Jennifer “Jenn” Capracotta, Left, and Jennifer “Jen” Fantozzi – Submitted photo

Let’s start with an overview of the organization you cofounded with Jenn Capracotta, Plates With Purpose. What is its mission?

Our mission is to raise greater awareness about the food insecurity crisis in Rhode Island. We do this through education and community involvement. We believe we can be part of the solution — one community at a time; and we believe we’ve started a movement that brings together restaurants, local organizations with ability to reach the neighbors who need assistance, and engaged communities motivated to take action and be part of the solution with us.

Ocean State Stories has written about food insecurity in Rhode Island before – in fact, it was our very first story when we launched in February 2023. How did you become interested in it?

At the height of the pandemic, Jenn & I wanted to help a close friend who had only opened his new restaurant months before closures and restrictions. We asked him to prepare meals for residents of North Providence (the town he was operating in) as a “pay it forward” effort. It was received very well and his friends and patrons added to the initial “donation” we made and we realized we might be on to something. We began researching and realized there were far too many people experiencing food insecurity. We decided we could help more restaurant teams and residents of their communities and decided to expand our work.

And every city and town has residents living with food insecurity, is that correct?

That’s correct. The Rhode Island Food Bank’s annual Status Report on Hunger indicates that nearly one in three households are unable to meet their basic food needs. And, no matter which city or town we dig into, we are finding segments of the populations that are living below the poverty line. We know that there are various causes of food insecurity: financial, lack of access to the right types of food, transportation issues, and/or health. There has been no shortage of need over the past 3-plus years we’ve been operating.

We learned about Plates With Purpose reading an article in Edible Rhody. The article states that you “were both born and raised in the Ocean State and have been friends for 22 years. Although they both have full-time jobs, their weeknights and weekends are spent ‘connecting with restaurant owners, other human services organizations, schools and senior centers to coordinate fundraising and meal deliveries,’ says Fantozzi.” Can you expand on that?

Jennifer Capracotta, president and co-founder was born and raised in North Providence. She’s a mom to four fantastic children, ages ranging from seven to 30. By day, she’s the office manager for a general dentist and at night and on the weekends, she focuses on community outreach, managing meal delivery schedules and logistics, and fundraising for our growing nonprofit. Jennifer Fantozzi, Vice President and co-founder was born and raised in Cranston. Monday through Friday, she’s a dedicated marketing professional in the financial services industry. She’s a 1998 graduate of Bryant University and has been a Smithfield local ever since. She spends her nights and weekends researching, managing campaign strategies and other marketing activities such as social media, monthly newsletters, and the website for our love-filled work.

OK, so now more details about the organization please. You have a number of participating restaurants. Where are the located?

We’ve established meaningful relationships with restaurant owners and their teams in: North Providence, Cranston, Warwick, West Warwick, Smithfield, Narragansett, Pawtucket, Newport, and Wakefield. We’re currently in discussion with two other restaurant owners and hope to launch the program in Lincoln and Scituate next.

Are you looking to bring more on board?

Absolutely! We are always in search of meeting with restaurant owners across the state, and anyone interested in learning more about how the program works can reach us at or through the form on our website.

Another of your programs is called Hope Chests. What are they – and where?

These are community food cabinets, located In North Providence, Johnston, and at the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center in Warwick. Community involvement is something we try to build into all of our work — and The Hope Chests offer a way for a community to rally for their neighbors who have trouble keeping a steady supply of food in their cupboards. For those that find themselves fortunate to have more than they need, they can make a difference by dropping off a few items. For anyone that happens to be struggling to keep food in their cupboards, we hope to help them fill in some of the gaps by picking up a few items. Additional details, including locations, can be found at

And tell us about the #fullbellies program.

Our #fullbellies program is focused on closing the gap that was widened when Congress de-funded the Universal Free Lunch Program. We’ve been talking to school nurses and principals and learned that many students miss free lunch by PENNIES. No child should have to skip lunch because there isn’t enough food to take from home or because they cannot afford a regular priced meal. We’ve prioritized this and working to find a way to fill as many bellies as we can until our legislators find a way to fund a statewide program. The most notable impact has been made in Smithfield, with Blackie’s donating more than 2,000 meals so far to the elementary schools since October 2022. We’re also closely monitoring R.I. House Bill 7400 and the advocacy of The Healthy School Meals for All Coalition.

And finally, for people who want to help, tell us about volunteer and sponsorship opportunities.

We’re gearing up for 401 Gives Day on April 1, which is a day of giving sponsored by United Way. Hundreds of Rhode Island-based nonprofits participate and this will be our third year participating. It’s an amazing display of generosity by thousands. The best way to stay up-to-date on our work all year round, however, is to subscribe to our monthly newsletter or follow us on Facebook or Instagram.