CENTRAL FALLS — The city of Central Falls' bankruptcy situation and closure of the Ralph J. Holden Community Center affected numerous social services, but one of the most painful losses was the Central Falls Food Pantry.
However, two months later, the Central Falls Food Pantry has found a new home and a new beginning at Progreso Latino at 626 Broad St. A grand re-opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Wednesday morning in the renovated pantry, which is located on the second floor of Progreso Latino.
The guest speakers at the event included state Sen. Elizabeth Crowley and Rep. Gus Silva, both of whom have been strong supporters of the city's food pantry since it was located at the Holden Center. Mario Bueno, Progreso Latino's executive director and Vernia Carter, food pantry coordinator, also spoke about the importance of the food pantry continuing within the community.
According to Marta V. Martinez, Progreso Latino's director of communications and fund development, the food pantry moved to Progreso Latino in August after the closing of the Holden Center, where it had been housed. However, due to the subsequent filing of bankruptcy by the city of Central Falls, which managed the pantry, funds to purchase food for the facility were not available. Thanks to the generosity of the Rhode Island Foundation, which provided a $5,000 Basic Needs Grant in October, and also the endorsement of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, the Central Falls Food Pantry is ready to provide services once again.
As the food pantry coordinator, Carter said, “The journey toward a new home has taken a bit longer than we had expected, but the generosity of Progreso Latino and its staff has been our beacon of home once again.”
She added, “We would not be where we are without the unwavering support of our friends and partners, like Progreso Latino. We are so proud to share news of our new facility with everyone who helped make it possible!”
Carter said that the Central Falls Food Pantry at Progreso Latino (as it is now called), is a member agency of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. For this affiliation, the space had to be inspected and accredited by the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, the state's Food Bank Network, and the largest provider of emergency food distribution in Rhode Island. The food bank also had to wait for the $5,000 grant in order to stock its shelves.
Carter noted, however, that the grant won't last that long, considering that she spends $500 a month buying food from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.
The food pantry serves an average of 500 individuals and 1,000 families per month.
As such, the director said, the pantry is continually in need of financial donations as well as store gift cards and non-perishable food items. Canned goods, especially tuna, and peanut butter, pastas and cereals are staples of the pantry. There is also a constant demand for baby formula, baby food and diapers for young mothers and adult diapers such as Depends that many elderly need but often can't afford, she said.
Bueno said that the food pantry is “a reason for the people in this community and surrounding communities to come together and share what they have. Volunteers are especially welcome...anyone who wants to give their time. Or money, food, and things that are always needed such as baby food and diapers,” said Bueno. “Developing a community that comes together, especially when unemployment is high and times are tough for so many financially. This is what Progreso Latino is trying to accomplish,” he said.
The Central Falls Food Pantry at Progreso Latino will serve Central Falls residents (or any non-Central Falls resident referred by the Rhode Island Community Food Bank hotline) who are among those struggling in this difficult economy to put food on the table.
The food pantry is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. To be eligible, clients must go through an initial interview and bring photo identification card, rent receipt, proof of income, Social Security card and birth certificates and Medicaid cards for any children in the home.
Donations of non-perishable food items, baby formula/food and baby diapers/adult diapers are accepted at Progreso Latino from Monday through Thursday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. For financial donations, send a check made out to The Central Falls Food Pantry@ Progreso Latino, 626 Broad St., Central Falls, RI 02863.
In addition, Sen. Elizabeth Crowley announced that in February, she will once again be hosting “Soup for Supper” to benefit the food pantry that is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.
The annual event is scheduled for Feb. 10 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus hall at 20 Claremont St., Central Falls. Participants will receive a free bowl of homemade soup, but a donation of one or two canned goods is suggested.