Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center

Although unable to hold its traditional late summer food drive in its 20 branches statewide, Bank Rhode Island (BankRI) is helping ensure their food pantry partners have resources to meet the increased need brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In support of food acquisition, the bank has provided a total of $7,500 to 15 pantries across the state.

Among those to receive funding is Newport’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, which has experienced a sharp increase in the demand for food assistance since the health crisis began.

“The coronavirus crisis has hit Newport County particularly hard – in just four months, we’ve provided food to more than 80 percent of the people we served in all of 2019,” said Heather Hole Strout, Executive Director of the MLK Center in a statement. “We don’t foresee things slowing down anytime soon. With federal unemployment benefits ending, many families and individuals will be in even tighter economic situations.”

The charitable dollars are BankRI’s second wave of funding to combat hunger since the pandemic began, following a $10,000 grant to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. As part of its latest funding, BankRI is encouraging members of the community to help support their local pantry if they’re able. A list of the bank’s food pantry partners and their information can be found here.

According to a recent report by the Food Bank, the number of people seeking help through emergency food programs has increased by almost 30 percent since March. That equates to 67,000 people served monthly – a figure that nearly matches the number of people receiving assistance at the height of the recession. 

“There is not a community in our state where our neighbors have not been impacted by what’s going on in the world right now – too many people are worried about how they’ll feed their families,” said Mark J. Meiklejohn, President and CEO of BankRI in a statement. “At the same time, when Rhode Islanders see a need, they want to help. Our hope is that those who can will consider helping their local pantry.”