News Bites: Can New England Feed Itself? / Backing Historic Small Restaurants Awards Johnny’s Victory Diner / Castle Hill Inn Summer 2023 Events

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

Can New England Feed Itself In The Years To Come?
New England Food Advocates Release New Research On The State Of The Region’s Food System:

Report shows Rhode Island food consumption far outpaces its production ability

NEFNE Executive Summary Cover

A new report puts forth a regional goal of producing and consuming 30% of New England’s food needs in the region by 2030. Commissioned by the New England State Food System Planners Partnership, a collaboration between the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, five other state-level organizations and Food Solutions New England, it outlines the role New Englanders can play in making the region’s food system stronger and more self-reliant. The report A Regional Approach to Food System Resilience – is a product of 16 researchers exploring the opportunities and needs along the food supply chain in New England, and highlights the land, sea, and labor needs of the region, consumer purchase metrics, distribution trends, and population projections that will impact the region’s ability to feed itself in the coming years. 

“The size and location of our state can serve as a unique opportunity to lead the way for our New England neighbors in integrating some common sense approaches to making our food system more self-reliant,” said Nessa Richman, Network Director of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, a partner of the New England State Food System Planners Partnership. “Becoming more self-reliant requires expanding our food supply chains, building up our infrastructure, and retaining control of our land and sea resources. In return, it can mean more local jobs, a competitive business environment, and a more predictable food system that is less susceptible to interruption like natural disasters or public health emergencies.”

The report, released publicly today, illustrates Rhode Island’s purchasing power in the effort to strengthen the local food system for itself and its New England neighbors. Rhode Island is home to seven percent of the region’s population and accounts for just shy of that percentage in retail food sales – 6.3%. It is also home to 6.6% of food sector employment in the region.  But Rhode Island holds only 1.5% of agricultural land, meaning our local food supply chain is highly reliant on producers from outside its borders.

“The gap between what Rhode Island consumes and what it produces can come from across the country or even the world, or it can come from right next door at a farm, in a greenhouse, or from a fishery right here in New England,” said Julianne Stelmaszyk, Director of Food Strategy at the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. “Together, we can build Rhode Island’s next five-year food system development plan in order to strengthen local farms and food businesses, be less dependent on a global food supply, and expand access to agricultural land so more of the food consumed here can be produced here.”

New England states had a total food expenditure of over $87.1 billion in 2019 (about $5,868 per person). In order to ensure that 30% of New England’s food needs are met with New England products, the average New Englander would have to spend about $1,760 of that total food expenditure on New England-produced food. By 2030, total food expenditures are projected to reach $98.4 billion (about $1,890 per person) to reach the 30% goal. 

The New England State Food System Planners Partnership is a collaboration among six state-level food system organizations and Food Solutions New England who are mobilizing their networks to impact local and regional food supply chains, and strengthen and grow the New England regional food system. The Partnership disseminates information on trends, challenges and opportunities to hundreds of groups across the region that connect with our individual state initiatives. The Partnership works in collaboration with the regional Food Solutions New England network and in alignment with its New England Food Vision, and also in collaboration with state governments and groups supporting local and regionally-based food supply chains.

The Rhode Island Food Policy Council is a network of food system stakeholders centering equity, accessibility, economic vitality, and environmental sustainability. The network engages stakeholders to advocate for policy priorities that will strengthen the state’s ability to feed itself, plan strategically, and coordinate with its New England neighbors.

American Express Supports Small and Independent Restaurants Around the World with two “Backing Small” Grant Programs

Applications Now Open for Second Annual “Backing International Small Restaurants” Grant Program in partnership with the International Downtown Association Foundation

25 Recipients of a total of $1 Million in Third Annual “Backing Historic Small Restaurants” Grants Announced in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Johnny's Victory Diner
Johnny’s Victory Diner

2023 “Backing Historic Small Restaurants” Grantee in Rhode Island, Johnny’s Victory Diner:

In receiving the Third Annual “Backing Historic Small Restaurants” grant, John and Rhonda Hanaway, owners of Johnny’s Victory Diner said, “We would like to express our sincere gratitude for being chosen as one of the 25 grant recipients nationwide.  Our connection with our community has always been at the heart of our business.  We are committed to utilizing this grant to enhance our 90 year old diner and contribute to the growth and prosperity of our community.”

The “Victory Diner” has been an area landmark for 90 years. The current owners brought barbecue to the diner five years ago, and in 2020, the restaurant was awarded “#1 BBQ in Rhode Island” by Food & Wine Magazine. The restaurant also goes mobile as it presents at various pop up events like the Burrillville Arts Festival, car shows, and family events in the town neighborhoods. The restaurant also gives back to the community through fundraising efforts, sponsoring sports teams, gift card donations and fundraisers for the local Backpack Program.

From American Express:

American Express is continuing its powerful backing of the restaurant community by announcing funding and other resources to support the growth of small and independent restaurants through two grant programs: “Backing Historic Small Restaurants” in the U.S. and “Backing International Small Restaurants.” Including the Backing Historic Small Restaurants grants described below, American Express will have provided funding for grants to over 100 global restaurants through these programs since their inception.

“Backing small businesses is core to what we do at American Express. These grant programs support the important cultural and historic independent restaurants within our communities,” said Madge Thomas, Head of Corporate Sustainability & President, American Express Foundation. “Both ‘Backing Small’ grant programs help preserve these restaurants’ established legacies and celebrate the rich variety of cuisines they serve around the world. We’re delighted to once again partner with both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the IDA Foundation.

Second Annual “Backing International Small Restaurants” Grant Program

For the second year, American Express is bringing back the “Backing International Small Restaurants” program to five major cities – London, Mexico City, Sydney, Tokyo, and Toronto. In partnership with the International Downtown Association Foundation, the program will supply $450,000 in grant funding to help independent restaurants with community significance. Restaurant owners can learn more about eligibility and apply for a grant at here through Friday, July 7 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

“As we launch the Backing International Small Restaurants program for the second year, we recognize the vital role that small, independent restaurants play in our communities,” said David Downey, Executive Director, IDA Foundation. “This program is a demonstration of our commitment to supporting these businesses and helping them thrive and succeed in the wake of ongoing economic challenges worldwide. It is an honor to implement this innovative work with the generous support of American Express.”

Third Annual “Backing Historic Small Restaurants” Grant Program

For the third year in a row, and in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, American Express is also officially announcing the recipients of the “Backing Historic Small Restaurants” grant program in the U.S. These 25 recipients will each receive $40,000 in funding – collectively $1 million in grant funding – to help them improve the business’ physical space and support critical operating costs, with the goal of helping these restaurants make an even larger positive impact on their communities. As part of the program, Resy, the American Express-owned restaurant technology platform, is offering complimentary use of ResyOS for one year to each grant recipient. The Resy OS software helps restaurants operate more efficiently and improves hospitality.

“This year’s restaurants embody the unique stories of how local businesses empower communities, sustain cultural traditions, and extend family legacies,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer, National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Once again, we heard from small restaurants of all kinds from soda fountains and craft breweries to BBQ stops and specialty bakeries, and from all over the country, reaffirming that, thanks to American Express, these resilient businesses can continue to grow, thrive, and serve their communities.”

The 25 grantees were selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation from a group of historic and culturally significant restaurants that operate in historic buildings or neighborhoods, who contribute to their neighborhood’s past and identity.

To learn more about the 25 historic establishments receiving “Backing Historic Small Restaurant” grants this year, please visit

The “Backing Historic Small Restaurants” and “Backing International Small Restaurants” grant programs are funded by American Express and administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and International Downtown Association, respectively. These grant programs are part of American Express’ “Backing Small” grant initiative, which supports small business owners and entrepreneurs, and includes grant programs, mentoring support, and technical assistance.

Castle Hill Inn Announces Summer Events, Including A Summer Soltice Clambake, Wood Fire Bbq, Beach Bonfires & More!

Castle Hill Inn invites guests to experience New England cuisine & culture like never before with seasonal events throughout the summer months

This season, Castle Hill Inn invites locals and travelers alike to experience a quintessential summer in New England with numerous events and culinary offerings taking place all summer long. With the weather heating up, the iconic Relais & Châteaux property in Newport, Rhode Island, is bringing back its signature outdoor dining on The Lawn and hosting a series of events celebrating Newport’s renowned history, cuisine and culture. 

“Newport is one of the most iconic New England summer destinations, and we are eager to welcome guests back to Castle Hill Inn to enjoy all the summer season has to offer,” said Brian Young, Managing Director of Castle Hill Inn. “This year we’ve switched things up with the addition of two summer BBQs, along with our traditional Clam Bakes, annual Farm Fresh event on The Lawn and more. We are excited for what is sure to be a fantastic summer ahead with all out visitors!” 

A listing of new and returning events at Castle Hill Inn this summer season follows below.


Castle Hill Inn is excited to kick off the summer season with their Summer Solstice Clambake on Wednesday, June 21st. As the official start to summer, the event will offer an opportunity to guests to enjoy one of Castle Hill Inn’s most beloved dining experiences.

Nestled on the far edge of the bluffs, the Clambake pit is the centerpiece for a meal rich with history and natural flavors, a tribute to the bounty of New England. Clam chowder, fresh Lobsters and Littleneck Clams in smoked seaweed broth are served alongside an array of other special dishes such as Panzanella Salad, Jerk Chicken and more. A selection of desserts includes traditional Apple Pie, fireside S’mores, and build-your-own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sundaes. 

Additional Clam Bake will be held later in the summer on Wednesday, July 12th and Wednesday, July 26th offering additional opportunities for guests to enjoy a family-style, al-fresco dinner of lobster, clams, buttermilk biscuits, bacon-leek potato salad and more. 

The three alfresco summer feasts will start at 6PM and include live music, as well as non-alcoholic beverages, with beer & wine available for purchase. 

Tickets for the Summer Solstice Clambake are available for $175 per guest, and July’s traditional Clam Bakes are being sold for $150 per guest, inclusive of taxes and fees. Reservations are available now, with tickets being sold exclusively though OpenTable at


A new event this season, Castle Hill Inn will be hosting a Summer BBQ on Wednesday, August 2nd. This unique culinary night out will offer an evening of barbecue excellence from the property’s pitmasters who will be cooking up a feast. The menu will feature Smoked Blackbird Farm Pork Shoulder, Grilled Rack of Swordfish and Honey-Glazed chicken. Plenty of freshly prepared sides will be on deck as well, including Fingerling Potato Salad, and Cast Iron Mac & Cheese, along with tasty summer desserts of Fruit Cobbler and Mango White Chocolate Torte.

The Summer BBQ is being hosted in partnership with WhistlePig Distillery and offer some of their whiskeys, as well as a special Cigar Roller to add to the festivities. Tickets will be $95 per person, inclusive of taxes and fees.

Limited space will be available, and reservations will be available through OpenTable later this summer.


A one-of-a-kind evening celebrating local growers and food producers, Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s annual Local Food Fest is back after being on hiatus since 2019. Castle Hill Inn will once again welcome the nonprofit organization on Tuesday, August 15th where dozens of local farmers will be paired with chefs from Newport’s top restaurants. 

Attendees are invited to meet with local food stars, watch live dish preparations and enjoy flavorful creations along with local wine, beer and signature cocktails. Hosted on Castle Hill Inn’s beautiful Chalet Patio and Lawn, the evening soiree will include stunning views of Narragansett Bay and live music to further set the mood.

Preview tickets for the evening include a special preview hour, including passed champagne, raw bar, and extra time to connect with local farmers and chefs, along with early access to the main event. 

Tickets are $250 per person and runs from 4-8PM. Main event tickets are $200 per person and runs from 5-8PM. Tickets can be purchased at

*Advance tickets only, no tickets will be sold at the event. Children under 12 are welcome to attend at no cost


All summer long, Castle Hill Inn’s iconic Lawn will be open for guests and day trippers to enjoy meals, drinks and take in the views of Narragansett Bay. The property will also be offering their annual beach bonfires, stargazing and s’mores for hotel guests to enjoy throughout the season; in addition to the annual Fourth of July fireworks, which can be seen from the property’s stunning waterfront. 

In addition, Newport is gearing up for a jam-packed summer season with numerous festivals and events including:

  • Annual International Polo Series on weekends from June – August
  • Newport Flower Show (June 23-25)
  • Newport Music Festival (July 4-17)
  • Hall of Fame Tennis Championships (July 16-23)
  • Newport Folk Festival (July 28-30)
  • Newport Jazz Festival (August 4-6)
  • Ida Lewis Distance Race (August 18-19
  • Newport International Boat Show (September 14-17)
  • Newport Mansions Food & Wine Festival (September 22-24)
  • Audrain’s Newport Concour Motor Week (September 28 – October 1)

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