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Envisioning Our Rhode Island: Building an Intersectional Vision of Food Sovereignty at the Crossroads of Economy, Equity, and Environment

We are Black, Indigenous & immigrant-led groups & white allies working toward an all inclusive approach to solving food system disparity.

Photo of Nessa Richman
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Rhode Island Food Policy Council, a fiscally sponsored project of TSNE MissionWorks

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

The Tomaquag Museum educates the public and advocates for the Native community for Equity, Inclusion, food, economic & social justice. Our vision is to eradicate poverty and transform people's lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes, knowledge of Indigenous Cultures. African Alliance of Rhode Island promotes unity within the African communities in RI, advocates for the rights of Africans in RI, and educates the public about Africa, AARI supports and benefits immigrant and refugee agricultural producers. Sankofa transforms blighted properties, provides affordable, culturally appropriate, fresh, healthy, and locally produced food, expands economic opportunities, and encourages West End residents to meaningfully connect by fostering cultivation of land, lives, and community. Urban Greens Food Co-op is an urban, consumer-owned retail grocery store. Harvest Cycle is a bike-powered, urban, year-round residential compost pickup service.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.tsne.org www.rifpc.org

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Kingston, Rhode Island

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The entire state of Rhode Island is the place we're developing a vision for.

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We are a coalition of communities who call this region home, people who have come to this land through both forced migration and immigration over centuries as well as those indigenous to this land. We live on this land in Rhode Island with our traditional foodways and believe they bring us health and well-being on physical, mental, and spiritual levels.  


Racism and inequity are deeply embedded here, as they are in the history of all America. The land we call Rhode Island was originally home to Native American tribes whose foodways were based around fishing, farming, gathering/foraging, and hunting. In 1636 the first permanent English settlement in Rhode Island was huilt on land granted by the Narragansett Nation. In 1675 settlers started enslaving Native people and bringing enslaved Carribean and West Indies residents here to work. Rhode Island was heavily involved in the slave trade during the post-Revolutionary era and enslaved African people were critical to the success of Rhode Island’s food economy. Through waves of immigration more cultures and foodways have been introduced to the state, first from Europe and Canada, then from Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Racism persists and the state is less a “melting pot” than a “stew” where each immigrant population stays relatively isolated. Many residents of European heritage worry that new immigrants are going to have a negative impact on their safety, comfort, and economic security. This fear underlies continued white domination. While this is true of most places in America, it bears repeating that it is true in this place as well. 


Our relationship to the land here is as diverse as we are. One commonality we have in regard to our relationship to the land is that we believe that we can heal it ourselves through implementing a model of mutual learning that leads to empowerment through sharing our diverse visions across cultural, dietary, economic, environmental, policy and technological boundaries.



Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations is the smallest state in the New England region of the United States. It comprises 1,214 square miles, is the seventh least populous state with just over 1 million people, and is very densely populated. Rhode Island is bordered by Connecticut to the west, Massachusetts to the north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. Providence is the state capital and most populous city in Rhode Island.

The native people of Rhode Island historically include the Narragansett, Wampanoag, Eastern Niantic, and Nipmuc people. The Narragansetts are the only Federally recognized tribal nation in the state. Recent immigrants of Rhode Island include people from the Dominican Republic, Portugal, Guatemala, Cabo Verde, African nations, Southeast Asian nations, and China. There are people of many other races and mixed races as well In sum, Rhode Island is a microcosm of the world. Many languages are spoken and many cultures come together. 

In terms of climate, most of Rhode Island has a humid continental climate and four distinct seasons, including warm summers and cold winters. The southern coastal portions of the state are the broad transition zone into subtropical climates, with hot summers and cool winters with a mix of rain and snow. Block Island has an oceanic climate.

The state has over 60,000 local jobs supported by the food sector. It leads the nation in percent of public schools participating in local food purchasing and education. Over 100 million pounds of seafood are landed in Rhode Island, with an export value of over $1 billion. There is also a very active local restaurant scene with many locally-owned eating places and some that serve local food and use a farm-to-table sourcing model, with over $2 billion in sales annually. 

Our state has a strong commitment to the food system. As part of her efforts to grow Rhode Island’s green economy and support healthy families, in spring 2016, Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced the hiring of the state’s (and nation’s) first director of food strategy to lead the development of Rhode Island’s first comprehensive food plan. With the support of many partners, efforts are underway to develop an actionable vision for food in Rhode Island that would build on the state’s momentum in growing its local food economy, benefit all Rhode Islanders, connect to regional and national food planning efforts, and celebrate the state’s unique food cultures and landscape. 

The lead organization on this application, the RI Food Policy Council, has a mission to promote an equitable, economically vibrant, and environmentally sustainable food system in the state. 



What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

3140

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

1070000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Our challenges span all six themes:

Environment - The average price of farmland per acre in RI is the highest in the country. Our largest agricultural crops are non-food (turf and nursery/landscape). Invasive species threaten our food habitats. We apply pesticides to lawns and plant non-indigenous grasses everywhere. Our farmers depend on non-local inputs. We have allowed our forest land to be cordoned off from traditional hunting and fishing. We are at the mercy of a system of subsidies that fails to favor natural habitats. We suffer the ill effects of massive amounts of single-use plastics.

Diets - We have unhealthy eating habits that have grown from the industrial food complex. There is a significant health decline for immigrants and refugees when they move here due to the drastic differences in how food is purchased and lack of land access for growing food. We no longer understand the health and medicinal benefits of food. We don’t honor the intersectionality of food, traditional foodways, and the health benefits they bring. We don’t seek out, or always have access to, healthful local food. 

Economics - We lack clear food career pathways that lead to well-paid jobs. We don’t invest in developing pathways into food careers that pay well and are accessible to everyone. We lack of economic mobility. We also lack adequate funding for food assistance for those who need it. Some of our residents can’t afford adequate food. 

Culture - Our population as a whole is disconnected from the food we eat. We don’t remember that we need to appreciate contributions from the diverse cultures in our state to heal. We have forgotten the value of food in connecting all people. We don’t transfer our food knowledge to our children in a consistent way. We don’t adequately support local growing of culturally appropriate food, and we fail to emphasize the cultural exchanges that focus on food and bring cultures together. 

Technology - We don’t invest in the technology needed to increase organic waste management or recycling of non-organics. We don’t use alternative energies for our food production and distribution. We fail to invest in low emission transportation options both on and off farm. We don’t yet understand the benefits of regenerative farming technology. We have not realized the potential of seed sharing or technologies that facilitate food sharing and reduce food waste. 

Policy - We have many community members who are not civically engaged, making community inclusion infeasible. Our policies fail to set aside adequate land for wilderness or allow land in cities to be publicly-owned growing space. We have no subsidies for changing lawns into food gardens, food forests, or pollinator gardens. We have no policies that encourage cooperative land purchase. Our decision-making bodies don’t include residents in decision making roles. Our corporate developers are not required to include composting, recycling, community garden or sustainable energy facilities.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our vision will address the challenges described earlier as follows:


Environment - We will work to restore an environment founded on native species. We will ban harmful pesticides and replace lawns with indigenous grasses. Our farmers will depend entirely on rich local inputs. Our forest land will be made open to traditional hunting and fishing. We will ensure plentiful food forests and our subsidies will encourage restoration and protection of natural habitats. We will ban all single-use plastics and eliminate dependence on fast food. 


Diets - We will have healthy eating habits that have grown from acknowledging the impact of the industrial food complex. We will share understandings of the health and medicinal benefits of foods. We will reconnect to our environment through healthful and healing eating habits. We will honor the intersectionality of food, traditional foodways, and the resulting health benefits. We will seek out and ensure access to local, fresh, high-nutrient foods. 


Economics - We will build clear food career pathways that lead to well-paid jobs. We will invest in developing pathways into food careers that pay well and are accessible to everyone, leading to increased economic mobility. We will make sure there is adequate funding for food assistance for those in need so everyone can afford high quality, local foods supports the local economy.  


Culture - We will establish ways to raise food to its true value and importance inconnecting all people as essential to our individual and as a community well-being. We will transfer our knowledge to our children in way that communicates respect for diverse cultures, foodways, and foods. We will adequately support local growing of culturally appropriate food year-round, and emphasize the cultural exchanges that focus on food and bring cultures together.  


Technology - We will work toward equitable investment in technology and technical assistance needed to increase organic waste management and recycling of non-organics. We will encourage alternative energies. We will encourage investment in low emission transportation and sustainably powered greenhouses. We will leverage network driven technologies to create new opportunities for seed sharing programs and systems to reduce food insecurity and waste through identification and tracking of food surpluses and high need opportunities.


Policy - We will partner with community residents to increase civic engagement and create/support more opportunities for residents to have ownership in solutions. We will advocate for policies that set aside adequate land for wilderness and allow more land in cities to be resident or community owned growing space. We will redirect subsidies to changing lawns into gardens and food forests and pollinator gardens. We will work to make sure that corporate developers are held accountable for developing sustainable buildings with affordable units, and that older buildings are retrofitted toward sustainability.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

In 2050, with our challenges successfully addressed, we have very different lives. We have surfaced and worked through the harms created by our country’s history of colonialism, genocide of indigenous people, slavery, private ownership of land and the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of too few on, both the individual and community levels. We have shifted power to be shared equitably across our communities and our state. We have transformed our future together for generations to come.


Our power is grounded in our ability to build and maintain our strong network of committed stakeholders from across our entire food system. We have leveraged that network to build a strong food system that is equitable, economically vibrant, and environmentally sustainable. Our foundation is our success in eliminating the ways in which our former food system was unjust.


We have ensured that people from every part of our food system, with no exceptions, are empowered to have agency (the capacity of people to act independently and make their own free choices) and sovereignty (the full right and power of people over themselves without outside interference), especially those who have been marginalized by racist, classist, and sexist systems. We can now say that all food consumers, food producers and processors, and food workers from every part of our state’s social, economic, racial and ethnic fabric have the opportunity to participate and take a leadership role in developing our food policy and improving our food system.


Our strength is in our empowered, networked coalition. It is the cornerstone of the progress we have made on the core environmental, dietary, economic, cultural, technological, and policy challenges we faced in 2020.



Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our Vision: All food consumers, food producers and processors, and food workers from every part of our state’s social, economic, racial and ethnic fabric have the opportunity to participate and take a leadership or ownership role in developing our food policy and improving our food system.

Our coalition is the cornerstone of the progress we have made on the core environmental, dietary, economic, cultural, technological, and policy challenges we face.

Our Goal: Measurable progress on our core environmental, dietary, economic, cultural, technological, and policy challenges.

When this goal is met, life will be different for many groups:

Farmers will be using local inputs and alternative energies,selling locally for fair prices, and earning fair wages.

Fishers will lower carbon footprints and eliminate plastic waste, selling locally for fair prices, and earning fair wages.

Processors will use alternative energies and buy their inputs from local sources, process using the best technology, and offer high-paying jobs with equitable hiring and promotion

Chefs and restaurants will feature local products and serve affordable food to all people, and offer high-paying jobs with equitable hiring and promotion

Consumers have consistent access to affordable, culturally appropriate, locally and sustainably produced food

Aggregator/Distributors will use alternative energies and focus on local markets, and offer high-paying jobs with equitable hiring and promotion

Waste managers will have access to the best technology and adequate technical assistance funding, and offer high-paying jobs with equitable hiring and promotion

Objectives (Objectives and Activities are provisional):

Environment - We will work to restore an environment founded on native species, with invasive species removed. We will ban harmful pesticides and replace lawns with indigenous grasses. Our farmers will depend entirely on rich local inputs. Our forest land will be made open to traditional hunting and fishing. We will ensure plentiful food forests and our subsidies will encourage restoration and protection of natural habitats. We will ban all single-use plastics and eliminate dependence on fast food. 

Activities

Short term: index current municipal and state policies about land access, locate best practices models, advocate for single-use plastics bans at the State House

Medium term: bring new ideas about land uses and access to town council and city planning boards, write grants to start food forest pilots and incentivize composting and invasive species removal, educate state legislators about how subsidies and incentives can restore and protect natural habitats.  

Long term: pass state legislation opening up traditional hunting and fishing grounds, 


Diets - We will have healthy eating habits that have grown from acknowledging the impact of the industrial food complex. We will share understandings of the health and medicinal benefits of foods. We will reconnect to our environment through healthful and healing eating habits. We will honor the intersectionality of food, traditional foodways, and the resulting health benefits. We will seek out and ensure access to local, fresh, high-nutrient foods. 

Activities

Short term: We will share food knowledge within our group of partners and invite other partners to join in community meals and classes that focus on the physical, social, and spiritual aspects of traditional foods. We will educate people about food ingredients that are especially harmful, such as fractional oils, fake sweeteners, corn syrup, and food coloring

Medium term: we will build new traditions that cross cultures and bring people together, including between urban and rural areas. We will bring native knowledge to non-native people so they can connect better to this land and encouraging healthful food consumption and lower amounts of processed food consumption  

Long term: We will involve healthcare professionals in measuring the impacts of our new diets and foodways in order to understand and quantify their positive impacts, including measuring health impacts and understanding the healthcare cost savings inherent in these dietary shifts.  


Economics - We will build clear food career pathways that lead to well-paid jobs. We will invest in developing pathways into food careers that pay well and are accessible to everyone,leading to increased economic mobility. We will make sure there is adequate funding for food assistance for those who need it so that everyone can afford high quality, local food that supports the local economy.  

Activities

Short term: we will support the expansion of farmers market-based produce incentives into grocery stores. We will work with food employers to understand their workforce needs and help to train entry level workers and students to have well-paid jobs and clear career paths in the food sector. 

Medium term: We will establish CTE, certificate, and Associate Degree programs that set students up for success in food sector careers.  We will advocate for food businesses lending with lower interest rates for food businesses that are from underrepresented communities. We will encourage decision makers to establish sources of equity and liquidity to serve as collateral. 

Long term: We will establish a pool of capital that can be accessed by members of a community (e.g., zipcode/neighborhood/town-based) to be leveraged as collateral for food focused businesses using resources in creative capital raising (how to create something like a preferred stock to fund such pools sustainably).


Culture - We will ensure that all Rhode Island residents remember to appreciate all contributions from the diverse cultures in our state to heal the harm done to our cultures. We will establish ways to raise food to its true value and importance to connecting all people is essential to our well-being as individuals and as a community. We will transfer our knowledge to our children in a consistent way that communicates respect for diverse cultures, foodways, and foods. We will relearn and re-invest in support for traditional hunting, fishing, gathering, foraging, farming and honor and engage people in these practices. We will adequately support local growing of culturally appropriate food year-round, and emphasize the cultural exchanges that focus on food and bring cultures together that can heal our communities and our state.  

Activities

Short term: cross-cultural cooking and nutrition classes, cultural exchanges. Traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering programs. Encouragement of growing of culturally-appropriate produce

Medium term: Grant writing to establish cross-cultural youth education programs, greenhouse growing programs, and areas for traditional food growing, gathering, and harvesting

Long term: embedded traditions and festivals that bring diverse cultures together. Establish programs for growing native foods for donation to needy food insecure populations


Technology - We will work toward equitable investment in technology and technical assistance needed to increase organic waste management and recycling of non-organics. We will encourage solar, geothermal, or other alternative energies for our food production or building. We will encourage investment in low emission transportation options both on and off farm as well as bike paths, alternative power bikes, and other modes of transportation. We will encourage investment in sustainably powered greenhouses. We will work to understand the benefits of regenerative technology. We will take steps to realize the full potential of seed sharing technologies and technologies that can facilitate food sharing and reduce food waste. 

Activities

Short term: Power mapping energy usage and identifying high-priority areas for reducing carbon-intensive food production, processing, distribution, and waste management methods. 

Medium term: incentivizing appropriate technological uses in production. 

Long term: passing carbon trading policies that allow for online tracking and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions


Policy - We will partner with community residents to increase civic engagement. They will be able to realize which food policies can make a positive difference in their communities and successfully advocate for these policies. We will advocate for policies that set aside adequate land for wilderness and allow more land in cities to be resident and community owned growing space. We will redirect subsidies to changing lawns into gardens and food forests and pollinator gardens. We will encourage policies that support cooperative land purchase. We will get residents in decision making roles on boards and councils. We will work to make sure that corporate developers are held accountable for putting compost, recycling, and community garden facilities in their developments, and for collecting stormwater drain-off for garden use, as well as putting sustainable, alternative energy sources in their plans and retrofitting old buildings sustainably.  

Activities

Short term: mapping needs and costs related to municipal composting

Medium term: develop agricultural incentive programs for reducing outside inputs for farmer, or taxing non-local fertilizers. 

Long term: tax foods based on the miles they have traveled to arrive in Rhode Island, making local foods cheaper. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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Spam
Photo of Sofia Lopez Nunez
Team

hi Nessa Richman Great to see you joining the Prize!
We noticed your submission is missing responses in some questions. Feel free to make continue making changes and update it until January 31, 2020. We'd love to see a more developed version! This will help the community provide you with feedback and possibly even collaborate with you.

Spam
Photo of Nessa Richman
Team

Hi Sofia,

We are working on it! We just held our Food Systems Vision Prize event yesterday, and it was wonderful. I just filled out the event survey. We will be working on our application collaboratively and hoping to submit the final version before the deadline.

Take care,
Nessa

Spam
Photo of Nessa Richman
Team

Our vision is complete! Please let me know if there is anything else we can do to improve it by the January 31st deadline. Thank you for this opportunity.

Spam
Photo of Sofia Lopez Nunez
Team

Hi Nessa Richman - check out the prize statement (https://www.foodsystemvisionprize.org/prize-statement) if you haven’t done so. It may spark some insights to make any final adjustments. Good luck!

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