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Food for Free named Champion in Action in Massachusetts

Citizens Bank and NECN provide $25,000 grant, PR and volunteer support

BOSTON   (October 19, 2009) – Citizens Bank and NECN today named Food for Free a Champion in Action® in Massachusetts in the category of hunger. The Cambridge-based nonprofit was founded in 1981 and is dedicated to reducing hunger and the health implications caused by food insecurity and the lack of proper nutrition. Through its Produce Rescue program, it works with wholesalers at the New England Produce Center in Chelsea seeking donations of fresh fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be discarded and distributes them to emergency food programs in Cambridge, Somerville and Boston.

Each summer, Food for Free supplements the produce it gathers from donors with nutrient-dense vegetables grown by staff and volunteers at Field of Greens in Lincoln, Mass. It also works with local farmers, bake shops and supermarkets soliciting donations of fresh food and baked goods in an effort to reduce food waste and increase the supply of nutritious food to the community.

“Food for Free is a real Champion in Action for ensuring that low-income individuals and families have access to fresh produce and healthy food, which many families struggling to make ends meet can not afford,” said Stephen R. Woods, President, Citizens Bank, Massachusetts. “We commend the organization for engaging retailers and wholesalers, as well as individual donors and volunteers, in its mission of feeding healthy and nutritious food to those who need it most, including children and the elderly.”

Once a month, Food for Free’s Home Delivery program transports food to low-income elders and people with disabilities who are unable to visit their local food pantry. The organization’s programs help feed nearly 20,000 people every month and it distributes more than 800,000 pounds of food a year.

“Given that we are still in midst of one of the worst economic recessions since the Great Depression, too many New Englanders are still hurting. Covering the basics like food and proper nutrition are issues no family should have to worry about and Food for Free’s mission serves a critical need,” said NECN’s Executive Vice President and General Manager Bill Bridgen. “Raising awareness for organizations such as Food For Free are at the core of what NECN and Citizens Bank can do to serve this community.”

Food for Free is being recognized for:
• Providing fresh, nutritious food to more than 60 local emergency food programs.
• Partnering with Cambridge Hospital in 1991 to open the city’s first in-hospital pantry aimed at meeting the specific dietary needs of people
  with HIV and AIDS.
• Expecting to harvest more than 4,000 pounds of fresh produce this summer at the Fields of Greens farm in Lincoln.
• Working with five farmers’ markets in Cambridge, Somerville and Boston from May through November, annually rescuing 50,000 to 70,000
  pounds of local produce.

As a Champion in Action, Food for Free receives:
• A $25,000 contribution in unrestricted funds from the Citizens Bank Foundation.
• Media coverage from NECN, including public service announcements, news stories and segments on other NECN programs such as
  Broadside: The News with Jim Braude and Business Day.
• Volunteer support from Citizens and NECN employees.
• Public relations support.
• Promotional support highlighting the Champion in Action in all Citizens Bank branches and on its ATM screens.
• Exposure on both Citizens Bank and NECN Web sites.

“We ensure fresh produce does not go to waste by rescuing it from retailers and wholesalers and distributing it to food pantries, community meals, youth programs and emergency shelters,” said David R. Leslie, Executive Director, Food for Free. “We are a small organization doing big things in the community and this award from Citizens Bank and NECN will help us grow our programs and expand our reach beyond the neighborhoods of Cambridge, Somerville and Boston.”

Since introducing the program in 2002, Citizens has awarded $725,000 to 29 Massachusetts organizations. A new Champion in Action® is selected each quarter among four social service categories.

To learn more about how to contribute to Food for Free, please visit www.foodforfree.org.

About Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank is a division of RBS Citizens, N.A., operating its seven-state branch network in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. It has 252 branches and 585 ATMs in Massachusetts.
RBS Citizens, N.A. is a subsidiary of Citizens Financial Group, Inc., a $153 billion commercial bank holding company headquartered in Providence, R.I. CFG’s two bank subsidiaries are RBS Citizens, N.A. and Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania. They operate a 12-state branch network under the Citizens Bank brand in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, and the Charter One brand in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. CFG has non-branch retail and commercial offices in about 40 states. It is one of the 10 largest commercial banking companies in the United States ranked by assets as of June 30, 2009. CFG is owned by RBS (The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc).  

About NECN

NECN is the largest 24-hour regional news network in the country, with 3.7 million subscribers in more than 1,050 cities and towns in all six New England states. It is a partnership of Comcast and the Hearst Corporation. The station specializes in long-form journalism, producing documentaries and extensive local and national political coverage. For more information on NECN, go to www.necn.com.