By Kevin G. Andrade
the Providence Journal Staff Writer/November 18, 2018
The R.I. Food Bank is releasing its 2018 Status Report on Hunger.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Joel Esperanza, a 35-year-old who is training to be a carpenter, has been volunteering at the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen on Broad Street for six months. While it was cold outside on Sunday evening, his heart was keeping the kitchen warm as he washed baking sheets.
“I was homeless and chasing the street sheet,” he said, referring to a list that the Rhode Island Food Bank provides with scheduled food services at various sites. “I was so grateful that these people would feed me when no one else would.”
Esperanza now has a place to live in Providence, but he is still among the 65,000 Rhode Island households that receive SNAP benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Esperanza says getting enough to eat on his benefits is getting harder — and he is not alone.
On Monday, the R.I. Food Bank released its 2018 Status Report on Hunger.
“The R.I. economy is thriving, unemployment is at 3.8 percent, which is remarkably low, and wages are beginning to grow, and that’s all good,” said Andrew Schiff, the CEO of the food bank. “But wages have not kept up with the real cost of living in terms of housing and energy and food.”
The report says that food insecurity affects 1 in 8 Rhode Islanders, such as Esperanza.
“I definitely have had to pay attention to sales, and my mom has opened my eyes up to coupons,” he said with a hearty laugh, adding that he receives $149 a month from the program. “Sometimes, though, I was literally surviving on pretzels and raisins. … I have to pay closer attention now because that money doesn’t go as far as it used to.”