Release a draft of the State's First Comprehensive Food Strategy
PROVIDENCE - As part of continued efforts to grow Rhode Island's local food economy and support Rhode Island families, First Gentleman Andy Moffit -together with Congressman Jim Langevin, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the University of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Health, and the Rhode Island Food Policy Council -convened government, business, and community leaders today for Rhode Island's first Food System Summit at the University of Rhode Island. As part of the event, a draft of the state's first comprehensive food strategy was released.
"Rhode Island is known for its delicious food, sprawling farms, abundant fisheries, and exceptional restaurants," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "It is part of who we are, and it's an area where we continue to lead and innovate. But work remains to close the gaps in our state's food system and ensure all Rhode Islanders have access to healthy, local foods. I am proud of the progress we've made this year to convene our partners and begin development of an actionable vision for our food system that builds on our successes, strengthens our families, celebrates our customs, and supports our economy. I applaud all partners involved in today's Summit; this is a great example of how Rhode Islanders are working together to make our state stronger."
During today's Summit, participants discussed the role of local agriculture, fisheries, and food enterprise in supporting Rhode Islanders and moving the state forward. Breakout sessions tackled critical issues affecting the development of a sustainable, equitable food system in Rhode Island -including mapping funding and training opportunities for farm and food businesses, navigating regulatory burdens for new ventures, and addressing food insecurity across the state.
"This is the first Rhode Island Food System Summit, but I'm sure it will not be the last given the incredible scope and momentum of Rhode Island's local food scene," said Congressman Jim Langevin. "I started my Food First Advisory Committee because I recognize that food is an integral part of our lives and our economy -from tourism and hospitality, to the preservation of green space, to the health of Rhode Island families. Today's summit is both a celebration and a call to action, and I'm proud to support the important work that our food economy leaders are doing."
"The energy in Rhode Island's food space is palpable and inspiring," said First Gentleman Andy Moffit. "Our food is among the best in the world, and the work we are doing to foster innovation and growth has others taking note. Our success is, and will continue to be, due to an extraordinary and committed roster of partners whose efforts support our economy and help to address public health and food security issues that plague many of our communities. Thank you to all of the partners engaged in this work and all those who joined us at today's Summit. Our vision of a sustainable, equitable food system is within reach thanks to your efforts and engagement."
Last May, Governor Raimondo announced the hiring of Rhode Island's (and the nation's) first director of food strategy to lead the development of Rhode Island's first comprehensive food plan. With the support of many partners, a draft of the Rhode Island Food Strategy, a five-year actionable vision for food in the state, was developed and released on www.relishrhody.com today. The Strategy -which highlights the importance of local food to the state's economy, public health, and culture -includes key recommendations to further promote and improve the state's food system while connecting to regional and national food planning efforts. Among the recommendations, which were also discussed at today's Summit, are:
• Alleviate food insecurity and hunger in Rhode Island • Make food production more accessible • Create, sustain, and grow markets for Rhode Island's products • Prioritize environmental and economic sustainability • Create and sustain the climate for food-related businesses
"Since our founding in 1892 as the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, the University of Rhode Island has played a central role in Rhode Island's food economy," said URI President David M. Dooley. "One hundred and twenty-five years later our work continues to benefit those who operate orchards, grow vegetables, raise livestock and run dairy farms here in the state. But our work has also expanded to include aquaculture and other marine sciences that focus on the food web of Narragansett Bay and indeed those around the globe. Our Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America is a leading research and policy center that works to eliminate hunger in this country. Our Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences tackles issues such as obesity and food safety and is recognized nationally for its impact on human health. We are proud of our record of research and service in this area, and welcome all participants to this important forum."
"We have a proud history in farming and fishing in Rhode Island that has forged a strong foundation for the vibrant local food scene we enjoy today," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "And along with our many partners, we continue to explore ways to innovate and support growth of our food businesses while, at the same time, working to ensure all Rhode Islanders benefit from the delicious, nutritious foods harvested locally. Today's Summit offered an exciting and needed opportunity for us to come together with industry and advocates to reflect on the strengths of our food system, confront the challenges we still face, and strategize our next steps in building a system that best supports our state and families. We are proud to be a partner in this effort."
"The Rhode Island Food System Summit was an invaluable opportunity for the Rhode Island Department of Health and other state agencies to sit down with business owners, farmers, fishers, advocates, and people working in many other areas of the state's food system to discuss how we can better coordinate to meet our shared goal of ensuring safe, high-quality food," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "The Summit also allowed us to strategize on ways to attack several critical, underlying issues that affect health and community development, such as food insecurity and access to healthy food. This kind of collaboration is key to ensuring that Rhode Islanders in every zip code throughout the state have the opportunity to thrive."
For more information about food planning efforts in Rhode Island or to access the full Draft Rhode Island Food Strategy or Executive Summary, visit www.relishrhody.com. Participating partners include the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Rhode Island Department of Health, Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, Farm Fresh RI, Rhode Island Community Food Bank, Henry P. Kendall Foundation, Rhode Island Foundation, van Beuren Charitable Foundation, and many others.
The Rhode Island Food System Summit is sponsored by the State -including the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the University of Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Department of Health -in partnership with the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, Main Street Resources, Eat Drink RI, Edible Rhody, Farm Fresh RI, and Henry P. Kendall Foundation. Follow the conversation in social media using #RITalksFood.