PROVIDENCE, RI – In an effort to fight hunger, uphold human dignity, and provide nutrition assistance to children, families, seniors, and all Rhode Islanders in need, U.S. Senator Jack Reed is teaming up with the RI Community Food Bank to address the ongoing hunger crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Reed helped pass the American Rescue Plan, which invests over $12 billion in nutrition assistance nationwide to address immediate hardships caused by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, Senator Reed joined Andrew Schiff, CEO of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank; Kathleen Gorman, Director of the University of Rhode Island (URI) Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America; and Rilwan Feyisitan, Jr., Executive Director of the Community Action Partnership of Providence County (CAPP) to discuss how food insecurity has impacted Rhode Island during the pandemic, outline ways that the American Rescue Plan is helping to address hunger and ensure families can afford to buy groceries, and share new federal strategies to ensure more Rhode Islanders can access fresh, healthy food.  This includes:

Extending a 15 percent boost in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through September.  SNAP helps individuals, families, and seniors afford a basic diet, generates business for retailers, and boosts local economies.  In Rhode Island, SNAP helps provide nutrition assistance to approximately 140,000 people and the 15 percent increase will mean an estimated additional $27 per person per month in the Ocean State, or $108 for a family of four.  As a result, an additional $11 million in federal SNAP funds will be directed to Rhode Island in July, August, and September.

Reducing food hardship among children by extending the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program through the end of the current public health emergency, including over the summer.  The P-EBT program helps families purchase food for children whose access to free and reduced-price meals at school has been impacted by COVID-19.  The program provides an EBT card that can be used to purchase food at authorized retailers, including most major grocery stores.  Rhode Island is expected to receive about $25 million over the coming year to be distributed through the state’s P-EBT program.

Directing about $3.6 million in new ARP funds to help Rhode Island with administrative costs related to connecting eligible people in need to nutrition assistance through technology, websites, outreach, call center capacity, and other measures.

“The number of Rhode Islanders who don’t know where their next meal will come from has grown significantly during this pandemic.  COVID-19 has created record demand and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank has risen to the challenge, offering assistance to over 68,000 people per month.  But it needs help and the federal government is stepping up to deliver much needed assistance.  The American Rescue Plan provides a financial boost to help people put food on the table and we’ve got to keep working to ensure people’s basic needs are met during this challenging time,” said Senator Reed, who also thanked the Food Bank and its network of partners for stepping up to the plate and delivering emergency hunger relief to thousands of Rhode Islanders over the last year.

“The American Rescue Plan will provide life-changing assistance to so many Rhode Islanders who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Andrew Schiff, CEO of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. “We are extremely thankful to our Congressional Delegation, led by Senator Reed, for ensuring that our neighbors in need receive this support.”

“The America Rescue Plan was the other shot in the arm that Rhode Islanders needed desperately right now.  Our senior US. Senator Reed delivers again,” said Rilwan Feyisitan, Jr., Executive Director of Community Action Partnership of Providence County.

The American Rescue Plan also delivers financial support by enhancing unemployment insurance and strengthening the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is projected to help reduce child poverty by 50 percent.

The law also includes $1.4 billion in funding for the Older Americans Act (OAA) - with $750 million specifically designated for senior nutrition services through programs like Meals on Wheels.  Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island serves about 1,300 meals every day and its volunteers provide COVID-safe check-ins on seniors.

And there is $4 billion in the American Rescue Plan for the USDA to support the nation’s food supply chain.  This includes food purchases to be distributed to people in need through non-profit organizations.  For example, there is $880 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).  In Rhode Island, a portion of these funds will be used to enhance the purchasing power of almost 17,000 new mothers so they can buy more fresh fruit and vegetables at local grocers or farmers markets.

Nationwide, the pandemic led to an estimated 13.1 million non-elderly adults seeking free meals or free groceries for the first time as charitable food use increased nearly 50 percent from 2019 to 2020, according to the non-profit Feeding America.