PROVIDENCE, RI – In an effort to make fresh, nutritious foods accessible to more Rhode Islanders, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today announced a $100,000 federal grant to help the Rhode Island Public Health Institute (RIPHI) extend the reach of its “Rhody Food on the Move” initiative.  The program works year-round to help bring discounted, mobile, fresh fruit and vegetable markets directly into neighborhoods and worksites that don’t typically have affordable, fresh food nearby.  With the support of this grant, RIPHI will help increase the purchasing power of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants’ by doubling the value of SNAP benefits spent on fruits and vegetables purchased at the mobile market.  The program also provides nutrition education and cooking demonstrations in conjunction with the markets. 

“I commend the Rhode Island Public Health Institute for its efforts to provide more Rhode Islanders with ready access to affordable, fresh, and healthy food.  I am pleased RIPHI is receiving $100,000 in federal funding to expand the reach of its year-round mobile food market and help low-income consumers increase their purchasing power.  RIPHI provides a convenient way to help people eat healthy and live healthier lives.  This is a smart investment in our local food system and a great community resource,” said Senator Reed.

The Rhode Island Public Health Institute’s mission is to promote community health and to eliminate health disparities in Rhode Island and beyond.  The institute partners with Brown University and the Rhode Island Department of Health to develop innovative public health programs, conduct translational and policy research, and train students and public health practitioners.

“This is a great example of how RIPHI works with Brown University's new School of Public Health to translate research into public health practice to reduce disparities in Rhode Island. The research of Dr. Kim Gans and Gemma Gorham proves that lowering prices and bringing fresh food to underserved communities can help improve both access and consumption of fruits and vegetables. This program will implement the findings of their groundbreaking research across our state in a sustainable program,” said Dr. Amy Nunn, the Executive Director of RIPHI.

According to the Providence Foodshed Justice Mapping Project, a three-year course-based research project on how Providence grows, processes, distributes and consumes food – there are several sections of the city that qualify as “food deserts.”  The term “food desert” refers to neighborhoods with limited access to affordable, healthy foods, such as fresh produce.

RIPHI notes that low-income consumers in many neighborhoods face several barriers to healthy eating, including the high cost of fresh fruits and vegetables, little time to shop due to hectic lifestyles, and limited access to and poor quality of fruits and vegetables in low income neighborhoods. 

The “Rhody Food on the Move” initiative grew out of the “Fresh to You Market,” which was found to be effective in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption of children from low income families and is currently being evaluated in worksites and subsidized housing projects as part of two federally funded research projects overseen by Dr. Kim Gans.  RIPHI’s goal is to sustain and extend the Fresh to You Markets using a ‘Robin Hood’ model whereby the profit from sales at worksites will help to cover the cost of bringing the markets into low-income, “food desert” neighborhoods. The program will also serve neighborhoods with "food swamps," a term used to refer to communities with large numbers of fast food restaurants and limited fresh foods.

The federal funds are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The grant is made available through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.  FINI is a joint effort between USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees SNAP and has responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of the incentive projects.  FINI brings together stakeholders from distinct parts of the food system and fosters understanding of how they might improve the nutrition and health status of SNAP households.  The awards under FINI represent a variety of projects, including relatively small pilot projects, multi-year community-based projects, and larger-scale multi-year projects. 

Rhode Island is also due to receive a portion of federal USDA funding through the Wholesome Wave project, which will be conducted in 17 states and the District of Columbia, including: Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and DC.  The final level of funding for that program will be determined at a later date.