A strong local food system is characterized by successful and environmentally responsible farms, commercial fishing operations and food-related businesses and by adequately funded and effective food assistance and food distribution programs that enable everyone to count on three square meals a day. Through policy and budgetary decisions, state and local elected leaders can have a huge impact on the overall strength of Rhode Island’s entire food system and thereby help to strengthen our state’s economy, improve public health and create a healthy environment.
Helping towns strengthen agriculture
Grow Smart RI is working with Exeter and Middletown to assist these towns to modify their existing ordinances to allow environmentally friendly businesses on farms. Farmers need the flexibility to pursue small scale accessory businesses to supplement the revenue they generate from traditional agricultural products. Small businesses such as seasonal hay rides, expanded retail sales, and farm vineyards/ breweries are needed to help them maintain profitable farms. Most communities preclude accessory businesses on farms since they are in residential zones. View our inventory of RI municipal agriculture ordinances.
Ag Fact Sheets Now Available
Grow Smart as a member of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council helped to develop fact sheets for all 39 cities and towns and Rhode Island as a whole regarding the food system The Fact Sheets are intended to give Rhode Islanders a better sense of the current impact the food system has on individual communities, and a better understanding of the network of businesses, agencies, organizations and institutions that make up our local food system. A food system encompasses all of the processes involved in feeding people: it includes the production, harvesting, and processing of food; its distribution and marketing; its consumption (whether at home, in schools and institutions, or in restaurants); and ultimately, the recycling or disposal of food waste. The fact sheets present a dynamic “snapshot” of the local food system, and they are intended to stimulate discussion about growing the local food system and using data to track and measure progress.
LASA Grants Funding continued, but not as stipulated in S-416 | Passed |
Through our work on the Rhode Island Food Policy Council (RIFPC), one of the main priorities this session has been to ensure that funding for the Local Agriculture and Seafood small grants program (LASA) continues uninterrupted. Now in its second grant year, the LASA grants program represents a proven innovative public-private partnership in which private foundations have matched the funding available from the state to make up the grant pool. LASA grants have been used for a variety of innovative initiatives, including: support for a Rhode Island seafood marketing and branding campaign; efforts of the African Alliance of Rhode Island to assist immigrant and refugee farmers acquire more growing space, increase crop production to meet the growing demand for ethnic specialty crops and to improve merketing expertise; and capacity-building for the South County Farm to Market Initiative. This legislation would have used revenue from the lease fees paid for underwater lands used for alternative energy purposes to fund the LASA grants program.
While the General Assembly opted not to use revenue from the lease fees to fund the LASA program, it continued the state’s commitment to the program with a $100,000 outlay from the State’s general fund.
Proposed Restrictions on use of SNAP | Failed | H-5249
Grow Smart joined with other members of the RI Food Policy Council in opposing the provisions of H-5249 which we believe would have made it more difficult for low income families to use SNAP EBT cards to purchase groceries.