People’s Credit Union announced this week that, due to the increased demand for food assistance caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be donating nearly $20,000 to four local food pantries. 

The donation is going to be spread across food pantries in North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Middletown and Bristol. 

Sean Daly, People’s Credit Union’s President & CEO, said that, as a local credit union, it was their responsibility to “support the communities that we serve in this unprecedented time.” 

“And Rhode Island’s most vulnerable populations need our support now more than ever,” Daly added. 

Of the nearly $20,000 donation, $10,000 was provided to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center in Middletown, $3,300 to the North Kingstown Food Pantry, $3,300 to the Jonnycake Center in South Kingstown and $3,300 to the East Bay Food Pantry in Bristol. 

Stephen Souls, the operations manager of the North Kingstown Food Pantry, said that the donation would be used to purchase more food from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. 

Souls went on to say that monetary donations like the one received from People’s Credit Union, and others in the community, allowed the food pantry to keep up with an increased demand for food. The food pantry, as always, is also still accepting food donations. 

Since the pandemic began, Souls said that North Kingstown Food Pantry had seen a 60 percent increase in new clients, compared to this time last year. 

“That’s a big increase for us,” Souls said. “We’ve been buying additional food from the food bank, and that is from the monetary donations that we have been receiving.” 

While the number of clients has stabilized, Souls said that the food pantry was “planning for the long term,” which could see further increases in clients if more and more residents become unemployed.  

Another hardship faced by food pantries was the loss of volunteers, though Souls said that North Kingstown has maintained a “solid core” to maintain the pantry. They have also switched to pre-bagging and curbside delivery, instead of the customized shopping experience that the clients usually have. 

Kate Brewster, Executive Director of the Jonnycake Center, also said that, like communities across the country, South Kingstown has been “hit hard by this public health crisis.” 

“We served significantly more visitors during the first six weeks of school closures and rising unemployment,” Brewster said. 

She added that donations like the one received from People’s Credit Union provided critical support during the pandemic. 

“We simply could not meet this new demand without the generous support of local businesses like People’s Credit Union who have stepped up in a big way and provided financial support so we can purchase food and other basic necessities,” she said. 

And Karen Griffith, Executive Director of the East Bay Food Pantry, said that Bristol had also seen a marked increase in the need for food assistance, adding that the pantry “really appreciated the generosity of People’s Credit Union.” 

“In April, our food pantry handed out 70 percent more food than we did last April, and our Food4Kids program is distributing twice as much food due to the school closures,” Griffith said. “We are responding to this increase in need while also coping with a loss of income from our Thrift Shop, which is currently closed.” 

“Donations from partners like People’s Credit Union are providing critical funds for our food programs, and we are tremendously grateful for the support,” she added. 

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