Chew on This: R.I. Working on Food and Ag Plan

Kids chowed down during Hope & Main’s pie-eating contest on Oct. 11 to celebrate the food incubator’s one-year anniversary. The pies were locally made. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

Kids chowed down during Hope & Main’s pie-eating contest on Oct. 11 to celebrate the food incubator’s one-year anniversary. The pies were locally made. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

WARREN, R.I. — Rhode Island has a comprehensive energy plan and climate-change plan, but no top-down plan to address food and agriculture. That may soon change, however.

During a special farmers market to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Hope & Main food incubator, Gov. Gina Raimondo said a statewide food and agricultural plan is in the works.

“That is what we are doing. In fact, we are working between Commerce (RI) and the (Department of Environmental Management) to put together a food strategy,” she said during the Oct. 11 event.

Details of an economic plan linking farming, aquaculture, food insecurity, hunger, restaurants and culinary institutions won’t be known soon. Commerce RI, the state economic agency, must first hire someone to fill a new position dedicated to the local food effort.

DEM is expected to lead the plan-making process that will likely include several public forums and community input. Raimondo met with DEM director Janet Coit recently to discuss the project. A key element of the plan is to meet the “50 by 60” goal that aims for half of the food New England consumes to be locally sourced.

In the near term, the governor is focused on a food marketplace at the former Shooters nightclub on the Providence waterfront.

“We are working hard on the Shooters thing right now and we are working on a more holistic plan,” she said.

There is strong optimism among the start-up food business owners who joined the business incubator program at Hope & Main during its first year.

“It’s not just about making a great product, it’s selling it,” said Leah Rosin-Pritchard, founder of Leah’s Recipe, one of 50 businesses using Hope & Main.

Since it launched in April, Rosin-Pritchard’s line of organic energy bars and healthier chocolates and macaroons can be found in several Rhode Island markets.

“It’s worth every penny. I’m onboard,” she said of Hope & Main.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., presented the food incubator with an $85,000 check from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand its schoolyard farmers market program.

While a food plan moves forward, the state energy plan is now official. On Oct. 8, the State Planning Council approved the state energy plan. The 20-year guide includes goals of reducing state greenhouse-gas emissions 45 percent by 2035, and focuses on renewable energy and diversifying fuels used in the transportation sector.