PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island is receiving roughly $40 million in federal relief funding to address the ongoing hunger crisis in the state, which has been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Jack Reed said Monday that the money will be used to help with the distribution of boxes of food, bags of groceries and nutritious meals for school age children, homebound seniors and other vulnerable residents.

“The number of Rhode Islanders who don’t know where their next meal will come from has grown significantly during this pandemic,” Reed said. “The American Rescue Plan provides a financial boost to help people put food on the table and we’ve got to keep working to ensure people’s basic needs are met during this challenging time.”

The demand for food assistance at the Rhode Island Food Bank has grown by 26% during the pandemic, according to Reed, who thanked the nonprofit and its partners for stepping up to provide emergency hunger relief to thousands of Rhode Islanders this past year.

“The America Rescue Plan was the other shot in the arm that Rhode Islanders needed desperately right now,” Executive Director of Community Action Partnership of Providence County Rilwan Feyisitan said.

The R.I. Food Bank is one of many organizations statewide to provide nutritional assistance to Rhode Islanders.

While visiting the R.I. Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) Monday, Gov. Dan McKee thanked the state agency for assisting Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island in making deliveries throughout the pandemic.

“While this public health crisis has brought difficult times for so many Rhode Islanders, it has also given us a chance to see the best of us,” McKee said. “Neighbors have helped neighbors, and community service groups and state agencies have all pulled together to use whatever resources they have to try to make sure that people’s needs are being met.”

RIPTA drivers, according to McKee, have delivered 10,000 meals to the homes of Meals on Wheels clients since last spring.

“We are one of the few transit agencies that did not cut service throughout the pandemic,” Avedisian said. “We are very aware that for many people, we are the only way they can get to essential goods and services. When we told drivers in our RIde Paratransit Division that we needed them to lend a hand with Meals on Wheels, they did not hesitate, quickly adding meals to their routes.”