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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI launches Hunger-Free South Kingstown campaign

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

KINGSTON, R.I. – August 15, 2006 – In an effort to ensure that everyone in South Kingstown has enough food to eat year round, the Feinstein Center for a Hunger-Free America at the University of Rhode Island is launching a “Hunger-Free South Kingstown” campaign in collaboration with the Jonnycake Center in Peace Dale.

“There are a wealth of resources at URI and throughout South Kingstown – student groups, community groups, churches, businesses – many of whom do food drives on their own, but they need to be coordinated to be effective at meeting the needs of the hungry in a consistent way year round,” explained Kathleen Gorman, director of the URI Hunger Center. “If we can get all these groups working together with the Jonnycake Center, I’m sure we can meet the needs of every hungry family in town.”

The idea became a reality when URI's Hunger Center was chosen as a host site for a Rhode Island Campus Compact/AmeriCorps*VISTA member. Charlene Mitchell, a URI graduate student and a South Kingstown resident, was selected to fill the position starting in mid-July. Thus far, the focus of her work has been on designing a needs assessment of the Jonnycake Center and conducting an inventory of what various campus and community organizations already do to provide food to hungry residents.

According to Gorman, there are numerous food drives conducted by University students and staff as well as other community groups in South Kingstown to aid the Jonnycake Center, and she is certain that many more would participate if a structure was in place to make it convenient to do so. Most volunteer food drives occur around Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, though, leaving gaps in food availability during the rest of the year.

“The Jonnycake Center needs to operate 12 months a year,” Gorman said, “so we hope to identify a timeline for groups to support the center at different times throughout the year. The Center also needs volunteers year round, not just during those holiday periods, so we’ll create a timeline for them as well.”

Volunteers seldom get the training they should, according to Gorman, so a key element in the project will be a training program for Jonnycake Center volunteers and staff to provide them with a better understanding of the problem of hunger and the issues that need to be addressed.

By next summer, Gorman expects to have a working document that has mapped out all of the URI and community groups that conduct food drives or assist the Jonnycake Center, and a structure for organizing volunteers and fundraising.

“Our goal is to develop a sense of community and understanding of why we should support the Jonnycake Center, how we all can address hunger as a community, and get people thinking about the problem of hunger,” Gorman said. “The executive director of the Jonnycake Center, Susan Gustaitis, as well as its board of directors are excited about this project. They know that the Center and the hungry residents of South Kingstown will benefit more if all of the groups worked together.”