From artisan chocolate makers to school administrators, exercise physiologists to SNAP outreach workers, a group of people invested in the state of local food and public health gathered at the Social Enterprise Greenhouse’s Community Table on Sept. 27.
Roughly 20 attendees spent their lunch hour with Peter Asen, former Director of Providence’s Healthy Communities Office (now Director of Partnerships and Development) to listen and ask questions about the city’s work addressing public health. Asen spoke of the office’s goals to lessen substance abuse, obesity and chronic disease through marketing campaigns, public events and policy changes.
Asen answered questions about food-related programs, such as the development of a guide explaining how Rhode Islanders can set up their own farm stands, and of difficulties that arose in an initiative to sell more fresh food at corner stores. Additionally, he described the federally funded expansion of free meals programs for low-income children. He also said that Providence is pushing to source 15% of the food served in Providence public schools from Rhode Island farms.
Asen said the city’s success in improving nutrition and healthy food access relies on partnerships it has formed with local nonprofits working towards solutions. Among these, he highlighted the Lots of Hope urban agriculture initiative, a partnership with SCLT to convert vacant city property into urban farms. Specifically, he mentioned how the Providence Redevelopment Agency enabled SCLT to purchase the 10,000 sq. ft. property off of Broad Street last year that is now the Somerset Hayward Youth Enterprise Farm.
The SEG describes its monthly Community Table events as, “One table, one conversation, and a great way for eaters, advocates, or those curious to learn more about the food system to connect and exchange ideas.” You can find out more about the series here.
‐ Alyssa Rooks, Program Associate