Drive-thru food

Chuck Marcotte, of the Northern Rhode Island Food Pantry, shows the prepackaged food bags that would be hand-delivered to recipients last Saturday. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

CUMBERLAND – Volunteers at the Northern Rhode Island Food Pantry are changing the way they operate in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, hand-delivering bags of groceries to people in their vehicles.

Switching from the typical self-serve assembly line is more work, said volunteer Chuck Marcotte, but it keeps visitors safer.

The food pantry at the intersection of Angell Road and Mendon Road held its first distribution event under new drive-thru procedures last Saturday, March 21.

“We decided to hit them outside,” said Marcotte. “Hopefully we’re going to get back to normal.”

Each visitor to the parking lot received the standard three bags of groceries, including meat and produce. Items were prepackaged, and recipients were not required to interact with anyone to receive food.

A police officer monitored the outdoor distribution event. A sign on the door states that no visitors could enter and that there were no restrooms available.

“We will put a number on your car and bring the food to you,” the sign read. “Stay in your car until your number is served.”

The sign also told patrons that there were no pastries or eggs available.

Volunteers reported smooth operations and no waiting lines.

“We thank you for your patience and understanding as we attempt to continue to provide this vital service to our community,” stated an announcement to the community.

Marcotte said volunteers expect increasing demand as people are hurt by a declining economy, particularly the increasing number of local layoffs.

The Northern Rhode Island Food Pantry is a member agency of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. Call 401-347-5714 or visit for more. The pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month.

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