The food pantry at the MLK Center.

Newport, RI – Throughout 20 long weeks of service during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center (MLK Center) had to distribute prebagged groceries rather than host its Client Choice Food Pantry. At the same time, the Center could not accept food donations from the public. Beginning in August, the MLK is moving to the “next normal:” the Food Pantry is once again open for clients to choose the foods they prefer, and donations of non-perishable food, fresh produce, personal care and household items will once again be accepted.

To inspire community giving to “Restock to Re-Open” the Food Pantry, a generous local couple is providing a $50,000 Matching Challenge.  They will donate $50,000 if the MLK can raise that amount in combined cash and food donations.  Donations will be matched dollar for dollar (or matched at $1 per pound of donated food, personal care, and household items) for the next 30 days, or until the match is met. 

Donations support the Center’s Hunger Services programs which serve the community via in-person Food Pantry shopping, weekly Veggie Days produce distribution, Mobile Food Pantry neighborhood visits across Newport County, and Food 2 Friends delivery to homebound clients.

“I never thought I’d ever see a day where the MLK would turn away food donations from the public, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to. It was a matter of safety for our clients, the community, and our staff,” said Heather Hole Strout, Executive Director. “We are thrilled to kick off reopening the Food Pantry and accept donations again with this incredible opportunity.”

“Like so many of us in our community, we’ve just felt so helpless throughout this pandemic,” said one of the anonymous donors. “We are so happy to do something to give back to the community at this very challenging time, and inspire others to do the same.” 

To have your donation count toward the match, do one (or more!) of the following: 

  1. Donate online at and select the “ReStock to ReOpen Matching Challenge” in the optional dropdown. 
  2. Checks can be made out to “MLKCC” and mailed to 20 Dr. Marcus Wheatland Blvd, Newport, RI 02840. Please note “ReStock Matching Challenge” in the Memo line.
  3. Donations of food and other items are accepted at the MLK’s loading dock Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The MLK follows safety guidelines as outlined by the Rhode Island Department of Health. Donors are reminded that masks are required, and to please note that their donation is for the “ReStock Matching Challenge” to meet the match. 

“We’ve heard from many people who’ve wanted to donate food over these past long months and we’ve asked them to hang onto the donations. Finally, we can accept them….and they can get matched at a dollar a pound. And for those who understandably can’t or don’t want to donate in person, cash donations are great option, and matched dollar for dollar as well,” Hole Strout explained. 

The MLK is in urgent need of the following:

  • Pantry Staples – Flour, sugar, condiments, baking mixes, salad dressings, etc.
  • Gluten Free Foods
  • Canned Protein (excluding tuna)
  • Jelly
  • Side Items – Rice pilaf, instant potatoes, noodles & sauce, quinoa, couscous, etc.
  • Breakfast Items – Cereals, oatmeal, pancake mixes
  • Canned Vegetables – Corn, potato, green beans specifically
  • Canned & Dried Fruits – Pineapple, applesauce, mandarin oranges, peaches, pears, raisins, etc.
  • Household & Toiletry Items – Dish soap, shampoo, bar soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, menstrual products, deodorant
  • Tomato Items – Pasta sauce, crushed tomato, diced tomato, etc.
  • Beverages – Tea, coffee
  • Large hearty Soups – Progresso, Chunky, etc.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and all charitable contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Please contact Alyson Novick, Director of Development, with any questions or requests for comment at or (401) 846-4828 x102.

Source: The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center

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