Need: To strengthen the local food system by assisting farmers, supporting rural economies and promoting access to fresh food for underserved families and individuals receiving federal nutrition assistance.
Intervention: Financial partnership and targeted programs created to strengthen food system infrastructure and connect regional food producers to a larger market.
Results: Sales have increased for local farmers and food producers, and low-income participants have increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Small to medium operation farmers and ranchers in
Southern New England are challenged by a lack of
infrastructure to market, process, and distribute their
products. A strong local food system can provide needed
infrastructure for local farms and food businesses while
providing underserved people with access to nutritious,
Farm Fresh Rhode
Island, a local food hub, was created in 2004 to
provide community access and food system enterprise
resources to low-access neighborhoods in Rhode Island.
Resources include transparent wholesale distribution,
nutrition education, marketing assistance, food
processing and storage, and marketplace creation. The
vision behind Farm Fresh RI is to increase the capacity
of regional food producers while increasing access to
fresh, locally produced food.
Farm Fresh RI's initiatives work toward the following
Increase public awareness about the benefits of
eating fresh, local foods
Provide incentives and establish marketplaces focused
on increasing access to local foods for low-income
individuals and families
Develop infrastructure for local farmers to support
food production, processing, and distribution
Connect farmers with regional shoppers including
consumers, institutions, restaurants, and other wholesale
This program is sustained through a variety of funders.
Farm Fresh RI has published multiple videos like the one
below on their
Some of Farm Fresh Rhode Island's initiatives include:
Hosting farmers markets in low-income neighborhoods
in Rhode Island.
Facilitating acceptance of
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
benefits at farmers markets statewide.
Facilitating "Double Your SNAP" nutrition incentives
(in the form of Bonus Bucks tokens) at participating
farmers markets statewide, providing a 100% bonus for
SNAP shoppers to buy more fresh fruit and vegetables.
Mobile, a transparent wholesale distribution system
that directly connects buyers with a robust regional
food network, including aggregating and delivering
orders throughout Rhode Island and the Boston-metro
Delivering overharvested and gleaned food to shelters
and food pantries.
Helping schools, hospitals, and senior centers
purchase locally-grown foods and develop sustainable
relationships with regional farms.
Farm Fresh RI works to increase the local food supply by:
Disseminating resources and information for and about
local growers and food businesses via targeted
e-newsletters, social media, blogs, and online bulletin
Operating the largest indoor farmers market in New
The Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers Market, during the
hardest months for local growers (November through
April). This service enables farmers and small food
businesses reliable income throughout the year.
Harvest Kitchen, a food-industry training program
for youth ages 16-19 who are involved with the Rhode
Island Department of Children, Youth and Families.
These youth create products using overharvested and
B-grade produce from local farms. Products are sold at
Farm Fresh RI farmers markets, to wholesale customers,
and at the Harvest Kitchen Café (located in a
neighborhood with limited access to fresh food that
sells breakfast and lunch dishes using locally-sourced
Farm Fresh RI increases demand for fresh food through
Increasing statewide awareness about the benefits of
buying locally-grown and sourced foods.
Operating nutrition education programs, which provide
recipes and culinary knowledge for low-income children,
families, and seniors.
Encouraging schools to look at Rhode Island farmers
and marketplaces first when sourcing fresh food.
Empowering youth to think critically about the foods
they eat through the RI
Farm to School program, a core partner in the
National Farm to School Network.
Offering weekly bilingual workshops at summer farmers
markets for families receiving SNAP or WIC federal
benefits through their
Healthy Foods, Healthy Families nutrition education
Farm Fresh Rhode Island supports the livelihood of
hundreds of farmers and food producers and connects tens
of thousands of people to locally grown food each year.
Since 2009, farmers, fishers, and food producers in
Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island have sold over
$15.6 million in local food through Farm Fresh RI's
Market Mobile system. Deliveries are made twice a week
throughout Rhode Island and the Boston area to chefs,
grocery stores, universities, buying clubs, corporate
cafes, farm stands, and other locations. Farm Fresh RI
has become a national model for alternative wholesale
Results from 2017:
Over $614,000 in SNAP benefits have been spent at
Farm Fresh RI's farmers markets since 2007.
The Bonus Bucks nutrition incentives program
supplements SNAP users' benefits by providing an extra
100% match in tokens at farmers markets for fresh fruit
and vegetable purchases. Over $54,000 reached low-income
customers across Rhode Island farmers markets in 2017.
330 low-income families built healthy habits
together, empowered with the tools to make nutritious
choices, thanks to the Healthy Foods, Healthy Families
98% of Healthy Foods, Healthy Families participants
increased their fruit and veggie consumption and 78%
reported increased familiarity with different produce.
The USDA Farm to School Census released in 2016
showed that Rhode Island is #1 in the nation in school
district engagement in Farm to School activities - with
90% of school districts surveyed participating in Farm to
The Harvest Kitchen job training program has seen a
completion rate of 70%, with over 130 youth having
participated in the program since 2010.
The Harvest Kitchen Café offers food from over 50
local farmers and producers in a neighborhood with low
access to fresh, nutritious foods.
Farm Fresh RI has had success working incrementally and
maintaining relationships with stakeholders in New
England: farms, customers, buyers, and public officials.
Rhode Island features a large urban core within 20-60
miles of farmland, creating a great context for
connecting urban purchasers with rural growers in a
vigorous regional marketplace. Areas without a strong
urban core or without easy access to farms willing to do
retail or small-scale wholesale may find differing
Distribution of fresh, local produce is a low-margin,
high-volume business. Half of the 300 food hubs across
the country rely on outside funding. Grant funding comes
in to start the programs, but the key to success is
finding outside sources for sustainability.
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information
about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The
programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural
community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s
needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep
in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.