The food pantry at the MLK Center.

The new year just got a lot brighter for people who rely on local food pantries to make ends meet thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation.

Sparked by a recent report about rapidly rising food prices, the Foundation made the special donation to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and challenged Rhode Islanders to pitch in during this time of extraordinary need.

“Our goal is not just to address the alarming increase in hunger in our state, but to hopefully to provide leadership and to inspire Rhode Islanders to assist their favorite charities as well as to help people in need as we enter the winter months,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO in a prepared statment.

The Food Bank will use the grant to make another 300,000 pounds of food — enough to provide an additional 370,000 meals – available to food pantries like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport Florence Gray Pantry, the Salvation Army Newport Corps’ Food Pantry and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

“Now we will be able to provide more heathy food to the ever increasing numbers of people who are food insecure in Newport County. Food from this grant will also support our new mobile food pantry, which visits underserved neighborhoods throughout the communities we serve, where residents need the services of a food pantry but lack transportation to access The Center,” said Heather Strout, the MLK Center’s newly appointed executive director in a prepared statement.

The Center serves hundreds of Newport County residents a month through its daily breakfast program, food pantry and Food 2 Friends pantry delivery to those who are homebound. After piloting a mobile pantry in 2018, it expects to launch an expanded mobile pantry this year.  

The grant will enable the Food Bank to purchase staples such as baked beans, rice, tomato soup, fresh produce and canned carrots, corn and peas. The organization will work with local soup kitchens, senior centers and food pantries to get the food into the hands of hungry residents.

“With this gift, we’ll be able to deliver more food to our member agencies so that they can provide assistance to working families who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Andrew Schiff, CEO of the Food Bank in a prepared statment. “We are so thankful to the Rhode Island Foundation for once again stepping up to address food insecurity.”

The announcement comes as proposed federal cuts to safety net programs threaten to overwhelm the state’s food pantries, which are already near capacity. According to the Food Bank’s 2018 Report on Hunger, food prices have grown three times faster than wages since 2015.

The Food Bank distributes food to 53,000 struggling Rhode Islanders each month through a statewide network of 158 member agencies, including food pantries, meal sites, shelters, youth programs and senior centers.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $38 million and awarded $43 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2017. Through leadership, fundraising and grant making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit