R.I. Director of Food Strategy tells crowd to ask for what they want at Newport Chamber event
Reposted from Newport Daily News online.
By Rachael Thatcher
“There’s no invisible hand that sets our market,” Anderbois said, encouraging people to go to larger, corporate supermarkets and say “if you sold this, I’d buy it.”
The Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce hosts a number of Women in Business events throughout the year, always featuring an inspirational speaker.
This past speaker was of particular interest to me, and readers of this column hopefully, because of her ties to food.
At the podium was the director of Rhode Island food policy, Sue Anderbois.
Did you know that Rhode Island is the only state with someone in that position?
Her talk was really informative, enlightening the crowd on the economics and environmental impact of the state’s food system — from farms to markets to restaurants to consumers and more.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how our local fish is often trucked to California and shipped to China where it’s processed and returned. She touched on this concept as well, and noted that there’s a Jonah Crab processing facility opening soon in South County, which is expected to make a huge impact in being able to get fish from our local waters.
I thought the most impactful takeways were the points of advice Anderbois shared on how we as individuals can support the food system in our state.
She noted that buying food locally is about more than just the taste, or about the health benefits.
“It’s supporting the dreams of your friends and neighbors, it’s keeping open space in the area, it’s helping make us more climate-resilient,” she said.
Plus, you can really make a small business’s day, she said, noting that one of her friends does a happy dance every time someone puts in an order. You don’t see top level execs at Stop & Shop doing that.
She also advised people to go out and ask for what they want.
“There’s no invisible hand that sets our market,” she said, encouraging people to go to larger, corporate supermarkets and say “if you sold this, I’d buy it.”
On another level, you can also talk to makers and entrepreneurs and tell them what you’re looking for. Oftentimes, they are looking to create different products that would appeal to people, whether that’s with a dietary restriction or just a particular flavor or variation.
So really, it’s all about working together to improve the bigger picture, which is a pretty wholesome thought.
One other important point I think worth sharing is that a common misconception about the farmer’s markets (of which Rhode Island has 50 of — wow!) is that everything is more expensive. This isn’t always the case, so it’s worth checking out.
I’ve said this before, but I think it deserves a reminder. At each market with fresh bucks — which includes the Aquidneck Grower’s Market— those with SNAP benefits get bonus bucks. Bonus bucks provide an additional $5 free for every $5 withdrawn. Many market vendors are also able to accept WIC and Senior Citizen vouchers as well.
Anyway, I know I’ve been talking about eating local quite often in my columns lately, but as evidenced by the people working closely to it, it really is that important.
Food For Thought appears weekly. Send food-related tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @raethatch.