As Americans finalize their menus for the nation’s largest annual feast, many are struggling with what to put on the table tonight. But it’s not a matter of taste; it’s a matter of money.
The 2012 Report on Hunger in Rhode Island, Rhode Island Community Food Bank’s compilation of data concerning access to food in the state, displays some unsettling trends.
Rhode Island currently has the highest rate of food insecurity in New England, which means that more people in Rhode Island are incapable of affording a sufficient amount of food than any other neighboring state.
The increased demand for food has got food banks feeling the squeeze, since in addition to the growing number of working poor, donations to the Food Bank are down by 2 million pounds since 2009. Local food banks are feeling the pinch too, and local churches and social service agencies try to think outside the box to solicit donations from new sources. Schools continue to be powerful allies to food assistance programs, running drives in their schools, especially at this time of year. Still, it’s just not enough.
It’s a vicious cycle really; the downed economy sends people to food banks, whose donations are down due to the tightening of everyone’s belts. Couple that with slashed state funding for food banks and a looming Farm Bill that would cut SNAP programming for Rhode Islanders, and the situation looks pretty dire.
What happens to hungry, working Rhode Islanders when SNAP turns them away and the Food Bank runs out of supplies? It’s a question that, thankfully, we don’t have to answer. Yet.
Despite the somewhat bleak news for Rhode Island, things aren’t all bad. It is, after all, the time of year when people become mindful of the needy and open their cupboards and wallets to benefit them. Food drives are in full swing across the state, and charitable organizations are collecting everything from turkeys, citrus fruits and other non-perishable items that people need most around the holidays.
So although it’s been said countless times, it always bears repeating: Donate something, if you can. There are countless Rhode Islanders who will be thankful for you this week.