The Town of North Kingstown is taking steps to draft a five-year lease with the North Kingstown Food Pantry for the vacant Little Red Schoolhouse on School Street.
For the past few months, volunteers with the food pantry have been forming a fundraising group to help move the food pantry from the North Kingstown United Methodist Church outside of Wickford to the larger space at Little Red. The building closed down last year after the preschool program, Children’s Workshop, folded due to financial hardships.
The group is working to secure funding for the building, which needs extensive upgrades. According to Karla Driscoll (the former executive director of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce who is now spearheading the initiative to move the food pantry), Little Red needs a new boiler and possibly a new septic system, along with other renovations. Total, the cost to reopen the building would be in the $40,000 to $50,000 range.
“The food pantry board has been looking for funding sources to do some of the necessary repairs and upgrades to Little Red Schoolhouse,” said Driscoll at Monday night’s North Kingstown Town Council meeting. “Some of those funding sources have time frames early next year and have asked us if we’re interested in applying that we need to have a lease in place to do so.”
The town solicitor and other officials are planning to draft up a five year lease to be presented to the council for next week.
The discussion comes on the heels of a recently release report from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, which has found that Rhode Island has the highest food insecurity in New England. The need for food assistance is at record levels as unemployment rates remain high across the country.
According to the study, food donations have also dropped at a time of record need. The RI Food Bank saw a two million drop in donations between 2009 and 2012. Circumstances were no different in North Kingstown where, according to Driscoll, the food pantry saw requests jump by 90 percent. During that time, the shelves at the pantry were bare for the first time.
Are you accepting donations for the food pantry, or are you planning an event this holiday season to help NK families in need? Tell us in the comments below.