PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A new Farm Fresh Rhode Island initiative seeks to give more people access to fresh, locally grown food.
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed announced Monday he helped secure $812,000 in federal funding to streamline the state’s SNAP and WIC systems so those benefits can be used to make electronic payments at 100 local farms and 15 farmers markets.
In addition to buying the technology that’s needed, the funding will go toward making SNAP ordering and food pantry purchasing available online, according to Reed.
The initiative comes at a time when food costs continue to rise. A report last year from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank found nearly one in three households in the state struggle to put enough food on the table.
On Monday, Reed joined Farm Fresh RI and other local organizations to celebrate the new initiative. He said the goal is to make access to fresh produce “simple” and “affordable” for everyone.
The initiative also seeks to give food pantries access to more produce grown around Rhode Island. Farm Fresh RI said the funding will be used to expand its Hope’s Harvest program, which collects unharvested fruits and vegetables that would normally go to waste and distributes them among local food pantries and nonprofits.
“Rather than letting this food go to waste, Hope’s Harvest will work with growers to find a new market for the food within Rhode Island’s hunger relief network,” Reed said. “This is truly a win-win-win.”
The event also highlighted the work of the Edith Paye and her daughter Nell, who came to Rhode Island from Liberia in the 90s and now work to farm traditional West African crops to help feed hundreds of local families.
Those in need of food assistance should call the United Way of Rhode Island’s 211 hotline.