New South Providence healthy food hub aims to tackle local food insecurity

·2 min read
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Friday outside South Providence's new healthy food hub.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Friday outside South Providence's new healthy food hub.

PROVIDENCE — A new healthy food hub in South Providence will bring fresh produce to a community with limited options.

On Friday, elected officials joined local leaders to unveil the 12,000-square-foot facility run by the Southside Community Land Trust, a nonprofit organization founded more than 40 years ago to establish the first community garden in the area.

The expansive building at 404 Broad St. will house two restaurants, a small grocer offering produce and African foods and a farm-to-market center where farmers from Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls and Cranston can bring their crops.

Margaret DeVos, the land trust's executive director, explained that some farmers come to the organization "with incredible knowledge about agriculture but without connections, without capital, maybe without literacy, maybe without English language skills." Now, they will have one more place to sell their fruits and vegetables, not only to individual consumers but to stores.

Fighting back against 'food giants'

Rochelle Lee, president of the land trust's board, said the initiative is about fighting back against "food giants determined to pick and choose who can and cannot access food that is truly capable of nourishing our bodies."

According to the Rhode Island Public Health Institute, one in seven Rhode Islanders faces food insecurity, or does not have dependable access to affordable, healthy food. The institute notes that poverty is the source of such insecurity, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes and other issues.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza himself described challenges finding nutritious options when he decided to start eating healthy about 15 years ago.

"I remember when I first started intentionally seeking out healthy food, I realized how hard it was," he said. "You can’t walk into many local convenience stores or marts associated with gasoline stations or the places that are easily accessible to the community. It’s just hard to find healthy food. And then when you do find healthy food, it’s expensive."

Businesses you can expect to see

Businesses moving into the $5.8-million South Providence hub are expected to set up shop later this summer. They include a to-be-determined eatery that will be operated by restaurateur Darell Douglas — who owns Pawtucket chicken joint D's Spot — and Black Beans PVD, a soul food spot owned by Adena Marcelino.

Her specialty is chicken and waffles, with various syrups and hot sauces made from scratch.

For Marcelino, who grew up in the area, the story comes full circle. "To be a kid from this community that went to Classical [High School], who walked to KFC as a child in the summer with my friends to get a bag of french fries just because we could, just to be a kid in the '80s that grew up here now [and] say I have a business here, and didn't have to leave the state to do it."

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: South Providence healthy food hub aims to tackle local food insecurity