News Bites: RI Hospitality Culinary Competition, Rhode Island Open Space Grants, Ocean State Job Lot Food Donation

by David Dadekian
William M. Davies Career & Technical High School Culinary Team, from left to right order: Heather Singleton, Sr. VP, RIHEF; Jesse James, US Foods; Students: Maria Jacobo, Cesia Lapop, Osiris Hernandez, Elise Calhoun, and Reymy Pena; Chef Peter Fangiullo and Chef Santos Nieves, Culinary Teachers, Davies Career & Tech

William M. Davies Career & Technical High School Culinary Team, from left to right order: Heather Singleton, Sr. VP, RIHEF; Jesse James, US Foods; Students: Maria Jacobo, Cesia Lapop, Osiris Hernandez, Elise Calhoun, and Reymy Pena; Chef Peter Fangiullo and Chef Santos Nieves, Culinary Teachers, Davies Career & Tech

Current news releases—Eat Drink RI is not the source for these items—please follow any links for more information.

RI Hospitality Education Foundation Hosts 3rd Annual Rhode Island ProStart® Culinary Competition

Local Students Competed for $324,000 in Scholarship Money and the Chance to Represent Rhode Island in the National Competition in Minneapolis

The RI Hospitality Education Foundation (RIHEF), in collaboration with ProStart® and US Foods recently hosted the 3rd Annual Rhode Island ProStart® Culinary Competition.  Four students from William M. Davies Career & Technical High School won the Culinary Arts portion of the competition and four students from Exeter Job Corps Academy won the Foodservice Management portion of the competition. The students not only won $324,000 in scholarship money divided amongst the teams, but they will also be representing Rhode Island at the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s ProStart® Invitational competition in Minneapolis this May.

Exeter Job Corps Academy Foodservice Management Team, from left to right order: Heather Singleton, Sr. VP, RIHEF; Jesse James, US Foods; Students: Destiny Tolentino, Bianca Rivera, Samantha Miranda, and Shirnica Hilaire; Chef Mark Bennison, Culinary Teacher, Exeter Job Corps Academy

Exeter Job Corps Academy Foodservice Management Team, from left to right order: Heather Singleton, Sr. VP, RIHEF; Jesse James, US Foods; Students: Destiny Tolentino, Bianca Rivera, Samantha Miranda, and Shirnica Hilaire; Chef Mark Bennison, Culinary Teacher, Exeter Job Corps Academy

“I am extremely proud of all the students who dedicated months to practice and preparation for this event,” said Dale Venturini, President and CEO of the RI Hospitality Association. “As the future of the hospitality industry, I look forward to watching the students’ skills continue to progress and eventually become part of the skilled workforce we have here in Rhode Island.”

The competition was comprised of more than 30 students from across Rhode Island who are enrolled in ProStart®, a two-year hospitality career-building program designed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The $324,000 scholarship money was provided by Johnson & Wales University, Lincoln Culinary Institute, New England Culinary Institute, The Art Institute, and Sullivan University. At the national competition, the winning teams will compete for nearly $1.4 million dollars in scholarship money.

There were two separate events that students could participate in. Culinary teams competed in a wide array of culinary challenges including: safe food transportation, knife skills, a cook-off by preparing a three-course meal (using only two burners), teamwork/cooperation, professionalism/appearance, plate presentation, and more.

Foodservice Management teams presented a restaurant concept idea they created along with their business plan, which included design boards, floor plans, marketing plans, and menu design. All teams were judged by locally and nationally recognized hospitality and food professionals.

DEM Announces Availability of Up to $5 Million in Open Space Grants for Land Preservation Projects

The Department of Environmental Management is now accepting applications from municipalities, land trusts, and non-profit land conservation organizations for Rhode Island Local Open Space Matching Grants. A total of up to $5 million is available during this round of the grant program.

“Through these grants, we will continue to help preserve and protect precious open space and farmland, as well as support one of our state’s economic drivers – tourism,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said.  “Rhode Island is fortunate to enjoy unparalleled natural beauty.  By having funds available for our cities and towns, land trusts and conservation organizations, we can continue to safeguard these assets, which strengthen our economy, future and environment.”

DEM Director Janet Coit announced the grant round at the Land and Water Conservation Summit held Saturday at the URI Coastal Institute.  Director Coit praised the more than 300 board members, volunteers and staff from land trusts, watershed councils, and conservation commissions who attended the event for their dedication to land and watershed conservation, saying that their combined efforts are what make Rhode Island great – and provide hope and a legacy.

“It’s the power of local communities working with DEM to preserve the special places that mean so much — places where folks can go to get outdoors, unwind, and relax,” Director Coit said.  “These bonds are funds that drive progress and allow municipalities and conservation groups to keep a pipeline of projects moving forward – projects that ensure we have productive farmland, healthy forests, and places to play and enjoy nature.”

The grants will provide up to 50 percent of funding, up to a maximum of $400,000, to preserve open space lands that possess significant natural, ecological, agricultural or scenic values, by direct purchase or conservation easements.  Special consideration will be given to projects that provide linkages between or expansion of existing preserved lands.  In addition to the grants, DEM has funds available in its no-interest loan program to assist in the funding of open space projects.  Funding for this grant round comes from the 2008 and 2012 Open Space Bond Authorizations, overwhelmingly approved by Rhode Island voters.

DEM will also provide 50 percent of overhead funds within set parameters to successful projects for appraisal, title, and survey services, provided the services are competitively bid with appropriate documentation. Funding for overhead costs would be in addition to grant awards, and would provide another source of financial assistance for land trusts and municipalities to acquire or protect valuable open space.

Over the years these grant programs have not only resulted in the protection of hundreds of worthwhile projects – places used by residents and tourists alike for outdoor recreation – but have also contributed to the economic health of the state.  These natural assets play a big role in the state’s tourist economy by providing opportunities for the public to camp, fish, hunt, hike, and enjoy the great outdoors, and at the same time bring revenue to the local economy.  This successful grant program has provided funding for the preservation of over 10,000 acres of land across the state since its inception in 1985.  DEM has worked with partners to complete 165 easement transactions with land trusts and local communities to date, furthering the mission of preserving Rhode Island’s precious resources and increasing the public’s access and enjoyment of our natural lands.

Recent projects completed from the state’s 2011 funding round include the protection of a 175-acre parcel in Coventry along the Coventry Greenway; assisting the Town of North Smithfield in acquiring a 40-acre parcel adjacent to Booth Pond; and preserving the development rights on the Kee Farm on the Kickemuit River in Warren.  “As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Green Acres Act this May, we can see visual reminders across Rhode Island of how partnerships have been necessary and successful to conservation,” Director Coit noted.

Noting that the grant funds would help protect and preserve Rhode Island’s open spaces and natural heritage, Director Coit emphasized the importance of Governor Chafee’s proposed $75 million Clean Water, Open Space and Healthy Communities bond for the 2014 ballot.  “Rhode Island has a proud history of supporting investment in our extraordinary natural assets. Clean Water and Open Space bonds are widely supported in Rhode Island – in our urban centers, our small town main streets, suburban neighborhoods, and rural areas – because they keep our local character in-tact, and ensure continued economic investment and activity throughout the state,” she said.

Grant applications will be accepted through June 6 at 4 p.m. They will be reviewed and ranked by the Natural Heritage Preservation Advisory Committee with final awards to be made by the State Natural Heritage Preservation Commission.  The Commission expects to announce the grant awards in September 2014.

Grant applications, specific rules governing the grant program, and additional information is available from Lisa Primiano, deputy chief of DEM’s Division of Planning and Development, at 222-2776 ext. 4307, or via email at  Information and downloadable applications are also available on DEM’s website,, by clicking on “Topics,” then “Grants,” then “Open Space Grants.”

Ocean State Job Lot Makes Record $1.4 Million Food Donation

Company partners with Polar Beverages, Bank of America, Bob’s Red Mill and Providence Journal Charitable Foundation to send 78 tractor trailer loads of food to area Food Banks in 2014; Program kicks off with 17-truck convoy on March 25th

Ocean State Job Lot, a 111-store discount retail chain headquartered in North Kingstown, R.I., announces its 2014 “Three Square Meals” hunger relief program to alleviate the food crisis throughout the Northeast U.S.

The program is expected to distribute 78 tractor trailer loads of food throughout the year to 13 food banks and pantries across six New England states and New York, including:  Rhode Island Community Food Bank (Providence, RI), Connecticut Food Bank (East Haven, CT), Foodshare (Bloomfield, CT), New Hampshire Food Bank (Manchester, NH), Food Bank of the Hudson Valley (Cornwall on Hudson, NY), Worcester County Food Bank (Shrewsbury, MA), Food Bank of Western Massachusetts (Hatfield, MA), Good Shepherd Food Bank (Auburn, ME), Vermont Foodbank (Barre, VT), Boston Medical Center Food Pantry (Boston, MA), Greater Boston Food Bank, Long Island Cares (Hauppage, NY), and the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York (Latham, NY). This marks the largest single food donation of its kind by a private company in New England.

On Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 9:30 a.m., the first delivery of food will kick-off via convoy of 15 tractor trailer trucks loaded with 600,000 lbs of nutritious shelf-stable food. The public is invited to cheer on the convoy departing from Job Lot’s warehouse in North Kingstown, escorted by RI State Police, Blue Knights motorcycle club and North Kingstown Fire Department en route to the select Food Banks.

For the first time in the 11-year history of the Three Square Meals program, private businesses are sponsoring a truckload of food including Bank of America, The Providence Journal Charitable Fund, Polar Beverages, and Bob’s Red Mill.  Job Lot’s Charitable Foundation is also teaming up with the New England Patriots Alumni Club led by former 12-year Patriots offensive player Pete Brock and 15-year quarterback Steve Grogan to “tackle hunger” in 2014 and beyond. They will be on-hand for the March 25th morning event along with current Patriots cheerleaders and costumed mascot “Pat Patriot.”

In what has become a holiday tradition, Job Lot customers in seven states were invited to donate $1 at the register through December 31, 2013 to help buy food for Food Banks to distribute in their local community.  Job Lot matched the first $100,000 of donations made by shoppers.  The customer donations and matching amount totaled over $1.4 million – the equivalent of 78 tractor trailer loads of food.  Leveraging its significant wholesale buying power, Job Lot purchases food from its manufacturers and other sources valued at up to three times Job Lot’s purchase price, and also donates all purchasing logistics, administration, management, delivery labor, and fuel ensuring 100 percent of donated funds are used to help alleviate hunger.  Items to be distributed include shelf-stable food such as pasta, cereal, canned vegetables and fruit, soup, canned tuna, dried beans, rice, and more.

In late Spring, Job Lot and the New England Patriots Alumni Club are launching an initiative with URI’s SNAP-Ed program, culinary institutes, Scotts and Burpee Seeds to tackle food insecurity in the region from supporting neighborhood gardens to providing nutrition education to the community.  “Our Three Square Meals event is intended to bring attention to and help alleviate the growing food crisis in our region,” states Ocean State Job Lot Owner/Partner Alan Perlman, who notes his company is quick to recognize the contributions and generosity of its valued customers.  “We’re leading the fight against hunger, starting from the community garden level, to distributing nutritious food, to then teaching people how to create and eat healthy meals. Together with our customers and charitable partners such as the Patriots Alumni and URI’s SNAP-Ed program, we can greatly impact each step along this food insecurity cycle.  It’s exciting to see our Three Square Meals program grow and become an important catalyst for change.”

The public is invited to attend the 2014 Three Square Meals event being held in the Job Lot warehouse at 375 Commerce Park Road in North Kingstown on March 25, 2014 at 8:00 am, and to help cheer on the truck convoy as it departs at approximately 9:15 am for the Food Bank deliveries. There is no charge for this event.  Guests are asked to use Job Lot Way (off Commerce Park Road) to access the warehouse parking lot, and to enter Door #7.

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