Local groups score touchdown in ‘Souperbowl’

Local groups score touchdown in ‘Souperbowl’

From left, Alexis Kent, Andrew Silva and Jackie Carroll, 9th- and 10th-graders who are members of Our Lady of Fatima Church, volunteered to contribute to the “Souperbowl” canned good drive.
Canned good collection drive expected to bring more than 2,000 items to Northern R.I. Food Pantry

CUMBERLAND – The Northern Rhode Island Food Pantry is on the receiving end of a game that’s less about the score, and more about the mission.

This year’s “Souperbowl” is expected to bring in more than 2,000 canned goods this month to the pantry, located at 10 Nate Whipple Highway.

Chapel Four Corners Community Church, Our Lady of Fatima Church and Emmanuel Episcopal Church, all in Cumberland, have been collecting the non-perishable items for weeks now, as have local groups in town, including the Cumberland High School Helping Hands Club and the pharmacy group from CVS in Lincoln.

Between the CHS club and CVS group alone, nearly 700 pounds of assorted soups and canned goods have been gathered to benefit the pantry, said Barbara Lanoue, of Cumberland, who serves as the pantry’s food drive coordinator.

Back in 2014, a box labeled “Super Bowl Food Drive” was delivered to the food pantry, and that sparked Lanoue’s imagination. She reached out to the community at Emmanuel about contributing to a “Souperbowl” food collection drive, and a goal of 100 cans of soup was established.

Fast forward to 2017, and Lanoue said each participating church is expecting to gather more than 500 cans. That’s not including the donations from the CHS and CVS groups.

“There’s no doubt the pantry will have a mix of over 2,000 cans of soup and miscellaneous foods to add to its client distribution,” she said, a mission that wouldn’t be attainable without the support of the local groups.

While the food pantry sees the most donations around Thanksgiving, Lanoue said, the need doesn’t go away after the holiday passes. Lanoue, who has been involved with the pantry for a few years, said donations tend to drop off after that time of year.

The days leading up to food distribution events, which typically take place the third Saturday of each month, can be precarious, she said. The volunteers at the pantry, she said, never know for sure how much food will turn up, or when.

But this Saturday, Feb. 18, the food pantry workers can expect that their shelves will be far from empty for families in the area, thanks to the generosity of local residents, Lanoue said.

She said more than 68,000 Rhode Island residents rely on food pantry assistance a month, a figure she called “quite astounding.”

Lanoue said since the country is so rich with food, hunger should be one of the most solvable problems, “but it isn’t.”

Phil Avenia, of Lincoln, a member of the Northern Rhode Island Food Pantry board and Chapel Four Corners parishioner, said the pantry has been serving about 200 families a month.

That translates to more than 600 individuals monthly, he said.

“We certainly have been serving more and more people as time has been going on,” Avenia said.

There are several groups that support the food pantry throughout the year, he and Lanoue pointed out, including Calvin Presbyterian Church, Saint Joseph Church, schools and Scout troops.

“It’s the whole community coming forward and helping out the neighbors that don’t have as much,” Avenia said.

“We’ll never know all the faces of hunger,” Lanoue said, but she has met a number of folks that have walked through the distribution line.

One woman she spoke with, Lanoue recalled, told her she couldn’t afford to buy food and pay her heating bill in the same month. An elderly couple, Lanoue explained, shared that they could not afford three meals a day while also paying for their prescriptions.

There are some folks who can’t make it to the distribution facility to pick up food, Avenia said, but volunteers at the pantry also offer home deliveries for those who can’t physically get to the pantry.

Lanoue said pantry volunteers are also willing to pick up donations from organizations. Arrangements can be made by calling 401-347-5714.

Lanoue said she’s hopeful the “Souperbowl” campaign will catch on and stick for many years to come. “All we have to do is tap their generosity, awaken it,” she said of donors.

“Humanity helping humanity is what we’re all about.”

David Lanoue, of Cumberland, dubbed by some food pantry volunteers as “Souper Trouper” for making deliveries during last Sunday’s snowstorm, unpacks donations collected by Emmanuel Episcopal Church for the food pantry.