News Bites: Senator Reed Discusses EAT Local Foods Act / New Operators at Sakonnet Vineyard / Burrillville High Seniors Receive Scholarships from Wright’s Farm Restaurant

by David Dadekian

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


Reed, Local Farmers & Advocates Discuss EAT Local Foods Act

Senator Jack Reed with David Dadekian of Eat Drink RI and Fred Mattera of Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation
Senator Jack Reed with David Dadekian of Eat Drink RI and Fred Mattera of Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation

Looking to grow Rhode Island’s sustainable, resilient farm-to-fork and dock-to-dish food supply chain while feeding neighbors in need and help local farmers, growers, and fishermen expand their markets, a group of Rhode Island’s leading agriculture, culinary, and food policy experts came together at City Farm in South Providence today to stump for the Expanding Access To (EAT) Local Foods Act (S.3982).

As Congress considers the Farm Bill, U.S. Senator Jack Reed, the lead author of the EAT Local Foods Act, gathered with community partners at Southside Community Land Trust’s (SCLT) City Farm, a working, three-quarter acre urban production and demonstration farm.  Reed was joined by advocates from Farm Fresh Rhode Island; the Rhode Island Food Policy Council (RIFPC); SCLT; and local farmers, fishermen, and food producers to discuss how the EAT Local Foods Act would help farmers and growers reach new markets and catalyze business growth while increasing access to locally-grown, nutritious food in underserved communities. 

The bill seeks to build on a successful, proven template – the Local Food Purchase Cooperative Agreement (LFPA) Program – with the goal of promoting economic opportunities for farmers, fisherman, and food producers and strengthening the nation’s food supply chain network.

“The EAT Local Foods Act would strengthen our regional food system and help local farmers, fishers and growers put delicious and healthy food on more tables while growing their markets.  It’s a win-win,” said Senator Reed, who helped include language in a version of the Farm Bill making its way through the Senate Agriculture Committee that would codify LFPA and provide $200 million over five years in mandatory funding for the EAT Local Foods Act. “As Rhode Islanders know, good food brings people together.  I am pleased to join so many terrific partners and supporters of this important bill today.  And I am hopeful we can get bipartisan support for strengthening local economies by stimulating demand for nutritious foods, bolstering revenues for farmers, fishermen, grocers, and food retailers.”

The EAT Local Foods Act is supported by a wide range of farmers, food hubs, coalitions, and business networks from across the country, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the National Center for Frontier Communities, the Wallace Center at Winrock International, and more. 

In Rhode Island, the bill is supported by several leading organizations, including: the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, Farm Fresh Rhode Island, the Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, and Southside Community Land Trust. 

“The USDA LFPA program in Rhode Island has been a transformative partnership. Through the end of May 2024 the LFPA has invested over $740,000 into the local food economy. Of that total number, over $432,000, or 58% of the funding, has gone directly to socially disadvantaged farmers and fishers in Rhode Island. Through our working partnership with Southside Community Land Trust, the African Alliance, the Commercial Fisheries Center, the RI Food Policy Council and food access agencies across the state, our collective action has connected tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders in need with fresh, healthy, local foods. We applaud Senator Reed’s national leadership to sustain this effort through the EAT Local Food Act. He recognizes that the momentum our partnership has grown must continue. He sees that we are addressing food insecurity with thoughtful local solutions and building more resilient communities and a stronger local economy,” said Jesse Rye, Executive Director of Farm Fresh Rhode Island.

“In 2023, the RI Food Policy Council, an independent statewide network working to create a more just and resilient food system, launched the Rhody Feeding Rhody Alliance with many partners here today. The Alliance creates sustainable connections for local farmers and fishers with food pantries, food rescue organizations, food distributors, and other partners so that Rhode Islanders in need of fresh, local, culturally-appropriate food have better and more consistent access to it. It is open to everyone doing this work in the state, and everyone doing the work would benefit from adoption of Senator Reed’s EAT Local Foods Act in the next Farm Bill.” said Nessa Richman, Executive Director of the RI Food Policy Council.  “We need the amazing gains made by connecting local farmers with food insecure families to be sustainable. Sustainable gains take sustained support. The EAT Local Foods act is the solution, and the RI Food Policy Council strongly supports its inclusion in the next Farm Bill.”

“This program is a dream come true,” said Margaret Devos, Executive Director of SCLT.  “It calls for purchases of food from small, locally owned farms in Rhode Island instead of highly processed foods from factories in other places. Those crops get distributed for free to food insecure people through community organizations in places where fresh, healthy affordable food is scarce. What could be better?”

The EAT Local Foods Act would create a permanent grant program for state and tribal governments to procure local foods for distribution to nearby hunger relief programs.  It would leverage government procurement and purchasing power to increase access to locally-sourced, fresh, healthy, and nutritious food in underserved communities and help family farmers, fishermen, and local food producers grow their markets. This grant program would in turn:

Support local economic development by creating new access to the hunger relief market for local farmers and fishermen. This, in turn, will establish a new, reliable stream of orders for small, beginning, and underserved farmers, ranchers, and fishers, giving these businesses the financial security to invest and further expand. 

Strengthen our domestic agriculture supply chain by investing in local food distribution.  The bill would help build local businesses that support durable and resilient local food systems. 

Combat food insecurity by providing fresh, nutritious, local food to underserved communities, feeding more families and helping ease the strain on the hunger relief system. 

During the COVID pandemic, Congress made $900 million available for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food purchasing efforts through the LFPA. This program has helped strengthen local and regional food systems, improved agricultural supply-chain resiliency, and supported underserved producers and communities.  Using LFPA funds, states set up approved programs to purchase food produced within the state or within 400 miles of delivery destination, which was then distributed through food banks, pantries, and other food distribution centers where hungry families in need can receive food.

At today’s event, Senator Reed was joined by Sienna Viette, co-manager of Open fArms Retreat in Cumberland – a teaching farm for youth and communities throughout Rhode Island – who helped foster collaboration to bring LFPA program funding to the Woonsocket area during the pandemic to distribute fresh, locally-grown produce, as well as Helene Miller, the executive director of Partnership for Providence Parks, who helped to distribute food into the community.

“The LFPA funding has not only provided access to fresh, locally-grown produce for the Woonsocket Community, but also increased our resiliency as a small farm by providing a stable source of income throughout the growing season. In 2023 we delivered over 2500 lbs of food to food insecure families in Woonsocket through a CSA, the Connecting for Children’s and Family family center, and New Beginnings Kitchen. All of the produce was delivered free of charge to our community members with the support of the LFPA funding. It has allowed families in a town without a large grocery store to access fresh, locally-grown produce and connect with the land it is grown on,” said Sienna Viette of Open fArms Retreat. “The EAT Local Foods Act would expand and permanently provide funding to ensure small farms such as ours will continue delivering fresh foods to community members with the least amount of access to them.”

In Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), working with nonprofits like Farm Fresh RI and SCLT, was awarded a total of $1.78 million to purchase local foods for distribution within the state.  To date, DEM, Farm Fresh, and their partners, have purchased food from 95 local producers and distributed that nutritious, local food to over 65,000 Rhode Islanders. 

The LFPA is scheduled to sunset once the $900 million in one-time funds are expended.  The EAT Local Foods Act would codify the program into law, providing permanent funding to ensure the program continues.

The measure is cosponsored by more than a dozen U.S. Senators, including: Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Laphonza R. Butler (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Angus King (I-ME), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), John Fetterman (D-PA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).


New Stewards to Embrace Sustainable Farming and Revive Culinary Tradition at Sakonnet Vineyard  

James Davids & Marissa Stashenko of Anchor & Hope take the reins at historic property; set to reopen June 28th

Sakonnet Vineyard

Sakonnet Vineyard, an iconic Rhode Island landmark, proudly announces that James Davids and Marissa Stashenko, founders of Anchor & Hope, have assumed the management and winemaking responsibilities at the historic vineyard. They will collaborate with owner Carolyn Rafaelian to launch new wines, revive the culinary legacy, and implement organic and sustainable farming.

Davids and his team practice minimal intervention winemaking, a philosophy through which winemakers use natural methods to make wine without additives or technology. The goal is to showcase the unique characteristics of the grapes and the terroir in which they were grown.

“Sakonnet Vineyard is a treasured piece of Rhode Island’s farm coast, and for more than a decade, I have cared for and preserved the land while sharing it with local farmers,” said Carolyn Rafaelian, Owner, Sakonnet Vineyards. “I am blessed to have found James and Marissa, who are incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about the wine industry. We look forward to their positive impact on our vineyard.”

Davids and Stashenko bring 30 years of experience in winemaking, most recently as co-founders of Anchor & Hope in Rumford, Rhode Island, where they bottled, canned, and kegged award-winning wines through partnerships with growers around the world. 

“The opportunity to take the reins at Sakonnet came at a point when we were facing the closure of our own business,” said Marissa Stashenko, Director of Operations, Sakonnet Vineyard. “We are grateful to Carolyn for recognizing our passion and trusting us to steward this incredibly special property.” 

Under their leadership, Davids and Stashenko will breathe new life into New England’s oldest vineyard, honoring core values of agriculture, preservation, and community. An array of guest experiences will be available when Sakonnet reopens in early summer, including an artisan market and café, guided tastings, and culinary pop-ups. The barn will be available for private bookings as well. Estate wines, made from grapes grown on the property, will be available on-site and at select restaurant and retail locations, while non-estate blends will be widely distributed throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and nearby states.

As part of this new chapter in Sakonnet Vineyard’s history, it has partnered with the Little Compton Community Center to provide wine for their events throughout the season, emphasizing a commitment to the local community.

“Carolyn has done an incredible job of caring for and preserving the land,” continued Stashenko.  “We are excited to work with her to create a community-oriented culture here at the vineyard.”


Two Burrillville High School Seniors Awarded the 9th Annual George P. Ducharme Scholarship from Wright’s Farm Restaurant

$10,000 in total scholarships presented in former school principal’s honor

Frank Galleshaw III, Owner, Wright’s Farm Restaurant; Jenna Forrest, Burrillville High School Senior and recipient of the George P. Ducharme Scholarship; and Joan Ducharme-Surprenant, teacher and daughter of George P. Ducharme.
Frank Galleshaw III, Owner, Wright’s Farm Restaurant; Jenna Forrest, Burrillville High School Senior and recipient of the George P. Ducharme Scholarship; and Joan Ducharme-Surprenant, teacher and daughter of George P. Ducharme.

Wright’s Farm Restaurant, located at 84 Inman Road in Burrillville, Rhode Island, is pleased to announce the winners of its 9th annual George P. Ducharme Scholarship Program. Jenna Forrest and Emilia Ferraro, graduating seniors of Burrillville High School (BHS), each received a $5,000 scholarship to help with college-related expenses. The two students were surprised with the scholarships during BHS’ annual Senior Night on Wednesday, June 5th.

Forrest plans to attend Providence College to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist. She is currently working on her EMT certification and is enrolled in the BioMed Pathway, which requires three courses: BioMed, Human Body Systems, and Medical Interventions, as well as 80 hours of work-based learning. Forrest has exceeded this requirement, completing 120 hours, some of which were earned volunteering in the recovery unit at Rhode Island Hospital. She will gain additional hours shadowing Brown students in the Oncology unit at the same hospital.

Ferraro plans to attend Emmanuel College in Boston to become a medical doctor. She interned at Brown Medical Lab in the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Department under Dr. Jonathan D. Kurtis at the end of her sophomore year (2022) and after her junior year (2023). There, she contributed to research using immunology, biology, and molecular biology to develop a vaccine for malaria. Last summer, she was part of a team working on a new anti-malarial drug. Her significant contributions will be recognized in a forthcoming scientific paper, which is an extraordinary achievement for a 17-year-old.

Frank Galleshaw III, Owner, Wright’s Farm Restaurant; Emilia Ferraro, Burrillville High School Senior and recipient of the George P. Ducharme Scholarship; and Joan Ducharme-Surprenant, teacher and daughter of George P. Ducharme.
Frank Galleshaw III, Owner, Wright’s Farm Restaurant; Emilia Ferraro, Burrillville High School Senior and recipient of the George P. Ducharme Scholarship; and Joan Ducharme-Surprenant, teacher and daughter of George P. Ducharme.

A host of students from Burrillville High School applied for the scholarship this year, which is named after the late George P. Ducharme, a 1948 graduate of Burrillville High School and awarded athlete who went on to become the high school’s vice principal and principal from 1966-1985. As recently as 2019, Ducharme was still substituting as principal when duty called within the Burrillville Town School District. He was a military veteran, a mentor, and a valued member of the community for more than 70 years.

“Carrying on the legacy of Mr. Ducharme is an honor and a privilege,” said Frank Galleshaw III, Owner, Wright’s Farm Restaurant. “Mr. Ducharme was my teacher, coach, and principal when I was in school, and the lessons he taught me in the classroom and on the field helped to shape me into the person that I am today. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to help these two passionate students pursue their educational goals for the future in his honor.”

The George P. Ducharme Scholarship is open to students attending a U.S.-based four-year college or university. To be eligible to apply, students must be Burrillville town residents, members of the Burrillville High School graduating class that year and have received official acceptance to a matriculating accredited four-year college or university. The selection criteria are based on demonstrated achievement and need; academic and personal recommendations; academic and personal achievements; school and community involvement; and additional factors as determined by the George P. Ducharme Scholarship Committee.

Applications for the 2025 scholarship will be available in February at: https://www.wrightsfarm.com/restaurant/about/scholarship/.

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