People are turning to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center (MLK Center) in unprecedented numbers for food support, and Peter and Eaddo Kiernan, owners of Hammersmith Farm and MLK Center supporters for over 20 years, are fighting back against hunger in Newport in a major way. With already surging numbers of hungry people expected to increase this winter, the Kiernans have stepped up to create the Kiernan Challenge Match at MLK. The goal: Come together to raise $25,000 as a community, and the Kiernans will match it.

Newporters have already begun to answer the call, but there’s still a long way to go. At the time of publication, close to $5,000 had been raised so far, and Peter Kiernan is calling on everyone who can, to help make that number grow to $25,000.

On top of handling record-breaking hunger in the area, the MLK Center is currently facing several challenges that make the funding much needed. This year, the center won’t receive the same critical government financial support it’s relied upon in past years due to large federal and state legislative cuts in 2016.  

In October, community businesses rallied to reach WhatsUpNewp’s challenge to raise $15,000 for the MLK Center, and Kiernan hopes to amplify that effort and keep the community charitable spirit alive through the winter months.

Another challenge facing the MLK Center is that there’s less food to buy cheaply. After hungry residents in Newport County relied on the MLK Center for 223,617 meals in 2015 alone, less food is a huge problem. “Some of the most steady sources of food we’ve relied on in the past, now have less of supply,” Kiernan said.

Compounding these challenges is the problem of public perception. “When business is good or the stock market is up, people assume money trickles down and everyone participates,” he said. “It’s simply not true. The community has to come together to help our neighbors.”

Kiernan feels strongly that hunger must be the first social issue the community works to resolve in order for other social services to be effective.  “All the other great social services we have – education programs, stimulus programs – can’t deliver when people are worried about how they’re going to get their next meal or provide a meal for their families,” he said.

Over the past 20 years, Kiernan has started numerous challenge grants at the MLK Center, but he feels now, more than ever, is the time for Newport to come together and rise to the occasion as a community. “It’s not the same old,” he said. “People need to focus on the fact that we’re facing record numbers of food insecurity.”

In Newport, Kiernan said feeding the hungry is “a challenging, shape-shifting assignment.” For many working people in the community, the phrase “the month last longer than the money” applies, and only gets worse when the seasonal influx of money and job opportunities dwindles in the winter. To help meet changing and different needs, the Kiernans and the MLK Center worked to develop the Food-2-Friends program, where food is delivered to wherever the hunger is.

Donations to the Kieran Challenge Match will go toward ensuring programs at the MLK Center like Food-2-Friends can continue to operate. They will also go toward sustaining initiatives such as:

  • Ensuring he MLK Center food pantry are stocked with healthy and varied foods, donations will go toward:
  • Sustaining nutrition education for children in our Preschool and Afterschool.
  • Ensuring the MLK offers nutrition counselling from a registered dietitian for all who need it, regardless of their ability to pay.
  • Feeding nearly 10,000 daily breakfasts.
  • Family dinners and wellness programming

You can make a donation to the MLK center here:

If you prefer to mail your donation, please specify “Kiernan Challenge” and send it to:

MLK Community Center | 20 Dr. Marcus Wheatland Blvd | Newport, RI 02840

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