Three programs are planned to develop the food system on Aquidneck Island, engaging our community in an ongoing conversation about many aspects of our food and agricultural future, and building on seven areas of concern distilled from the group process at the first Island Food Summit held in November 2014.
- Access to healthy food for all
- Affordable healthy food
- Preparation for feeding everyone if normal services are interrupted
- Protection and sustainable use of our natural resources
- Increasing sustainable production and consumption of local food
- Education and information to producers, citizens and our children toward a greater understanding of the relevance of healthy foods and eating to our general well being
A Food Map of Aquidneck Island
In order to demonstrate change and growth in any system the starting conditions must be measured so that all subsequent accomplishments will be clear. A survey of Aquidneck Island will document such things as existing farms, available agricultural land, food pantries, giving gardens, educational gardens and much more. A survey will not only establish a baseline by which future growth can be measured, but will also connect those engaged in such work, strengthening their endeavors and creating the basis for an information network for both people with information to share about food and those looking for answers to food questions.
A baseline of data and information is essential for the Island's community to understand the strength of its current community food system, the potential for building a stronger system, and its current and projected vulnerabilities. Layers of mapped information will reveal the existing food system and enable us to track growth and changes over time. The map will include data and resources, show the flows and connections of the local food system, and be user-friendly and accessible to all. We will link to the data project that is being undertaken by the RI Food Policy Council and enhance data collection locally by engaging with university partners.
A Comprehensive Food Plan for Aquidneck Island
Information gleaned from the mapping project will inform the creation a Comprehensive Food Plan for Aquidneck Island, to be guided by a broad base of stakeholders striving to incorporate elements of the plan into the Comprehensive Plans of Portsmouth, Middletown and Newport.
Currently, each of the 39 Rhode Island towns adopts a Comprehensive Plan that references economic development, land use, land preservation, schools, roads and more. Only in the last two years have any of these plans made reference to agriculture. As yet there is no reference made in any of these plans to food. Given the imperative needs for improvements in health, access to food for the economically disadvantaged and pending consequences of climate change, we are certain that our existing local food system would greatly benefit from the creation of a guiding Comprehensive Food Plan for the whole island.
A Food Web on Aquidneck Island
Robust energy and enthusiasm for healthier food is already growing the local food system. In addition to what is happening regionally, nationally and internationally, there is great interest and action in Rhode Island from chefs, producers, funders, our religious community and beyond. We conducted a substantial number of interviews in our research last year and could easily have tripled the number of informants: we found people eager to share their experience and expertise on the subject of food.
Our food community would benefit from greater coordination and stronger connections. As to be expected with so much growth and activity, the need to keep everyone with interest connected will be challenging, requiring ongoing attention and management.
Aquidneck Island needs a local connector. The Rhode Island Food Policy Council is an important statewide hub advancing statewide food planning and discussion, but to bring those plans to fruition on the island and realize the goals of a Comprehensive Plan will require a local agency that embraces the opportunity to forward the creation of a resilient food web.
Building a centralized bank of information will generate a network of interested people, government agencies and organizations. This integrated network, or nexus will have the power and ability to further the over-arching vision of Food Solutions New England's 50 by 60 plan and manifest the goals of a Comprehensive Food Plan for Aquidneck Island.