The state of Rhode Island is ramping up its efforts to become a food powerhouse. In 2016, Governor Gina Raimondo hired the state’s — and nation’s — first Director of Food Strategy to develop a comprehensive food plan.
The preliminary report, a 17-page document outlining a 5-year action plan, was unveiled at the first-ever RI Food System Summit, which was held at the University of Rhode Island.
The conference brought together policy makers, chefs, journalists and other food-first advocates to share ideas, brainstorm strategies and build upon existing successes that are having a positive impact on the state’s growing food economy. (Just last month, JWU’s Providence Campus hosted a forum to discuss food-waste reduction solutions; many of the speakers were also in attendance at the Summit, including Bridget Sweet, JWU Providence’s executive director of food safety, JWU chef-instructors and Chef Derek Wagner '99 of Nicks on Broadway, a passionate advocate for buying locally.)
The push to “eat what we have” — creating, sustaining and expanding the markets for local products — was an overarching theme of the day, to paraphrase David Beutel of the Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMC). Currently, only 1% of the food consumed in the state is harvested locally — a number that Food Strategy Director Sue AnderBois and her team will be working statewide to bolster.
In his keynote address, First Gentleman Andy Moffit emphasized that “food is essential to RI’s economy.” Through collaborative events like this Summit, the state is making the food economy a core component of the state’s growth and identity. Let’s keep this conversation going.
PHOTOS: RELISHRHODY.COM, CHEF TJ DELLE DONNE + MIRIAM WEINSTEIN