food Drive, said that as a father of two, childhood hunger really “hits home” for him. The family shares breakfast together every morning and, Moffit wonders how well his children would do in school and over the summer if they didn’t start out with a nutritious meal.
“I often think of the universality of food, and none of us can be at our best without nutritious food during the day,” he said.
Moffit noted that Rhode Island’s food insecurity statistics are “staggering,” with one in seven households facing food insecurity at some point throughout the month.
“That means we all know someone who is struggling, who doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from,” Moffit said. “So when you donate you are having a direct impact on your neighbors.”
Moffit said the Community Food Bank helps to “bridge the summer gap” of childhood hunger. One of the programs both Moffit and Schiff discussed helps to feed students eligible for free and reduced lunch during the school year to have access to free meals throughout the summer as well. Various meals are held at outdoor recreations sites and parks throughout the summer to create opportunities for access. Moffit said this method also helps children avoid some of the stigma that may come with reduced and free lunch by making the event fun where children can also spend times outdoors and exercise.
“Even with all this work there is still a large gap in children without access to meals during the summer,” Moffit said to encourage people to participate in the Summer Food Drive. He believes that combating hunger, especially among children is a responsibility we share as a community and should be a priority.
For more information on the 2016 Summer Food Drive for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank or ways to donate visit www.rifoodbank.org.