KINGSTON, R.I. —Nov. 14, 2023 — Food insecurity is a problem on college campuses across the nation. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education released the National Postsecondary Aid Study. The study, which was based on 2020 data, found that 23% of undergraduate students, and 12% of graduate students, experienced food insecurity—meaning that 4 million students were food insecure. As the winter rolls in, those who are grappling with food insecurity face a more difficult challenge as the weather turns cold and bills increase.
That is why, on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m., St. Augustine’s Church, on URI’s Kingston Campus, will host a concert to benefit Rhody Outpost, URI’s basic needs and food pantry. The admission fee is $20, in addition to any nonperishable food item, which will be donated to Rhody Outpost. Tickets will be available for purchase at the door.
According to Kathleen Gorman, a professor of psychology at the University of Rhode Island, who conducted a research survey with doctoral students last spring, more than one in four URI students are food insecure.
Event organizer the Rev. Beth Sherman, the vicar at St. Augustine’s, notes that use of the outpost has increased significantly since the pandemic and keeping up with increased demand through donations is critical. To help support the Rhody Outpost, St. Augustine’s Church drew on its connections with local musicians, as well as URI students involved with the music program.
“Why not bring the need and the talent together?” says Sherman on the rationale behind this collaboration. “And so, a benefit concert was born.”
Concert performances will be composed of graduate and undergraduate students from URI, with all performers joining together on stage for one final performance. Community performers include church organist Diana Norton-Jackson; music director Rod Luther; singer, pianist and interim music director at Kingston Congregational Church Eden Casteel; Kaley Casenheiser; and Victor Main, who oversees the Guitar Guild of Rhode Island.
Rhody Outpost was established in 2013, a collaborative effort involving four of Gorman’s students, St. Augustine’s Church, and local basic needs pantries such as the Jonnycake Center in Wakefield and the Feinstein Center of the Rhode Island Food Bank. In 2019, Rhody Outpost became part of URI’s Division of Student Affairs. In addition to moving Rhody Outpost’s home base to the Dining Services warehouse on Tootell Road, Student Affairs introduced the Coffee Lounge at the same location to welcome students who may rely on goods and services provided by the pantry.
St. Augustine’s remains heavily involved. Each week, Sherman and parishioner Roy Heaton bring homemade cookies and tea to the Coffee Lounge to get to know the students there. She is almost always accompanied by her dog, Maverick, who she believes has quickly become the most popular member of the St. Augustine’s team.
For those who would like to donate to the food pantry, Rhody Outpost is located at 10 Tootell Road, and is open for donations Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Additionally, the outpost shed is located outside of St. Augustine’s and is open for donations at any time.
Monetary contributions can be made online at RhodyNow: Students First Fund, which helps students in their moments of greatest need.
“Our vision is a campus with ‘No Ram Hungry ,’” says Barbara Sweeney, the food security outreach coordinator for Rhody Outpost. “Events like this one help to bring us closer to the realization of that vision.”
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This story was written by Samantha Melia, a senior journalism and political science major at the University of Rhode Island and an intern in the Department of Marketing and Communications.