Food insecurity growing in Rhode Island



I was happy to see the recent commentary by Stephen Kent "Food insecurity can't wait until after the holidays." The article does a great job outlining the crisis and sin of food insecurity and hunger in the United States and around the world.

I think it is important that your readers understand the impact of food insecurity and hunger here in Rhode Island. On November 23 the Rhode Island Community Food Bank issued its annual Status Report on Hunger in Rhode Island. Here are some of the findings that every Rhode Islander should know.

Food insecurity occurs when family members must reduce their food intake, causing them to eat an unhealthy diet, skip meals and, in the worse case, experience hunger. This is happening in Rhode Island more and more. Between 2006 and 2008, 11.7 percent of all Rhode Islanders (50,000 households) were food insecure. 18,000 households (4.2 percent) reported experiencing hunger because they could not afford adequate food (Status Report on Hunger in RI 2009). At the Poverello Center, a food pantry run by the Franciscan Friars and St. Mary Church in Providence, we serve over 500 families a month. These are very troubling numbers and they only continue to grow. The scourge and sin of hunger and food insecurity in our society should be anathema to us.

So what can you do? You can support the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. You can support you parish food pantry or local food pantry. You can urge your state lawmakers to see to it that enough people are hired to adequately manage the current caseload of people needing the help of government-sponsored nutrition programs.

Finally, reflect on the words of the Gospel, "'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?... And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me'(Matthew 25: 37, 40). You can pray for an end to hunger and food insecurity and support all the efforts of so many people to meet the needs of the least among us.

Fr. Frank Sevola, OFM

President, RI Community Food Bank Board of Directors

Pastor, Church of St. Mary,