Andrew Schiff, CEO of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank is quick to say one box of food a month is not enough to live on. It’s a supplement and that it’s intended purpose, said …
Andrew Schiff, CEO of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank is quick to say one box of food a month is not enough to live on. It’s a supplement and that it’s intended purpose, said Schiff.
But for Linda Walsh it makes life a lot easier and is a big deal. Linda was one of 66 people who picked up boxes last Wednesday at the Pilgrim Senior Center. Depending on what’s available at the time, the boxes contain a variety of dried and canned foods as well as produce on occasion. The Pilgrim Senior Center has served as a distribution location for the monthly food box program known as the USDA’s Community Supplement Food Program for at least eight years and probably longer.
“We’re the only senior center still doing it,” says center director Meg Underwood. Patricia Almonte, who runs the center program, surmises other centers have dropped the program because of the work involved. Almonte keeps a running tab of those eligible for the boxes and checks them off - often helping lift the boxes into cars – during the monthly pickups.
Last Wednesday Almonte had more help than she could use - at least for a brief period - as officials gathered outside the center. The objective was to put the spotlight on Hunger Action Month and National Senior Center Month.
During Hunger Action Month, food banks across the country raise awareness and inspire action to help people facing the impossible choices of food insecurity. During senior center month the goal is to promote a positive image of aging and how senior centers improve the lives of the elderly.
Schiff said a total of 2,240 boxes are distributed monthly statewide through the program that is administered by the RI Office of Healthy Aging, which contracts with the food bank to manage the program.
Schiff, Maria Cimini, director of the Healthy Aging and Mayor Frank Picozzi were among those to greet a Food Bank truck as it arrived at the center. As pallets of the boxes were rolled off, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi appeared as did those driving in to make pickups. Shekarchi along with Picozzi, Cimini and Schiff rolled up their sleeves and started placing boxes in back seats and car trunks depending on the driver’s request.
“Now be sure to put that in the fridge,” Shekarchi to Thelma Witowski as he held up a rectangular box for her to see. “It’s cheese.”
Schiff was impressed with the Speaker’s attention to details.
“Say cheese again,” coaxed a photographer, but the play on the word escaped Shekarchi who was readying for another pickup.
For the most part, those in the first round of pickups had been part of the program for five or six years. Like Linda Walsh they said the supplemental food was important to them especially at a time of increasing costs.
To be eligible for the program applicants must be able to provide a photo ID and have an income of $1,473 or less per month. Additional information is available by contacting Almonte at 468-4084.
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