The East Sider

Getting Strategic About Rhody Food

Sue AnderBois is trekking all over the state to help us eat better, healthier and more sustainably

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One East Sider is helping Rhode Island break new governmental ground: Hope Village resident Sue AnderBois is our first-ever Director of Food Strategy, a position introduced by Governor Raimondo. In this role, AnderBois has been tasked with building a comprehensive food strategy to grow our economy and promote health and sustainability across our diverse food-related landscapes: farms, fisheries, urban communities and more.

AnderBois’ appointment was announced during the spring of 2016, but she moved to Providence four years ago with her husband, a professor at Brown. After growing up in the small town of (believe it or not) New Providence, New Jersey, she lived in California for a stretch before moving to Smith Hill and now the East Side, where her husband can walk to work and they both love “bumping into people in the neighborhood all the time.”

Immediately upon arriving here, AnderBois joined Farm Fresh RI as a board member and then as a staff member. When the governor announced the newly created position, “I was excited because it was exactly the type of work I’d been wanting to do,” says AnderBois, who was selected thanks to her background in clean energy and food policy and strategic planning. “It’s been a great opportunity to bring together lots of people across the state – learning, convening and collaborating.”

Rather than simply “making decisions at my desk,” AnderBois says, she’s chosen to spend her time traversing the state, visiting various groups and conducting public outreach meetings at URI’s Food System Summit and in Providence, Newport, Blackstone, Woonsocket and more.

“My little Civic has a lot of miles on it now,” she says, laughing. “Since I’m not a native, it’s been fascinating to travel around and meet different people; it’s a small place, and everyone can get everywhere, but there are definitely distinct regions throughout.”

After nearly a year of gathering input from interviews, focus groups and community members and introducing a preliminary draft in January, AnderBois officially released the finalized food strategy on May 17; various task forces will now implement it.

The response to AnderBois’ work so far has been excellent: “People have been really receptive. They like that the strategy represents the entire food system and not just one part, like restaurants,” says AnderBois. “They’re also excited that we’re the first ones doing this, because we recognize that food is important and collaboration is key.” And AnderBois notes that citizens can reach out to her at any time: “My door is always open. I’m always happy to talk to Rhode Islanders about food and connect them in any way that makes sense to them.”

If you had one wish to enhance life on the East Side, what would it be?
“We used to have an Ethiopian restaurant here and it closed – it was a big bummer. I wish they could come back or that someone else would open a new one.”