The Frontline is the Food Line
|Madeline, Emidio and Lori are on the frontlines at the Family Support Center.
The Family Support Center has been in high gear giving people relief from worries about putting food on the table and helping with navigating other resources. Emidio, Madeline and Lori are sporting masks these days to ensure safety all around. They are on site at 245 Main Street, and are eager to help anyone who comes in. They are surely on the frontlines and we are grateful for their commitment.
The "pantry" has been replenished thanks to the generosity of many individual donors who have stepped up to help, knowing their neighbors are struggling. The Patriots Foundation and RI Food Bank have also helped fill the shelves here and at our Shelter.
One resident commented on the donations saying, "Since I have been homeless, it is things like this that has restored my faith humanity."
Family Support Center staff provide more than food. Sometimes what is needed is a helping hand. For example, last week a woman came in crying and in desperation because she was having trouble obtaining her birth certificate from City Hall. Well, Madeline knew just who to call, and the woman was able to get her birth certificate. Our staff will tell you that seeing someone go from desperate and anxious to happy and able to help themselves is the reason they come to work every day.
There is some physical labor involved, as well, with unloading delivery trucks, stocking shelves and preparing bags.
Here at CCA our distribution averages about 500 households each month which represents between 700 – 900 persons served. We get deliveries 2x/month and that averages about 4000 – 6000 lbs that is offloaded into our commodities room at 245 Main Street. Staff pack bags according to what is available and the number of bags per family are based on household size. In any given month, our commodities “bag” has a variety of supplemental foods like canned veggies/fruit, rice, dried beans, tomato sauce, dry cereal, canned meats and plant proteins (e.g., peanut butter). These items don’t always translate into meals although with creativity they can round out purchased food and are shelf stable for future use. We also partner with RI Food Bank and more recently have been receiving cheese, fresh fruits and veggies when available. We also are allotted FEMA funds annually to purchase extras. Emidio and his team have chosen to purchase ground meat (beef and turkey) in 1 lb packages which are frozen for safe transport. These items are coveted for the several weeks we have them during the year.
Darlene Magaw, Director of Family Support, added this shout out. "We’d love to give a shout out to Jacqui Arpin and two of her colleagues on Team 5, who put their muscles to good work this past Wednesday when Emidio called for reinforcements. The Family Support Center doesn’t close its doors to customers when the delivery truck pulls in so extra hands truly do make light work."
A Little History
USDA Commodities distribution became part of the federal Farm Bill in the early 1980s. At that time the federal food reserves were abundant and the distribution of this food helped the agricultural markets that produced the raw materials while helping low-income households stretch their grocery budgets.
CAP agencies were a natural fit as partners with FNS since our mission to eliminate poverty and reduce barriers to self sufficiency is in the bricks of our work. Also, CAPS are in every state and since Johnson’s War on Poverty was declared in the 1960’s, have nurtured local community ties that act as a hub for other related services. USDA commodities are purchased from food producers in this country and then shared with our neighbors who need food.
Our mandate from the Department of Human Services and RI Community Foodbank based on directives from FNS is that when these items are given to individual households we must show how we have determined these households to be income eligible. Hence when someone comes into the Family Support Center, we gather information about household members and income. We also have directives to store and rotate stock that Emidio has down to a science.