Last Thursday, the Inter-Agency Food and Nutrition Policy Council’s Rhode Island Hunger Elimination Task Force released its report to push for increasing access to healthy food for Rhode Islanders of all ages.
According to the Task Force, composed of leaders from across the Ocean State and municipal government, the food and beverage industry, nonprofits, and local communities, in 2016, almost one out of every eight households – or about 12 percent – in Rhode Island were considered “food insecure” and had limited or uncertain access to safe, healthy foods. Governor Gina M. Raimondo’s Relish Rhody Food Strategy calls for the Task Force to lead efforts in reducing food insecurity levels to below 10 percent in 2020, from 12.8 percent in 2017.
The Central Falls press conference was held on October 4th in partnership with Food on the Move, a Rhode Island Public Health Institute program created to improve community access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Attendees at this event were invited to shop at the Food on the Move weekly market at Forand Manor Senior Housing Public Housing.
Building a Thriving Food System Supporting Rhode Island’s Young and Old
At the event, Sue AnderBois, Rhode Island’ s Director of Food Strategy stated. “Governor Raimondo is focused on building a food system that supports all Rhode Island families, communities and businesses.” She noted, “In creating – and now implementing – the State’s first food strategy, we recognized that a thriving food system was not one in which Rhode Islanders went to bed hungry at night. We have been laser-focused on identifying the root causes of food insecurity and partnering with key stakeholders across the state to address them.”
“These recommendations from the Rhode Island Huger Elimination Task Force will serve as a roadmap for our coordinated work to ensure that Rhode Islanders in every ZIP code throughout the state have access to safe, local, nutritious food,” added Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health and Task Force co-chair. “Addressing food insecurity means focusing on the various neighborhood level factors, including transportation and economic development, that most significantly affect health outcomes, and amplifying the voice of the community so that everyone is heard in our work to build a healthier Rhode Island,” she said.
The Task Force noted in its report recommendations that poverty is a root cause of food insecurity. Recognizing this, the Task Force members looked at a range of social determinants in homes and communities that can have sizeable impacts on an individual’s access to food.
Bringing Nutritious Meals to Seniors
Michelle Szylin, acting director of the state Division of Elderly Affairs, said the State has already begun to gain momentum with the many innovative programs that work to address food insecurity for the elderly.
“This past year, the Elderly Affairs’ congregate and home-delivered programs served over 600,000 nutritious meals to Rhode Island’s older adults,” said acting Director Szylin. “We’re expanding seniors’ access to locally-grown produce and nutrition education through our partnership with the Bristol Health Equity Zone. By providing these foods and education to seniors, we hope to prevent or delay the onset of chronic illness and combat the challenges older adults encounter when accessing food,” notes Szvlin.
“The recommendations of the Hunger Elimination Task Force are an important step in reducing food insecurity and hunger in RI,” said Dr. Amy Nunn, Rh0de Island Public Health Institute. “These recommendations prioritize strategies to make healthy food more affordable, such as our Food on the Move market, which reaches 5,000 Rhode Islanders who struggle to put healthy food on the table. We pride ourselves in developing programs to ensure all Rhode Islanders have access to healthy, affordable food,” says Nunn.