Annual community conversation on hunger planned March 5

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KINGSTON, R.I. –February 25, 2008 — Did you know that more than one out of every 10 households in Rhode Island experiences food insecurity, which means that household members don’t have enough money to afford a healthy diet? Or that the number of households seeking food assistance at Jonnycake Center in Peace Dale jumped from 148 households during the month of January 2006 to 311 households during January 2008?

Community members interested in helping their South County neighbors combat hunger are invited to the second annual conversation on hunger Wednesday, March 5 at 7 p.m. at the Peace Dale Congregational Church, 261 Columbia St., Peace Dale. The goal is to build a community where everyone has enough food to eat year-round. The meeting is co-sponsored by the University of Rhode Island Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America and the Jonnycake Center.

Following the first conversation meeting last March a hunger taskforce was formed. The taskforce has met regularly and through a variety of initiatives has achieved significant progress including:

• Promoting the Food Stamp Program by assisting 122 households apply and receive Food Stamp benefits since last April. An outreach worker from the Hunger Center visits the Johnnycake Center once a week to help people fill out applications and guides them along the process.

• Testifying on behalf of a pilot universal school breakfast program in the South Kingstown School District –which means that every student in two local middle schools, regardless of family income gets to eat breakfast free. The program is currently being evaluated by the school board and may or may not continue due to the costs.

• The Jonnycake Center served as a satellite site for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank’s Neighborhood Pantry Express, which provided a weekly farmer’s market where food pantry clients were able to pick up 10 to 15 pounds of fresh produce. The Express ran from June through October. More than 16,000 pounds of fresh produce was distributed through the food pantry and other local social service agencies.

• About 30 local gardeners and two farms, Casey Farm and URI’s East Farm, took part in the Johnnycake Center’s “Plant A Row for Hungry” program, contributing more than 1,500 pounds of locally grown fresh produce to food pantry clients.

“There is still much more to be done and we hope that everyone concerned about hunger in our community will participate. Several members are working on developing a local community garden and there are other initiatives underway,” says Kathleen Gorman, director of URI’s Hunger Center.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Sonia Ferria, at 874-5145 or email her at If you are unable to attend the event, feel free to send your thoughts or comments as the taskforce continues to seek input from everyone in the community.