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Lori Roberts | Jun 26, 2019

Students sing at the launch of a food bank for persons with disabilities.

Hunger and physical disabilities can be formidable foes on their own. When paired, the combination can be overwhelming. Kiwanis Division 23 East of the Eastern Canada and the Caribbean District seeks to feed the souls and bodies of people with disabilities by establishing a food bank specifically for them in Kingston, Jamaica.

“According to the World Health Organization’s World Report on Disability 2011, persons with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed and generally earn less even when employed,” says Lt. Governor Pamela Rodney White.

Persons living with disabilities in Jamaica can be particularly vulnerable. Fewer than 1 percent are employed, according to World Bank data. They might be deprived of comforts that many take for granted, including access to food. Officials at the Abilities Foundation, a Kingston school for people with disabilities, see this firsthand. Their students often are hungry, miss meals and experience poor nutrition.

Division 23 East members became aware of the problem after the division sponsored an Aktion Club at the Abilities Foundation. The institution’s managing director spoke to White, asking if there was anything that could be done to help. Kiwanians and school officials agreed that a food bank established specifically for persons with disabilities could go a long way in soothing the hunger pains of the people it served. 

This past February, the division opened the food bank and plans to stock it year-round. Two containers — one for food and one retrofitted into an office — house the project. Donations already are coming in from public and private sources and the Kiwanis family, White says.

The Abilities Foundation manages the bank with help from selected members of the student body. The biggest challenges are stocking adequate supplies and getting the word out, but Kiwanis and Abilities Foundation members have stepped up to the task. Television interviews spread the word to the community, and the division has shared fliers on its social media accounts.

Ideally, White says, the project will continue to grow.

“This is intended to be an ongoing project for as long as we can get supplies for the bank,” she says. “For now, we are stocking and distributing only food items, but we intend to add back-to-school supplies later on, as that is also an area of great need.”

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