By: Catherine Hewitt

WESTERLY — A local food program has received a foundation grant that will provide extra support in alleviating hunger.

The Wal-Mart Foundation announced on Wednesday that it would provide a $50,000 grant to the the Jonnycake Center of Westerly to be used for the center’s Food Assistance Program, which distributes food to needy clients in Westerly, Charlestown, Richmond, and Hopkinton.

The grant was part of the Wal-Mart Foundation’s State Giving Program through which Rhode Island nonprofit organizations could apply for funding between $25,000 and $200,000 to support programs that focus on hunger relief and healthy eating, career opportunities and disaster relief.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Wal-Mart Foundation for honoring the Jonnycake Center with such a gift,” said Development Director Lee Eastbourne. “These funds will allow the center to provide critical food assistance support to clients within our service area.”

The program provides qualifying households with a week’s worth of supplemental meals once a month to ensure there is no gap in monthly food assistance that is often provided by federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP.

Last year, about 200,000 meals were distributed by the Jonnycake Center to families and individuals, who included children, elderly and disabled individuals, single parents, and an increasing number of the long-term unemployed and underemployed.

“We are all feeling the pinch at the grocery store, and Jonnycake is not immune either,” said Executive Director Liz Pasqualini. “Wal-Mart’s grant is key to helping the pantry keep pace with demand despite rising food costs as well as allowing the center the opportunity to bring in more fresh, quality foods than ever before.”

From July to mid-October, the Food Assistance Program hosts a weekly farmers market to provide those in need with fresh, local produce at no cost. Through its Summer Program Looking to Alleviate Student Hunger, the program also provides breakfast and lunch to more than 200 children whose households qualify for free or reduced-cost meals during the school year.

Chris Buchanan, director of public affairs and state and local government relations at Wal-Mart, who works out of Plymouth, Mass., said that supporting food programs like this one reflects Wal-Mart Foundation’s goals and values.

“Wal-Mart is proud to support the Jonnycake Center of Westerly and the important work they are doing to provide meals for underserved community members,” Buchanan said. “Through the Food Assistance Program, the Jonnycake Center is ensuring that families do not go without the food they need. They are saving lives.”

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