opinion Newport Rhode Island

COVID-19 has upended all of our lives, but for those who suffer from hunger and food insecurity, the pandemic has only exacerbated a previously dire situation for too many individuals and their families.

Before the pandemic, far too many Rhode Islanders were already suffering from food insecurity and hunger.  Now that our economy has been drastically affected by COVID-19, all available metrics on hunger and food insecurity have skyrocketed.

The percentage of households reporting food insufficiency now tops 10 percent.  The number of people served by our food banks has risen to 68,000 individuals from the previous year’s total of 54,000 people.  The pounds of food distributed has increased from 6,221,789 to 7,561,618 over the last year and calls for food assistance grew from 35,803 to 60,450 since COVID-19 emerged in our state.

These are troubling numbers and demonstrate how much crucial food assistance is needed by a large portion of our state’s population.

And while Rhode Islanders have been extremely generous in their private donations of time, money, and food to our food bank system, the reality of the situation is that private efforts alone are not enough to keep our families, friends, and neighbors well-fed.

Governor McKee’s FY 2022 state budget proposal has acknowledged this issue by doubling the state’s funding of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank to $350,000.  This money is much appreciated and is crucial to helping our most vulnerable residents, but sadly, it will still not be enough to put food on every kitchen table that needs it.

It is for these sobering reasons that I am calling for support to increase the state’s funding to our food bank system.  Too many of our children and families endure the suffering of an empty belly and the anxiety of where the next meal will come from on a daily basis.  We as a state can, and must, do better to help our residents who are struggling with the simple act of being properly fed.

The pandemic stripped away any illusions we may had and has showed us the aspects of our society that do not work for everyone.  These inequities are demonstrated clearly with the prevalence of food insecurity and hunger in our state and as we have in other efforts to combat the effects of the pandemic, we must come together to support this most-worthy organization that is a lifeline for so many in our state.

For more information, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank Winter 2020/2021 Impact Report can be found here: https://rifoodbank.org/news-events/publications/