News Bites: Senator Reed Helps Launch Senior Nutrition Initiative, Hope & Main Schoolyard Market, Rhode Island Named #1 Food-Friendly State

by David Dadekian
Published: Updated:

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

Sen. Reed, RI Community Food Bank, USDA & RI Division of Elderly Affairs to Launch New Food Assistance Program for Seniors

Commodity Supplemental Food Program will help provide low-income seniors with monthly food boxes containing items like cereal, fruits and vegetables, pasta, and peanut butter

Rhode Island Community Food Bank

In an effort to help end senior hunger, U.S. Senator Jack Reed will join representatives from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs on Monday, May 18th at 1:00 p.m. at the Food Bank to launch a new senior nutrition initiative in the state, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP).

The partnership between USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the RI Division of Elderly Affairs, and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank – made possible through a legislative boost from Senator Reed — will help the Food Bank distribute boxes of nutritious USDA commodities on a monthly basis to seniors in need as part of the federally-funded CSFP, which provides monthly food assistance specifically targeted to low-income seniors.

The contents of the box will change each month, based on what is available through the USDA, but will include a variety of canned vegetables and fruit, beans, cereal, pasta, rice, and other seasonal items. The food package provided by CSFP is intended to supplement the diet of seniors, providing healthy options to help seniors meet their dietary needs for essential nutrients like protein, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and fiber.

Eligibility for the food boxes is based on income and age. Recipients must be at least 60 years old and their monthly income must be less than 130% of the Federal Poverty Guideline (not exceeding $1,245 per month if single or $1,681 per month if married).

Senator Reed, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, worked at the federal level to successfully insert language into the Fiscal Year 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill making it possible for Rhode Island to start participating in CSFP, along with six other states that did not have the program. He also secured over $100,000 in federal funding to help launch the program.

In 2013, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank distributed 9.9 million pounds of food, and each month more than 63,000 Rhode Islanders seek food assistance. According to the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, one out of eight Rhode Island seniors faced the threat of hunger in 2013.

“This is a proven, effective program that makes it easier for hungry seniors to get some extra nutritional assistance. I am pleased to help bring this program to Rhode Island. And I appreciate the hard work of the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs and Andrew Schiff and his team at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank for playing critical roles in establishing it and getting it up and running. The Food Bank has already begun a successful senior food box pilot program. They do an outstanding job of distributing food and serving people with respect and dignity,” said Senator Reed, Reed who helped appropriate $211.5 million in FY 2015 for CSFP nationwide. This funding will support over 600,000 caseload slots in participating states and more than $44 million in state administrative grants. In FY 2015, Rhode Island has been allocated 2,000 caseload slots and will receive an estimated $110,669 in administrative grant funding to carry out the program.

“At the Food Bank, twenty percent of the 63,000 people we serve each month are over 60 years old,” said Andrew Schiff. “Thanks to Senator Reed’s efforts, the CSFP program has been expanded to include Rhode Island and six other states. This funding will allow us to partner with the Division of Elderly Affairs and the USDA to provide this vulnerable population with healthy food and nutrition education to help them remain independent and healthy.”

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture is honored that Rhode Island will be participating in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program,” said Kurt Messner, acting regional administrator for the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. “This federal nutrition program strives to improve health by supplementing seniors’ diets with nutritious USDA commodity foods. Once enrolled, eligible seniors will receive a box of nutritionally balanced supplemental food every month.”

The Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs will help to facilitate and raise awareness about the program.

The USDA commodity foods included in the food boxes are all U.S. grown and produced products. While the cost to the USDA to provide the food package is about $20 per month, the average retail value of the package provided to seniors often exceeds $50 per month.

Schoolyard Market Launches July 19

Hope & MainHope & Main is launching “Schoolyard Market” Sunday afternoons July 19 through September 27, 2015, transforming a former playground in a 100­-year-­old school into a uniquely interactive food experience. The market will feature a wide variety of vendors including farmers, fishermen, and Hope & Main culinary artisans. Workshops and how-to demonstrations for adults and children will be offered each week on nutrition, food preparation, urban gardening, and more.

Schoolyard Market will provide a highly interactive experience, connecting eaters with farmers and makers. “Food is a relationship that goes so much deeper than reading a label in a supermarket,” said Hope & Main Founder, Lisa Raiola. “We want to share the fascinating story of the origin and production of the food we eat everyday.”

The market will be dedicated to educating the community about cultivated, caught, and crafted in Rhode Island ­­ from growing to production to distribution­­ and enabling eaters to better understand and manage their personal relationship to local food.

Each week Schoolyard Market will offer free themed workshops for adults and children on topics such as fermentation; raising backyard chickens; home pickling; bee education and honey making; bread baking; solar and renewable energy demonstrations; composting and more. Families can also enjoy live music and other performances. “We want to stir up important conversations about food and reconnect with our community, our food, and our planet,” said Hope & Main Community Education and Outreach Director, Bleu Grijalva.

Cooking demonstrations with some of the region’s pre­eminent chefs will also be offered. For example, Chef Jonathan Cambra from Eating with the Ecosystem, a non­profit that promotes a place­based approach to sustainable seafood, will demonstrate how to prepare some atypical fare featuring catch that is abundant in Rhode Island waters such as razor clams, scup and slipper limpets. Schoolyard Market will also collect food waste through a program managed by Leo Pollock, President of the Compost Plant. Market­goers can learn the basics of composting and will be given receptacles for at­-home use that they can bring to Schoolyard Market on a weekly basis.

The Community Table will feature a different local non profit each week to spread the word about their mission and upcoming activities. Schoolyard Market plans to accept WIC, SNAP, and Senior Coupons.

For more information, to apply as a vendor, or to volunteer, email

Sundays July 19­ – September 27
11 a.m­ – 3 p.m.
691 Main Street
Warren, RI 02885
Free event
*No market Sunday, September 6

America’s Top 10 Food-Friendly States

Rhode Island at #1 via

Retale's America's Top 10 Food-Friendly States

Retale’s America’s Top 10 Food-Friendly States

“Rhode Island is the food-friendly powerhouse in these fifty states – and for good reason. This pint-sized non-island is stocked with top-tier, flavorful foods – many of which are “all their own” in the same way New Orleans claims beignets and Kentucky claims fried chicken. For one: Rhode Island has “Stuffies” (baked clams stuffed with herbs, mollusc, chourico sausage, and peppers), “Donut Cake,” coffee milk , Awful Awfuls, and Del’s lemonade.

“Little Rhody” offers the most total restaurants per one million inhabitants in the U.S. Further, they have the most snack bars per one million inhabitants, and they hold the eighth place in “best access to food,” meaning that if people really want a “Stuffie,” they’re likely to find one not too far from home. The Ocean State is also the number nine best state for Farmer’s Markets, where seafood, vegetables, and RI classics abound.”

Check out Retale’s visualization to compare Rhode Island’s rankings here:

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