Food insecurity among Rhode Island families is a real and urgent social issue; one that the East Bay Food Pantry (EBFP) is addressing with compassion, expertise and innovation. Clients from the East Bay area are served free of charge once a month at the Food Pantry, receiving approximately enough food for 1 week of meals. EBFP is located one block from the bus line and EBFP clients reside in the towns of East Providence, Barrington, Warren, Bristol, Portsmouth, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, and Little Compton. Our “Client Choice” food pantry offers each client household selections based upon household size and key nutritional guidelines. This offers our clients a great measure of dignity because they “shop” for themselves – choosing food they are more likely to utilize.
Access Nutrition Initiative
Our goal is to consistently offer whole grains, high quality protein and dairy items, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in all forms to our clients who rely on the EBFP to supplement their food needs. We are working to build nutrition consciousness into the culture of the EBFP, involving clients, staff and volunteers.
Access Nutrition combines the resources available from the RI Community Food Bank (targeted program foods, when available, and written materials) with the hands-on community services provided by SNAP-Ed and our own in-house, professional resources to offer more than just food to our at-risk clients. EBFP has a professional nutritionist who serves on the Board, works at the EBFP as a volunteer, and serves as program consultant for Access Nutrition. In addition, a SNAP-Education dietician offers occasional healthy food tastings, sharing recipes and collecting data on client responses.
EBFP is committed to building a nutrition-conscious culture that is evidenced year-round, not just during the growing season. This holistic approach includes educating staff and volunteers and offering activities for children focused on healthy eating. We are energized by the real potential for positive impact this initiative can make in the lives of some of the most vulnerable RI children and their families.
Fresh Food Fridays
We offer fresh food (produce, bread, etc) to our clients every Friday. This means that in addition to their regular, once a month pantry “shop”, clients may come in any Friday they wish to pick up produce and/or bread that is available. We want to support our clients in incorporating fresh food into their diet every week. Though this is a year-round program, we make a special effort to partner with local farms and gardeners to provide local, seasonal produce during the growing season. We are committed to getting produce and bread to our clients in its freshest and most nutritious state. The program was developed to support the goals of our Access Nutrition Initiative.
Many low-income children receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch through the National School Lunch Program when they are going to school. Often this program provides a major portion of the nutrients that the children receive. But, what happens on weekends, school holidays, and over the summer? Hunger is one of the most severe roadblocks to the learning process. Lack of nutrition when school is out may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins again. Hunger may also make children more prone to illness and other health issues. The Food4Kids Program is designed to fill the nutrition gap and make sure children can get the nutritious meals they need. Over the summer this program provides families with food to make 5 nutritious breakfasts and lunches for their school-aged children each week. And during the school year the program provides food to make breakfasts and lunches for each weekend, with additional food provided over school vacations. In accordance with our Access Nutrition Initiative, the program focuses on nutritious foods such as eggs, milk, yogurt, whole grains, and fresh fruit.
Without proper nutrients, seniors are at risk of increased disability, decreased resistance to infections, deteriorating mental health, longer hospital stays, and chronic diseases such as diabetes. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) is a nutrition program for low-income seniors age 60 and over that works to improve their health by supplementing their diets with nutritious USDA foods. We are proud to offer this program in cooperation with the RI Community Food Bank, the Department of Elderly Affairs, and the US Department of Agriculture. Registered seniors can receive a supplemental box of nutritious food once a month.
In cooperation with the University of Rhode Island’s SNAP-Ed program and the Bristol County Elks East Bay Cares program, the EBFP makes monthly cooking and nutrition classes available to any interested client. The classes focus on utilizing common pantry foods in easy, nutritious recipes. Each class also uses hands-on activities and handouts to address a specific nutrition or budgeting topic related to the day’s recipe. At the end of each workshop, participants get to sample the day’s recipe, and they receive a shopping bag with the ingredients needed to prepare the dish at home.
In November and December EBFP provides extra food for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Each client who shops during these months takes home a bag with special holiday foods like stuffing, mashed potatoes, dessert mixes, and more! This program is made possible thanks to the generous contributions of the Bristol County Elks East Bay Cares Program, local schools and churches, and many caring community members.
Christmas for Kids
When families are struggling to find enough resources for necessities like food, buying Christmas presents for their children can be an insurmountable challenge. Since 2010, EBFP elves have been stepping in to help each year, allowing parents to request specific gifts for their children and then filling these requests with donations from community members who want to help.
Thrift Shop Vouchers
This program enables area social service agencies and local schools to refer families and individuals experiencing hardship to shop in the Thrift Shop at no cost. We give out an average of $300 worth of clothing, house-wares, and/or furniture to folks in need every month.
Grow-A-Row and Share a Seed
The EBFP invites local gardeners and farmers to grow and donate produce to our food pantry every Wednesday and Friday as crops are ready to harvest. Fresh produce is an essential component of a healthy diet, but is not donated frequently enough to supply demand at the East Bay Food Pantry. Grow-A-Row is an ideal vehicle to engage the community, build relationships, and provide our clients with access to fresh, local produce. We have formed partnerships with Blithewold Gardens, Magaziner Farm, McCoy Community Farm, and Jamestown Community Farm, among others, to bring additional fresh, locally grown produce to our clients every week. Grow-A-Row is a component of our Access Nutrition Initiative and helps supply both our pantry and our Fresh Food Fridays during the growing season. In addition, in the Spring we invite donations of seeds and seedlings that we can offer to our clients so that they can grow their own food at home.