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Food insecurity is worse than ever in Rhode Island

A new report from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank shows that 25 percent of households are struggling -- the highest level of food insecurity in 20 years

Brian Vanasse lines up bags of food at the Mount Hope Community Center to be distributed to families in need in May in Providence. A new report from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank says residents are experiencing the highest levels of food insecurity in 20 years.
Brian Vanasse lines up bags of food at the Mount Hope Community Center to be distributed to families in need in May in Providence. A new report from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank says residents are experiencing the highest levels of food insecurity in 20 years.David Goldman/Associated Press

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Happy Monday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I stayed up late watching the “2020 WWE Survivor Series” last night, so I’m basically 7 years old. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 48,001 confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, after adding 961 new cases. The most recent overall daily test-positive rate was 7 percent, and the first-time positive rate was 22.8 percent. The state announced six more deaths, bringing the total to 1,294. There were 288 people in the hospital.


It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit poor families across Rhode Island especially hard, and a new report from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank explains how the virus has left too many residents in dire need of food.

The report found that 25 percent of households report being food insecure, up from just 9.1 percent between 2017 and 2019. The food bank says that’s the highest level of food insecurity in 20 years.

”There is no end in sight to the current crisis, and yet key government programs have already been cut back,” the report concludes. “More government assistance is needed to prevent evictions, bankruptcies, and widespread hunger. Rather than reducing federal aid, Congress should issue more relief and reinforce the national nutrition safety net so that families can survive the long-term economic fallout from the pandemic.”

You can read the full report here, and here are some of the other findings.

  • The number of calls for food assistance to the United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline in March and August increased by 77 percent compared to 2019, with nearly 60,000 calls.
  • Benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased by 35 percent in Rhode Island, thanks to a provision in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that gave all eligible households the maximum of $646 a month.
  • The summer may have been particularly difficult for food insecure households with children because the federal Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program was on hold. The program helps students who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches but cannot access those meals while they are enrolled in remote learning. Congress brought it back beginning in September.
  • Food insecure households are for more likely to have at least one person with a diabetes or hypertension, which can lead to other illnesses down the line.

The food bank is asking residents to urge Rhode Island’s congressional delegation to approve another COVID-19 relief bill, petition the federal government to extend the P-EBT program into the summer, advocate for state officials to expand outreach to low-income families in the state who might be eligible for assistance, and push state lawmakers to increase funding for the food bank.


You can donate to the food bank here.


⚓ Ed Fitzpatrick reports that poverty, a lack of affordable housing, and jobs that can’t be done remotely have made Central Falls one of the hardest-hit cities in New England by the coronavirus. Read more.

⚓ This week’s Ocean State Innovators Q&A is with Rhonda Price, founder and CEO of Man Up Inc., a Providence-based nonprofit that provides training and job opportunities for formerly incarcerated men of color.  E-mail Ed if you have someone he should talk to for his weekly interview. Read more.

⚓ LaSalle Academy graduate and US Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is among the Republicans calling on President Trump to concede to President-elect Joe Biden and begin the transition of power. Read more.

⚓ With vaccines for COVID-19 on the horizon, Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, says that he expects that things will be much better by the springtime – even if the pandemic continues or a while. Read more

⚓ One more from Dr. Jha: He says that a negative test result shouldn’t be viewed as a license to travel During Thanksgiving or the December holidays, because it’s not a way to be “reliably comfortable” that you won’t spread the virus to others or become infected yourself. Read more.

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⚓ Politics: President-elect Biden is expected to tap Tony Blinken for secretary of state as part of series of cabinet announcements set for this week. Read more.

⚓ Business: My colleague David Abel writes that oystermen are struggling to remain afloat during the pandemic. Read more.

⚓ Food: Here’s a guide for how to have a smaller-than-expected Thanksgiving dinner. Read more.

⚓ Sports: The Patriots were overmatched by a more-athletic Houston Texans team on Sunday. Read more.

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Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ BIRTHDAYS: Rhode Map readers, due to the holiday, we’re moving birthday wishes up to Wednesday. if you want to recognize a friend or family member, send me an e-mail with their first and last name, and their age.

⚓ While most of Rhode Island’s new COVID-19 restrictions go into effect next Monday, here’s a reminder that social gatherings (including Thanksgiving) are supposed to be limited to one household.

⚓ The Rhode Island Board of Elections is holding its risk-limiting audit of the 2020 election today. We’re one of five states in the country that do this.

⚓ Do you ❤ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

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