THE RECIPE BOX – No one should have to go without food

THE RECIPE BOX – No one should have to go without food

CUMBERLAND – Feeding people is a passion near and dear to my heart. Not just through sharing recipes, but the sharing of resources such as time, cash or actual food products is what I believe really matters. I am not alone in this thought.

This message appears on the Northern RI Food Pantry website: “Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work.” – William Arthur Ward (William Arthur Ward was an American author, editor, pastor and teacher.)

The Northern RI Food Pantry is a 501(c)(3) Rhode Island nonprofit corporation located on Angell Road in Cumberland and is supported by the greater community, local churches, clubs, civic groups and many dedicated volunteers who show up to do the work.

Co-Executive Directors Jeff Whitfield and Bob Chaput, both of Cumberland, along with Lincoln resident Phil Avenia, assistant treasurer, say it’s a labor of love and fulfillment. A regular board of dedicated people, along with the greater community make a difference week after week.

A Rhode Island Foundation Grant, acquired with the help of Sen. Ryan Pearson and Rep. Mia Akerman, are a significant part of the group’s funding, said Chaput, as well as many great community partners. Local Cumberland Dave’s Marketplace, Stop & Shop, and Seabra along with other local businesses enable this emergency pantry to supplement, to aid in the short-term need of food and sustenance.

Every third Saturday of each month at 9 a.m. is the Food Pantry’s distribution day, but many man-hours of preparation have been done ahead of that. Said Chaput, “It sounds like a jingle but after a lifetime of working you retire and then want something to do that means something.”

Avenia echoed that sentiment adding, “We all want to make a difference, and time now allows us to do this. It’s a great group to be part of.” It is often every other day that someone from the team is ordering food and shopping, picking it up (from fundraisers and food drives) and even delivering food to shut-ins if asked.

Whitfield said, “I get a tremendous amount of gratification, feel fulfilled by seeing our patrons fulfilled.” The move to the Angell Road location last October quadrupled their space and at the same time provides easier access on a bus route.

Food insecurity has grown as well; the facility was serving an average 180 families per month but that number has grown to about 200 families over the last two months. “We see new families every month,” said Whitfield.

The first step in the process is to register upon entering the building, but there are not income requirements or questions asked. The reason for the registration is to have a point of contact should there ever be a food recall, Avenia said.

There are shopping carts to be filled. Volunteers man the stations and assist the patrons. After the canned and boxed items there is the refrigerated section where you’ll find packaged chicken, ground beef, eggs, and then move onto the fresh vegetables.

Those shelves were stocked with 50-pound bags of onions and potatoes that had just been delivered by the R.I. Food Bank (of which the NRIFP is a member agency) two days earlier. Franklin Farm donates 3,000 pounds of fresh vegetables each summer season through their volunteer efforts. Local bakeries, Colonial and Panera donate goods.

Cash donations and gift cards are used for the things that do not get donated. Chaput said, “You always hear of the need for peanut butter, but kids want jelly too, and syrup for the pancakes.” The highest need year-round is for protein: peanut butter, canned meat, and tuna. So now that summertime is almost here, don’t forget to give – your time, your extra cash or boxed food if you can share.

“There’s a lot of pride in what we do here, you see tears and thankfulness,” Avenia shared. No one should have to go without food, it’s just not OK!

Note: To find out how you can help visit nrifoodpantry.org , or call 401-347-5714.

Assistant Treasurer Phil Avenia, of Lincoln, and Co-Executive Directors Bob Chaput and Jeff Whitfield, both of Cumberland, volunteer at The Northern RI Food Pantry because they enjoy the fulfillment and gratification it gives them.