Mayor Taveras Announces First 'Lots of Hope' Urban Greenhouse
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Mayor Taveras Announces First 'Lots of Hope' Urban Greenhouse

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Greenhouse will support further expansion of composting pilot program.

Mayor Angel Taveras today joined Ward 10 Councilman Luis Aponte and representatives of the Rhode Island Foundation and Family Service of Rhode Island to announce plans for the City's first Lots of Hope greenhouse.

"Through the Lots of Hope program, we are turning vacant spaces to productive use and forging the way for urban sustainability in the 21st century," said Mayor Taveras. "This new greenhouse will be a place where neighbors of all ages can come to learn and work together to build a more sustainable city,"

The first Lots of Hope greenhouse, at 433 Prairie Avenue in South Providence, will extend the growing season for local urban farmers, help foster micro-businesses, promote composting, and serve Providence students.

The greenhouse represents the latest phase of Providence's Lots of Hope initiative that was launched last year in partnership with the Rhode Island Foundation to turn vacant, city-owned property into productive urban farms and bring fresh produce to neighborhoods. The program aims to expand Providence's portfolio of green, open space and contribute to improvements in air quality, public health and local property values.

"The greenhouse project is a true community effort," said Councilman Aponte. "Public, private, educational, environmental, and health partners have supported the City in its efforts to reclaim and revitalize this vacant and neglected residential property, in order to make the urban greenhouse a reality. Promoting urban gardening, providing access to local, affordable food, and linking green space to two elementary schools, the walking school bus, and the library are just a few of the transformative goals of the urban greenhouse initiative."

Low-cost leases to farmers using the greenhouse will support agriculture business development and link locally grown food with school food service purchasing. The City aims to use the greenhouse to achieve the goal in Providence's latest school food service contract that calls for 15 percent of the School Department's food purchases to be locally-sourced. The greenhouse will also provide opportunities for school garden-based curriculum integration, including a composting pilot where students can learn about local food systems and reducing solid waste.

The pilot greenhouse project is a partnership between the City of Providence's Office of Sustainability and Healthy Communities Office, the Providence School Department's Rekindling the Dream Foundation and the Rhode Island Foundation.

"We invest in a statewide sustainable food system and support efforts such as the Rhode Island Food Policy Council," said Jenny Pereira, the Rhode Island Foundation's programs officer for the Environment sector. "Through Lots of Hope, we will continue to advance a healthy and resilient local food system in the Capital City, which can serve as a model for the state and beyond."

The 3,200 square foot vacant lot at 433 Prairie Avenue was identified for the greenhouse based on its location and ideal characteristics for food production. It is located in the heart of South Providence, within walking distance of Mary Fogarty Elementary School, Robert Bailey Elementary School, a library, a senior center and a church. The Walking School Bus pathway that is currently under construction will also pass by the greenhouse.

"This is a great opportunity to promote healthy nutrition," said Family Service of Rhode Island's Julie Casimiro, who heads the Walking School Bus program. Family Service of Rhode Island, a statewide non-profit, offers the Walking School Bus for students at Fogarty and Bailey elementary schools. The Walking School Bus provides routes to and from school to ensure that each child living within a mile of the school who needs to walk arrives on time and returns safely.

Construction of the greenhouse is expected to begin this fall and growing is scheduled to start in spring 2015. The greenhouse is funded by $110,000 in matching grants announced in May 2014 from the Rhode Island Foundation and Partners for Places, formerly known as the Local Sustainability Matching Fund.

The new greenhouse project will join three other Lots of Hope projects including Meader Street Farm on the City's West Side and Manton Bend Community Farm, completed last year in partnership with Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT) and the African Alliance of Rhode Island. A fourth project, improvements to an urban farm in the Olneyville neighborhood in collaboration with SCLT, is currently underway.

Providence COMPOSTS!
Providence COMPOSTS!, the City of Providence's municipal composting pilot, is shaping the future of city-wide residential composting programs.

As a part of the Lots of Hope initiative, Providence COMPOSTS! has already saved tons of food scraps from going to the Central Landfill. Providence COMPOSTS! provides buckets and training to residents so that they can collect and deliver their food scraps to community collection sites. The compost made at the collection site is put to work on local community gardens and farms to grow fresh, local food. There are currently three participating neighborhoods each with a community collection site for residents to drop off their food scraps.

The first phase of Providence COMPOSTS! began in August 2013 in partnership with the Sustainability Office and Healthy Communities Office as a part of the Lots of Hope initiative. The pilot includes households in the Smith Hill Neighborhood through Frey Florist & Greenhouse and Bradlee Consulting and the Federal Hill Neighborhood through the West Broadway Neighborhood Association and Meader Street Farm. In the program's first year, 2.3 tons of organics were diverted from the waste stream.

The goals of Providence COMPOSTS! are to help the city implement a zero waste strategy by 2033 and to produce nutrient-rich soil for the city's many urban gardens and farms. Zero waste strategy encourages the redesign of products to promote waste reduction and recycling, requires improved recycling and composting, and promotes reuse in innovative and economically strategic ways.
Phase II began in Spring 2014 and serves more than 100 Providence households through the addition of the West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation and its Sankofa Initiative's Parade Street Community Farm.

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