PAWTUCKET, RI -- In an effort to help boost the economy and get more fresh, local foods on Rhode Islanders' plates, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today joined with local farmers, chefs, and grocers for a tour of Farm Fresh Rhode Island's Wintertime Market hallway and see the progress of the current Market Mobile warehouse expansion. Reed also announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will provide $1.8 million to Rhode Island schools next year - a half million dollar boost - for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), which provides free fresh fruit and vegetables to children throughout the school day. For the current school year, 63 schools throughout the state received nearly $1.3 million to serve fresh fruits and vegetables to nearly 25,000 students.
"I am pleased that we are providing our students with more fresh fruits and vegetables. Ensuring that students have access to nutritious food helps them succeed in the classroom," said Reed who helped increase federal funding for school breakfast and lunch programs through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. "The effective distribution system provided by Farm Fresh can help support these efforts to distribute local foods to our schools through the successful Farm to School program directed by Kids First."
Noah Fulmer, executive director and co-founder of Farm Fresh Rhode Island, gave Senator Reed a tour of the Market Mobile operation, which started up in 2009 and delivers locally grown produce to local chefs, grocers, hospitals, schools, and workplaces. The program recently reached $1 million in sales, which has translated to over 20 new jobs created, and fresh healthy foods reaching thousands of Rhode Islanders.
"Farm Fresh Rhode Island does a great job connecting farmers with restaurants, schools, and consumers and it is a real win for everyone and a nice boost for the local economy," said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, who helped secure federal funding to get the Market Mobile program off the ground.
Reed also saw the expansion underway for Farm Fresh RI's "Healthy Food Hub," which will help small producers grow their business and increase the number of outlets for fresh healthy foods. As part of its Healthy Food Hub strategy, Farm Fresh RI also runs a Wintertime Farmers Market, which draws thousands of customers who come for locally produced meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and more.
Those jobs come as participating farms expand their production and extend their growing season to meet demand from Market Mobile and Farmers Market customers. Today, over $16,000 worth of food from more than thirty Market Mobile producers was being sorted to go to nearly 60 restaurants and customers around Rhode Island and Boston. These sales are double what they were a year ago, and up almost 1,100% from the same week in 2009, when most of these farms barely produced any food during the winter at all.