On May 17, Rhode Island released its new five-year Food Strategy Plan, which is built around five action goals:
1. alleviate food insecurity and hunger throughout the state;
2. make food production more accessible;
3. create and sustain markets for Rhode Island food products;
4. promote environmental sustainability; and
5. support an economic climate friendly to food-related businesses.
The plan has been a goal for the state since 2011, when JMF grantee the Rhode Island Food Policy Council was founded. Since then, state leaders and local innovators have developed many initiatives to support food producers and provide more opportunities for all Rhode Islanders to access healthy food. A year ago, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo hired Susan Anderbois as Director of Food Strategy, the first position of its kind in the country.
Rhode Island’s food sector supports over 60,000 local jobs, and generated $2 billion in sales for restaurants in 2016. However, only 1 percent of the food consumed by state residents is harvested locally and 35 percent of waste is made up of food and compostable material. Moreover, 12 percent of Rhode Islanders are considered “food insecure.”
The Rhode Island Food Policy Council is creating a series of multimedia stories to bring the reality of what it’s like to work in, and be fed by, Rhode Island’s food system day to day. The first story features fantastic interviews with dairy farmers in the state, who are being squeezed economically, and the second features senior citizens visited by the mobile food truck Food on the Move, which makes fresh, local produce available to those facing food insecurity.
“I feel such optimism about our state’s food strategy, [and] we need everyone’s energy and ideas,” said Janet Coit, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM). “My most treasured traditions involve food; for example, summer doesn’t start for me until I go strawberry picking with my daughter, Nina. Today, I think we will look for an outcome where every Rhode Islander will have those experiences and have an opportunity to eat healthy, local food.”