… with love

Plates With Purpose opens Hope Chest in Johnston

Posted 8/16/23

Some of your neighbors are hungry, but a little bit of hope has popped up along Memorial Avenue in Johnston.

“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”

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… with love

Plates With Purpose opens Hope Chest in Johnston


Some of your neighbors are hungry, but a little bit of hope has popped up along Memorial Avenue in Johnston.

“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”

Those words are painted across the Hope Chest newly stocked courtesy Jennifer Capracotta and Jennifer Fantozzi, Plates With Purpose co-founders.

The nonprofit organization “selected Johnston as home to one of its two community food cabinets” in an attempt to raise awareness and address food insecurity in the Ocean State.

“According to 2021 data from Census Reporter more than 7% of Johnston residents live below the poverty level,” according to Plates With Purpose. “Drilling down to children and seniors over 65 years old, the statistics jump up slightly for children at 10%, and inline for seniors at 7%.”

Johnston’s Hope Chest stands along Memorial Avenue next to Marian J. Mohr Memorial Library.

The goal is simple: “To provide easy and safe access to nonperishable items to individuals and families who need them.”

“Jen and I are thrilled to announce that the installation of the Plates With Purpose Hope Chest is complete,” Capracotta recently wrote in a message sent to Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena Jr. “The cabinet has been fully stocked with non-perishable items available to any and all members of the Johnston community that may find themselves in need of a helping hand. We also encourage those that find themselves having a little extra, to donate to our Hope Chest. “

“This project has been a labor of love for us and we are excited to begin supporting our neighbors in town,” Capracotta wrote.

The Hope Chest initiative is the latest from Capracotta and Fantozzi, who founded Plates with Purpose, a Rhode Island-based nonprofit “with a mission to empower independently-owned restaurants to give back to the communities they’re part of,” according to the organization.

The pair of philanthropists strive to “bring different groups together.”

“Community involvement is something we try to build into all of our work,” Capracotta said. “The Hope Chest offers a way for a community to rally for their neighbors who have trouble keeping a steady supply of food in their cupboards.”

She also notes that the Hope Chests offers “a message to those neighbors that there are generous and kind people who care about them and support them.”

“Since December 2020, the team of two has partnered with eight restaurants and distributed more than 6,100 fresh and balanced meals in North Providence, Warwick, Cranston, West Warwick, Narragansett, Pawtucket, and Newport,” according to a press release distributed by Plates With Purpose. “Selecting Johnston as a community for the hope chest was not a coincidence — the nonprofit has been seeking a local restaurant to partner with as part of its core meal delivery program.”

Capracotta’s father, a resident of Johnston and retired master carpenter, designed and built the blue and white cabinet himself, skipping “no functional or decorative detail.”

The shelves are now stocked and the Hope Chest is open.

“The Hope Chest is an extension of our core meal delivery program,” Fantozzi said last week. “The model is fairly simple: through funds raised, we are able to pay local, independently-owned restaurants for balanced and prepared meals. These meals are distributed throughout the community each restaurant is part of. The catalyst for the Hope Chest was to meet individuals where they are. We know there are too many households struggling to meet their basic food needs and our hope is that this new option allows residents to bridge the gap between paychecks, SNAP benefits, etc.”

Polisena Jr. worked with Capracotta and Fantozzi to secure the location next to the library and courthouse.

“Plates With Purpose is a non-profit that partners with municipalities to install Hope Chests for those who are economically disadvantaged,” Polisena explained. “Those who need it can discretely pick up non-perishable food items at their convenience. The shelves can be stocked by anyone at any time. We are hoping there is a community effort to help keep the shelf full for as long as possible. As we all know, with inflation still high, some people are struggling to afford basic necessities like food.”

According to the press release, “raising awareness is at the heart of the nonprofit’s mission and great care is taken to prioritize areas of focus and how to reach communities.”

“If anyone is interested in stocking the shelf, they can do so at their convenience,” Polisena added. “We ask that it be stocked with non-perishable food items only. This chest is not the first of its kind. Plates With Purpose has Hope Chests at other locations in Rhode Island, with the closest being in North Providence.” (A second Hope Chest has been placed in North Providence, at the entrance to the North Providence Housing Authority, 945 Charles St.)

Both Hope Chests have been packed full of shelf-stable groceries.

“The name — Hope Chest — just came to us,” Fantozzi recalled. “Everything we do is done with the hope that we can make a difference. One of our guiding principles is to eliminate the stigma often associated with not being able to afford or access basic human necessities such as food, and we want the community to focus on the goodness and avoid labels that might deter someone who could really benefit from this.”

Back to their motto, “an important message” that welcomes Hope Chest visitors: “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”

“The two co-founders consider themselves fortunate to experience this sentiment every day because no matter the size of the donation or the hours volunteered, the impact of its donors is significant,” according to Plates With Purpose. “In addition to expanding its core program (meal distribution) into new communities across the state, the duo plans to make Hope Chests available to other communities.”

Chip In

Donations can be made online at www.plateswithpurpose.org or checks can be made out to Plates with Purpose and mailed to PO Box 114121, North Providence, RI 02911. For more information, email plateswithpurpose.ri@gmail.com.

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