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RI's food sector continues to bloom
By Jenny Pereira / August 26, 2016 /   Loading Disqus...
Rhode Island’s food industry is putting down deep roots, but there is still a need to focus on food security and other gaps to increase the state’s economic vitality. That according to a new report from the Rhode Island Food Policy Council. Update to the RI Food Assessment: 2011 – 2016 and Beyond reviews the current food landscape in Rhode Island, highlighting all the significant growth in local agriculture over the past five years.

Council Chair Ken Payne says the update provides a solid platform and positions Rhode Island as a national leader in food planning efforts. “The importance of food in our daily lives and in our culture can't be overstated. The update provides data on food in public health, economic, environmental and, very importantly, community contexts.”

Our grants support the Council’s work, which cuts across many of our sectors, including Basic Human Needs, Economic Security, the Environment, and Health. This is an exciting time in the development of Rhode Island’s food policy and an opportunity to encourage private-public collaborations that can move our food system forward – toward economic growth, improved health outcomes, and a more sustainable future.

Done in partnership with the state Department of Environmental Management, the report explores the opportunities and challenges we face in strengthening our food system and provides vital baseline information for developing Rhode Island’s first comprehensive food plan.

The report cites many opportunities to promote:
• Addressing food insecurity to catalyze economic growth: emergency food needs have doubled since 2009 in Rhode Island, and the number of residents receiving food assistance continues to climb
• Increasing aid for Rhode Island’s growing agricultural sector: Food startups are on the rise, and Rhode Island leads the nation in the percentage of young farmers; yet three-fourths of farms earn less than $20,000 annually
• Increasing local demand, consumption for Rhode Island seafood: As the Ocean State, seafood is a core component of the food system, yet the state’s commercial fishing industry remains largely an export business
• Simplifying the state’s complex web of food safety regulation: Food safety guidelines are vital to public health and a strong food system, but many farm and small food businesses in Rhode Island struggle to navigate through the regulatory process
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