PROVIDENCE, RI – The power of public-private partnerships united in purpose and focused on solving difficult problems was exemplified again today when local farmers and food security advocates joined government leaders in packing 103 boxes with local produce to be distributed to older Rhode Islanders in the Providence area who need them.

The group aligned around the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), which is playing a major role in fighting food insecurity for seniors by providing nutritious fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers. The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is working closely with the Office of Healthy Aging (OHA) to determine which communities are in most need of this assistance and to ensure the most helpful outcome. Participants included farmers who grew the produce, staff from Farm Fresh RI and Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island, U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) Acting Regional Administrator M. Christine Ruggieri, DEM Director Terry Gray, DEM Division of Agriculture and Forest Environment Chief Ken Ayars, and DEM staff along with Governor McKee’s Community Outreach Office and OHA.

Thus far in 2022, DEM and partners have provided more $220,000 worth of produce boxes to older Rhode Islanders in need. By the end of the year, this partnership will have made over 160 deliveries consisting of more than 9,000 produce boxes to senior centers, senior residences, and food pantries. Also, the SFMNP program has supported 30 local farmers, many of whom are black, indigenous, and people of color with small to medium-sized farm operations, by purchasing their locally grown produce for the boxes.

SFMNP provides low-income seniors with fresh, local vegetable and fruit boxes across the country. Fewer than one-third of older Americans eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, which are vital to preventing and treating health problems. USDA-FNS has been running the program since 2001 with the annual Farm Bill passed by Congress providing federal funding. Seniors receive a free food box filled with local seasonal produce with a value of around $20. To learn more, please visit our website.

For more information about DEM divisions and programs, visit www.dem.ri.gov or follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM), or Instagram (@rhodeisland.dem) for timely updates.

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