2014 marked an exciting year for the RIFPC, both in terms of regional and local collaboration, policy changes, pilot projects, educational events and the convening of stakeholders. Highlights from the past year include:
- RIFPC served as local host of the 2014 Food Solutions New England Summit, held June 12-13 in Pawtucket. For the first time, access and equity served as major themes of the Summit and the 2060 New England Food Vision was publicly presented and released. Over 150 participants from all over New England were in attendance.
- Several Council members served as members of the 2014 Local Ag and Seafood Act (LASA) Grants Committee, helping to review 92 applications, requesting just over $1.4 million in funds and awarding 17 recipients just over $200,000 for projects that are making a difference in helping to build a more vibrant local economy.
- The Data & Evaluation Committee began work with the Providence Plan, establishing a database of food system indicators that are open-source and accessible and will be prioritized and incorporated into the Providence Plan's Community Profiles website.
- The Policy Committee advocated and offered supporting testimony for a number of significant pieces of legislation in the 2014 General Assembly session, calling attention to the relationship between adequate wages and food security in testimony on a bill to increase the minimum wage in RI and supporting the passage of the food residuals recycling bill, making RI the 4th New England state to put a ban on organic waste going into the landfill.
- The Governance Committee completed another successful Call for Nominations and led the entire Council in the process of selecting 2 new RIFPC members while bidding a heartfelt farewell to those Council members whose terms were complete.
- The Outreach and Communications Committee increased participation in RIFPC events and work statewide, continuing to grow the network's online, live and media presence through a series of community events, educational experiences and broader opportunities to interact with more RI residents, businesses and partner organizations.
- The Healthy Environment Work Group served as a pilot testing site for the EPA's Food: Too Good To Waste campaign, engaging 40 households in a multi-week data-focused effort to track household cost savings and environmental benefits of source reduction strategies and members of the Work Group submitted suggestions to RIDEM that were incorporated into newly drafted compost regulations that released in Dec. 2014. Public comment phase taking place now.
- The Access Work Group partnered on improving SNAP and WIC redemption at farmers markets across the state, with 4 new markets now offering EBT access and WIC redemption rates coming in higher than last year and helped organize stakeholder conversations that led to a multi-faceted plan for RI applying for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINIP) federal funding
- The Production Work Group worked with faith-based organizations to gage interest in using congregational land to grow food and established a new food processor networking group, providing a unique statewide opportunity for food entrepreneurs to network and share sector-specific needs, best practices and challenges.
- The Economy Work Group hosted a packed house Food Matters event in the spring, helping launch broader and more visible conversations about the challenges and opportunities that exist for food businesses based in RI while stating how RI's food system offers an important economic development opportunity for the struggling state that can also help reduce food insecurity, improve physical health of residents and help preserve natural resources and cultural heritage.
This post was originally published on the Rhode Island Food Policy Council's website.