URI awarded $100K for food-waste reduction program

THE UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND has been awarded a $100,000 federal grant to design and launch a program aimed at reducing food waste in the state while increasing food access in underserved communities. / COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND
THE UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND has been awarded a $100,000 federal grant to design and launch a program aimed at reducing food waste in the state while increasing food access in underserved communities. / COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The University of Rhode Island has been awarded a $100,000 federal grant to reduce food waste in the state by launching the Food System Steward Program, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., announced on Wednesday.

The funds will be used to develop innovative, community-scaled strategies to reduce food waste in the state and increase access to nutritious, local food options, the senator said.

“Both food waste and food insecurity are rising amid this pandemic and we need to effectively address these twin challenges,” said Reed. “This federal grant will help URI develop innovative, community-scaled strategies to reduce food waste and help those is need access nutritious, local food options.  That’s a win-win that offers environmental, economic and public health benefits.”

The funding comes from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Education Grants Program. 

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The university’s program will operate under URI’s Cooperative Extension and will teach 120 people to serve as Food System Stewards [who] will volunteer in the community with a goal to have the participants engage with 2,500 youth and adults in underserved areas to adopt conservation behaviors and participate in projects to benefit the state’s food system. The university said the program is expected to recover over 60,000 pounds of food waste and direct 40,000 pounds of locally grown produce to food-insecure populations.

The training program will consist of coursework and community-stewardship projects over six weeks.

“We’ve seen the power of peer-to-peer education to change behavior, enhance quality of life and improve environmental conditions,” said URI Cooperative Extension State Program Leader Vanessa Venturini.  “With the pandemic bringing food-access and food-waste issues to the forefront, this program will appeal to Rhode Islanders who wish to contribute to local solutions to these pressing problems.”

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