As the Jonnycake Center navigates these unchartered waters, our incredibly generous community has been a beacon of hope.
In our close to 50 years of providing basic needs to our neighbors, we have never had to ramp up our food distribution in such a dramatic fashion. The first few weeks of school closings and rising unemployment had us scrambling to procure enough food to meet the increased demand through donations, purchases, and deliveries from the RI Community Food Bank. Our community rose to the challenge.
During the first six weeks of this public health crisis we successfully launched our school vacation meals program ahead of schedule. We served enough food for 12,000 breakfasts and lunches to local school children who are cleaning out the family fridge as they engage in distance learning. Every donated snack and box of cereal has been critical for these families whose children often rely on school for one or both meals.
We ramped up our home deliveries to anyone who needs it, tripling the number we would normally do in any given week. Close to 100 individuals signed up for our services for the first time, compared to 300 new members in all of 2019. This week, we are prepared to make a second delivery of food to more than 200 workers and families on Block Island who are under strict stay-at-home and quarantine ordinances. With their busy season delayed, a growing number of workers are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain food.
Every community is unique and our hospitality economy – with its restaurant workers, housekeepers, and local fisherman – has been hit hard in its own unique way.
In these truly unprecedented times, our community has come together in ways we have never witnessed before. You showed up with food, funds, masks, and our remaining volunteers and staff are at our pantry six days a week, despite the risk.
We are strongest when we work together to help those in need. We are a better community when we work for the common good. Thanks to everyone for doing your part.
The writer is executive director of the Jonnycake Center.