KINGSTON, RI – November 4, 2021 – Just two months after the launch of the University of Rhode Island’s inaugural food recovery program for Rhode Island, and organizers are already calling it a successful partnership that cuts food waste in Rhode Island and improves access to food for area residents.
The program, which trains volunteers through a six-week food recovery course and the completion of a 40-hour volunteer internship with a community organization, aims to save and recycle food by changing the way which Rhode Islanders buy, store, prepare, preserve and compost.
“The mix of education from URIs and community experts, coupled with a personalized behavior change project, allowed participants to immediately learn and apply what they learned to their own lives,” said said Amanda Missimer, URI Cooperative Extension faculty member who developed the program.
“The program addresses all elements of the food system, from nutrition and what people can do at home, to learning about the landfill and what nonprofits are doing to solve these problems,” added Vanessa Venturini, URI Cooperative Extension staff member who runs the program. âWe had twice as many applications as we had room, so a lot of people are interested. And our volunteers are already helping tackle food insecurity in the state. “
Funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency provided $ 5,000 in mini-grants to support five partner organizations, where all 40 participants of the first class are currently interning. These organizations are Hope’s Harvest RI, Groundwork Rhode Island’s Harvest Cycle program, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, West Elmwood Housing Corp. Sankofa Initiative. and Zero Waste Providence. Together, they diverted 32,395 pounds of food from the landfill this fall and donated approximately 10,000 pounds of food to those in need.
According to Venturini, about 100,000 tons of wasted food enters Johnston’s landfill each year, despite data suggesting that 25 percent of Rhode Islanders experienced food insecurity in the past year. The objective of the program is to train 120 volunteers in 2021 and 2022 who will then raise awareness of 2,500 additional people to the issues. Through the internships, volunteers will also divert up to 60,000 pounds of wasted food from the landfill and donate 40,000 pounds of healthy food to local families.
The program has already experienced several unexpected results. Cooperative Extension staff in other states inquired about using the Rhode Island program as a model. And several local chefs and food professionals volunteered to contribute their expertise to some of the course content.
Feedback from the first cohort of participants has been overwhelmingly positive.
âI have always been interested in these efforts on a personal level,â said one participant, âbut this course has encouraged me to go further by working with my local community to help implement grassroots efforts that will have a broader impact statewide. “
Another said the program âprovided the knowledge, experience and confidence to put these lessons into practice in everyday life. I am more aware and aware of my actions related to food waste, and I have the tools to join the community and share knowledge.
âThey all came out of the course with the belief that they can play a role in reducing food waste at home and in the community,â Venturini said. âAnd it was fun seeing their personal journeys in class discussions and posting photos of the changes they made in their own homes. They all have a unique perspective and shared it with the class.
The deadline to apply for the February online course is December 1. The cost of the course and training materials is $ 200, and financial rewards will be available. For more information visit https://web.uri.edu/coopext/foodrecovery or send an email to Vanessa Venturini at [email protected].
Food Recovery for Rhode Island is a URI Cooperative Extension program in partnership with the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, Center for EcoTechnology, Earth Care Farm, Farm Fresh RI, Groundwork Rhode Island, Hope’s Harvest RI, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp., the West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation’s Sankofa Initiative, and the Tomaquag Museum.