2017-2022 Rhode Island State Food Strategy 5 Year Report
Five years into the implementation of the State Food Strategy, Relish Rhody, this report takes inventory of what has been accomplished, where challenges remain, and provides guidance on priorities for the next phase of planning toward a 2030 food vision for Rhode Island.
This report examines what has been accomplished since the first food strategy was launched in 2017 and where there are remaining gaps and challenges in light of a rapidly evolving food system and environment. It does not attempt to be a comprehensive food system assessment, inventory of activities or direct accounting of progress against baseline metrics. Rather, it aims to provide guidance for the next phase of planning.
Rhode Island's food system has made progress in three key areas:
- Catalytic investments
- Policy and regulatory progress
- Increased coordination and collaboration
Investments in growing Rhode Island's food system have grown dramatically through state and federal grant programs administered by Rhode Island State agencies which helped to leverage additional private and philanthropic investments. These grant programs supported food businesses, food hubs and food incubators; increased state funding to address food insecurity; and leveraged federal funds to support farmers, fishers and seafood waste processing.
Policy and regulatory reforms have included business-friendly regulations (i.e. opening up cottage food businesses, supporting COVID-related adaptations); improvements to environmental sustainability (i.e. food waste diversion); and addressing hunger and food insecurity (i.e. creating the Hunger Elimination Task Force).
Coordination and collaboration have increased dramatically across the three state agencies that lead the implementation of the food strategy (RICC, RIDEM, RIDOH) and between nonprofits and businesses throughout the state. This includes a shared staff liaison, the Director of Food Strategy, quarterly meetings; shared data, metrics and objectives; increased integration of plans and investments; and increased coordination with both nonprofit and for-profit partners. There has been additional growth in collaboration across the RI Department of Labor and Training and food business service providers, and among the nonprofit organizations working to reduce hunger in the state.
Acknowledging this progress, the first food plan was developed when widespread public awareness of the intersections between food systems, climate change and racial equity was relatively low. As a result, the plan did not incorporate strategies related to climate resilience nor factor in the environmental impacts that will impact the global food supply chain in coming years. Additionally, the voices and concerns of those most affected by injustice and inequality in the food system were not well-represented in the first plan. The intention moving forward is to address both of these challenges head-on in future plans.
Funding for this report comes from both the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Award #1NU90TP922150-01-00 through a Cooperative Agreement to the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Development of this report was led by a contracted consultant, Holly Fowler with Northbound Ventures, LLC and an interagency Project Steering Committee, which included the Director of Food Strategy and leadership at RI Commerce, RI Department of Environmental Management, RI Department of Health, and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.