As the summer draws to a close and school buses start rolling once again, there will be many changes for families and children. Mornings might be more harried and the after-school hours will be busy with extracurricular activities, homework and hopefully some play in the waning afternoon sunshine.
Another change that will affect some families is the end of a program that, for the last two school years, provided free school lunch and breakfast for all students to ease financial burdens brought on by the pandemic. While free and reduced-price school lunch and breakfast will still be available to the children whose families qualify and complete the application, prices of food and every other necessity have risen so sharply that there will still be many families that find themselves struggling to afford groceries, and more so due to the end of this program.
The Rhode Island Community Food Bank and our many local food pantries have always done their best to meet the needs of families experiencing hunger and food insecurity. Their experienced staff and dedicated volunteers know how to maximize their resources and get nutritious food to those in need.
But this fall and winter they are likely to face much greater demands. In addition to the end of the universal school lunch and breakfast program and rising inflation that affects virtually all costs, Rhode Island’s principal electric and natural gas provider has proposed steep rate hikes that will take effect as winter weather increases demand. Gasoline prices, while fortunately past their peak, are still very high and are not expected to decline quickly. And Rhode Island’s housing crisis means rent and home-buying are increasingly unaffordable. All of these factors are likely to result in more families in need of help this year.
For those reasons, I’d like to take this opportunity to urge every Rhode Islander who has the means to please donate to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank or to their local food pantry. Donations of food are appreciated and put to good use, but financial donations go further, since these organizations have the ability to buy the most-needed items in bulk at lower prices. If you’ve ever considered holding a fundraiser or asking friends and family to make a donation in lieu of gifts for an occasion, now is the time when those donations are most needed.
Your generosity will make a direct impact helping families in your community. It can make the difference between a pantry having enough healthy, nutritious food for all of those seeking help, or having to ration what they have to meet the increase in demand. It can mean the difference between a child’s tummy rumbling while they are trying to pay attention in school, or a lunchbox that has the food they need to power up and stay focused on learning.
Julie A. Casimiro
Representative, District 31, North Kingstown, Exeter