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How to address food insecurity in Rhode Island

R.I. Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff to tell us more about food insecurity in Rhode Island and the ways policymakers can address the problem

Bags of food wait to be picked up by volunteers at the Mount Hope Community Center to be distributed to families in need, Wednesday, May 6, 2020, in Providence, R.I.David Goldman/Associated Press

Happy Monday! I’m Dan McGowan and “King Richard” is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

Coronavirus updates

Rhode Island has a high level of transmission: 292.1 total new cases per 100K population in the past 7 days

Fully vaccinated: 754,790 (of about 1.1 million residents)

New cases: 546 (on Friday)

Test-positive rate: 3.6 percent

Currently hospitalized: 113

Total deaths: 2,906

More stats from the R.I. Department of Health. Globe Rhode Island COVID-19 news and resources. Subscribe to our Coronavirus Next newsletter.

Leading off

More than 18 percent of Rhode Island households lack consistent access to nutritious food, a number that is significantly higher than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released Monday by the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.


In Black and Latino households, the numbers are even more alarming: 34 percent of Black households and 34.1 percent of Latino households are facing food insecurity, the report states. I asked food bank CEO Andrew Schiff to tell us more about food insecurity in Rhode Island and the ways policymakers can address the problem.

Q: There are twice as many households facing food insecurity now than there were before the pandemic. Are you surprised the numbers are still this high even as the economy starts to turn around?

Schiff: We’re not at all surprised by these high rates of food insecurity because we see the hardships faced by low-income families every day. Clearly, the pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on these families in terms of high rates of illness, job loss, and financial losses. With one in six households still unable to afford adequate food, it will be a long time before economic recovery reaches everyone in Rhode Island.

Q: Black and Latino households are experiencing food insecurity at a much higher rate than white households. What should policymakers be doing to lower that rate?


Schiff: Policymakers should identify and correct long-standing inequities in government programs and benefits. A perfect example is the child tax credit, which until recently excluded families at the bottom of the income ladder. It has now been expanded by President Joe Biden’s administration and Congress to include these families. If made permanent, the revised child tax credit has the potential to reduce child poverty, to end child hunger, and to directly address racial and ethnic disparities because the greatest gains will be realized by Black and Latinx children.

Q: The state has $1.1 billion in American Rescue Plan funding. What’s the best way state leaders can address food insecurity?

Schiff: American Rescue Plan Act funding should be used to improve access to critical nutrition programs, like SNAP. Due to COVID-19, the Department of Human Services offices have been closed. We are hearing from our community partners and advocates that people calling the state’s call center to apply for SNAP benefits face unconscionably long wait times. ARPA funds could be used to establish a network of community helpers – like the navigators who assist people in applying for Medicaid – and build the infrastructure necessary to streamline the application process and make it easier for eligible people to access these benefits.

Q: If a Rhode Map reader wants to help families in need this winter, what’s the food bank’s top need? 

Schiff: We need the public to give generously so we can acquire enough food to keep up with the high demand for food assistance. We want our statewide network of 150 partner agencies – the agencies that operate the food pantries and meal sites that directly serve those in need – to be fully supplied with food this winter. It’s easy to donate online at www.rifoodbank.org.


The Globe in Rhode Island

⚓ Why are test scores for Indigenous students in Rhode Island so low? Read more.

⚓ Warwick Mayor Frank J. Picozzi on Friday said the city “must seek reimbursement” for up to $386,000 in “excess payments” made to firefighters for unused sick time between 2013 and 2018. Read more.

⚓ Lifespan Corp., the state’s largest health care system, has hired former Rhode Island House speaker Nicholas Mattiello as a lobbyist while the company seeks approval for a merger with Care New England. Read more.

⚓ RISD runs an Airbnb in Barrington. And residents aren’t thrilled. Read more.

⚓ Colleen Cronin takes a look at the best pizza place in Providence: Pizza Marvin. Read more.

⚓ This week’s Ocean State Innovators Q&A is with Allison Butler, who leads Bryant University’s Innovation and Design Experience for All (IDEA) program. E-mail Alexa Gagosz with suggestions for this weekly interview.  Read more. Here’s more Globe Rhode Island coverage.

Also in the Globe

⚓ My colleague Beth Teitell has a great piece on the frenzied used-car market. Read more.

⚓ Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said Sunday she will sign a measure intended to divest city funds from the fossil fuel industry — a move praised by local environmental advocates as an important step to combat the climate crisis and spur greater action. Read more.


⚓ The Patriots didn’t even play yesterday, and they still won. Read more.

Our journalism relies on support from readers like you. Please help us continue our mission with a subscription to the Globe. Here’s a special deal for Rhode Island.

What’s on tap today

E-mail events to us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ Rhode Map readers, if you want a friend or family member to be recognized on Wednesday (not Friday), send me an e-mail with their first and last name, and their age.

⚓ The board of directors for the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank meets at 3 p.m. Here’s the agenda.

⚓ US Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and US Representative David Cicilline will be in Providence at 1:30 p.m. to discuss a new $900,000 federal grant to help the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) develop plans for a transit corridor to connect Central Falls to Warwick.

⚓ The Providence City Council meets at 6 p.m. to appoint members of the Charter Review Commission. Read more.

My previous column

The Providence City Council wasted a lot of time and money in attempting to impeach the city clerk. Now that the clerk has resigned, it’s time for the council to get back to doing things that actually matter.

If you missed the column, you can read it here. And all of my columns are on our Rhode Island Commentary page.


Rhode Island Report podcast

Ed Fitzpatrick talks to Lorén Spears from the Tomaquag Museum about what Thanksgiving represents for Indigenous  people. Listen to all of our podcasts here.

Boston Globe App

You can get alerts about Rhode Island news on the Globe’s app (iOS and Android). Just tap the gear icon, then “Edit Alert Settings,” and choose Rhode Island.

Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you tomorrow. Please tell your friends about Rhode Map! They can sign up here. The Globe has other e-mail newsletters on topics ranging from breaking news alerts to sports, politics, business, and entertainment — check them out.

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.