Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today joined Acting City Council President Sabina Matos, Ward 3 Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune, and representatives from the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and Wells Fargo for an event to celebrate a 2017 First Place CommunityWINS℠ (Working/Investing in Neighborhood Stabilization) Grant Award for Medium cities (75,000-250,000 population).
An award in the amount of $150,000 was presented to Farm Fresh Rhode Island for its Harvest Kitchen Program, which provides food industry job training and employment for young people aged 16-20 who are recruited in partnership with the Office of Juvenile Probation at the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families. The award is part of a nationwide CommunityWINS℠ Program made possible by a grant from USCM and the Wells Fargo Foundation collaboration.
The 2017 CommunityWINS℠ awards include monetary grants to city-based nonprofit organizations and recognize mayors for exemplary leadership in developing local programs that promote long-term economic prosperity and improve the quality of life for residents in three categories: neighborhood stabilization, economic development, and job creation. An independent panel of judges, selected by The U.S. Conference of Mayors, determined the six winning cities from a pool of 245 applicants in three population groups — small, medium and large.
“We are building stronger communities in Providence by investing in projects like Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Harvest Kitchen,” said Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. ”I thank the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Wells Fargo for recognizing the importance of this promising development that will create jobs and revitalize one of our neighborhoods.”
Mayor Elorza serves as a member of the USCM Advisory Board, Co-Chair of the Immigration Reform Task Force, and Vice Chair of the Standing Committee on Community Development and Housing. In May 2017, the Mayor announced the closing of an $850,000 Providence Business Loan Fund (PBLF) acquisition loan to Farm Fresh Rhode Island for the purchasing of the site. The project aligns with Mayor Elorza’s urban food economic development strategy that leverages resources to promote community driven food entrepreneurship, light food manufacturing, distribution, startups, food technology, and urban production in Rhode Island’s capital city.
“I am excited to have Farm Fresh Rhode Island join Ward 15 and become part of our neighborhood revitalization,” said by Acting City Council President Sabina Matos. “The organization is joining other great agencies like the Steel Yard, Waterfire Arts Center, and more. I am looking forward to seeing them create further opportunities for our community to have access to fresh produce and youth training programs.”
The grant will be used to plan, construct and fit out a new state-of-the-art Harvest Kitchen to be located at the Rhode Island Food Hub, a 60,000 sq ft center for food and farm-related businesses to be developed on a recently purchased 3.2 acre site in the Valley neighborhood of Providence. The hub will build critical infrastructure for RI’s local and regional food system, creating an environment that stimulates job creation and small business success. Farm Fresh RI will make its home at the RI Food Hub, where the nonprofit will offer aggregation and distribution of locally grown food and produce, production facilities, opportunities for nutrition education and job training, and retail markets for both individual consumers and wholesalers.
“Food and agriculture continue to be one of the main growth sectors in Rhode Island, and small businesses are the backbone of our local economy,” explains Sheri Griffin, Co-Executive Director of Farm Fresh Rhode Island. “Our Harvest Kitchen program contributes to this sector by preparing youth in state custody to enter the culinary job market, creating value-added products from local farms’ produce, and offering new opportunities for the sale of locally sourced foods. Thanks to the CommunityWINS grant, we will be able to continue this important work, and grow these critical programs and services for the local food system at the Farm Fresh RI Food Hub.”
Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors commented, “Our 2017 CommunityWINS℠ Grant Program gives the Conference an opportunity to showcase positive change happening now in our cities to make a difference in the lives of residents. We are grateful to Wells Fargo and the Wells Fargo Foundation for their support of the CommunityWINS℠ Program, which also highlights the talent and commitment of mayors and city governments.”
“Wells Fargo is committed to investing in the communities where our customers and employees live and work and we are delighted to collaborate with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Mayor Elorza to support Farm Fresh Rhode Island,” said Mark St Hilaire, branch manager for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Rhode Island. “The CommunityWINS grant program will enable Farm Fresh RI to make vital improvements and provide critical services for some of our most vulnerable community members.”