Cranston, R.I. - “We’re currently serving 60,000 individuals per month – that’s double the amount from 2008,” Kelly Nichols says as she ushers a group of Roger Williams University student volunteers into the Rhode Island Community Food Bank’s repository.
Entering a massive warehouse filled stories-high with provisions, Nichols – the food bank’s volunteer manager – sets the eager students to work bagging fresh apples and packaging frozen meals for shipment to local food depositories.
“Last year alone, we distributed 9.4 million pounds of food in Rhode Island,” she says. “A lot of families – some that are previous donors – are really struggling.”
In recognition of Roger Williams University’s core value of commitment to community through service, 16 service-minded RWU students travelled to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank on Wednesday, Oct. 12, as part of a weeklong series of events to celebrate the inauguration of President Donald J. Farish, Ph.D., J.D.
As the state’s only warehouse and distribution center, the R.I. Community Food Bank receives, processes and distributes food to local food pantries, churches, after school programs and other agencies for donation to families in need – a massive daily undertaking.
According to Nichols, the Food Bank has made a number of changes in recent years to serve clients more efficiently and to keep up with the growing demand within the state. They work with other service organizations to help clients take advantage of federal programs like S.N.A.P. (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and school-based meals for children, and run a culinary arts training program.
“We also rely heavily on volunteers for additional support,” she says.
While Roger Williams University works with nearly 100 local community organizations, the University has formed a particularly close relationship with the R.I. Community Food Bank over the years.
Whether it’s volunteer trips by RWU’s Values of Sisterhood club (a new all-female community service organization) or campus-wide participation in the Food Bank’s “Nothing” Campaign – a fundraising initiative to raise awareness about hunger in Rhode Island that brought in nearly $80,000 in donations last year – the University has worked to maintain a meaningful relationship with the organization.
And for many RWU students, their a personal interest in hunger issues makes volunteer time spent at the Food Bank that much more important.
“I came from Guatemala in 1991 and it was very difficult for my family to get started in the beginning,” says junior Ruddy Lopez. “We always looked for help from our community, so anytime there’s an opportunity that’s related to food or shelter, I’m always interested in helping out.”