Weeklong Event Challenges Islanders to Eat Local

By ecoRI News staff

AQUIDNECK ISLAND, R.I. — The second Aquidneck Food Challenge will be held Sept. 23-29. Aquidneck Community Table is again challenging Portsmouth, Middletown and Newport residents to explore a new diet: seven days of hyper-local eating.

Aquidneck Food Challenge (AFC) participants have two challenges to choose from: go “all-in” and eat only food and drink grown or raised on Aquidneck Island or caught in Narragansett Bay; or incorporate at least one item from Aquidneck Island/Rhode Island in every meal. For those hard core enough to try the former, this means (temporarily) giving up coffee, chocolate and, oh god, avocados.

Those who register will be supported by resources such as recipes, shopping lists, a local food map, priority access to limited local food products at Aquidneck Growers Markets, which are run by Aquidneck Community Table (ACT), and social-media exchanging with other participants.

Last year’s Challenge launched a new island product: butter from Middletown’s Simmons Farm. This year, the Newport Sea Salt Co. is offering locally sourced seasoning for those attempting the "all-in" path.

Local chef Mary Weaver, founder of Newport Cooks, asks students in her cooking classes to create a visually pleasing, delicious dish from a table filled with fresh ingredients, on the last day of the Challenge, to present to a panel of judges.

“They love the challenge,” she says of her students. “I think of every dish I make during the AFC as an opportunity to think about food differently.”

The Challenge is supported by sponsors who understand the importance of healthy food and the value of its production to a thriving local food economy, and by island restaurants that will offer locally sourced dishes during Challenge week. Sponsorships allow ACT to increase the match for community members currently receiving benefits from the SNAP/EBT program at farmers markets. During Challenge week, SNAP clients will see their Bonus Bucks matched at 100 percent, rather than the usual 40 percent, so more people are able to participate.

Those who register for the Challenge are invited to the kick-off party at the new Stoneacre Brasserie in Washington Square, Newport, on Sept. 21.