by Madeleine List
Projo Staff Writer
The Community Action Partnership of Providence pantry provides food to 700-plus families a year but was closed for five months to relocate. The pantry also tries to meet the diverse needs of residents who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
PROVIDENCE — More than 50 families on Wednesday stocked up at the food pantry run by the Community Action Partnership of Providence for the first time since it relocated to a building on Broad Street in August.
The pantry, one of the largest in Providence, was out of service for more than five months after the social services agency was forced to vacate its previous location, the Elmwood Community Center, in July due to unsafe building conditions.
The organization moved to 807 Broad St. in August and resumed most of its services, but the food pantry took longer to reopen.
After completing about $10,000 in renovations and securing all the necessary health certifications, the agency’s staff conducted a “soft opening” of the pantry for senior residents last Tuesday and officially opened it to the public on Wednesday, said Rilwan Feyisitan Jr., executive director of the organization.
About 50 families who have been regular users of the pantry came in on Wednesday, as well as about 13 families who came to retrieve emergency food supplies, he said.
During the months that the pantry was closed, staff at the Community Action Partnership of Providence partnered with the Rhode Island Food Bank to help meet the nutrition needs of many of the residents who rely on the resource.
But still, some said they were happy to see the pantry reopened.
“Honestly, I really need this,” Rosalia Villalona, a 60-year-old Providence resident who has been using the pantry for four years, said in Spanish.
She visits the pantry every 15 days and picks up items such as potatoes, rice, tomato sauce, eggs, cheese and “many important things that really are necessary,” she said.
During the months the pantry was closed, she said, she ate less than she normally does.
Feyisitan said the pantry, which serves residents of the 02907 zip code, provides food to more than 700 families per year, and he expects that number to rise because the organization’s new location is on a bus route.
The pantry costs just under $100,000 per year to run; last year, between January and July, it distributed about 30,000 pounds of food, he said. During a typical year, when the pantry is open all 12 months, it goes through twice that amount.
In order to meet the diverse needs of residents who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds, the pantry also seeks to distribute a variety of meats and proteins that align with residents’ religious and dietary restrictions, he said.
“That’s not common in a lot of other pantries,” Feyisitan said.
But while the pantry is critical for so many families in Providence, it’s the other services that the agency offers, including senior support, education, job training and energy assistance, that are making lasting differences in people’s lives, Feyisitan said.
“Our goal is, how do we get that family or that individual into another program or another part of our agency that’s going to alleviate them from having to come to the pantry,” he said. “So that’s why we frame it that way — critically important, critically needed. But I think our education and our job training, our wraparound services for families, are really the key if we’re going to ever get people out of poverty.”
Those interested in supporting the food pantry can donate or sign up to volunteer through the Community Action Partnership of Providence website: www.cappri.org.
Article originally posted on 2/6/2020 Projo.com