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State Environment Council awards announced

April 23, 2011

PROVIDENCE -- Each year four outstanding community conservation projects are recognized statewide as Sen. John Chafee Conservation Leadership Projects. These projects are undertaken and completed by local leaders and provide significant benefits to the community and to the state. This year 25 applications were received, only four of them will receive Sen. John Chafee recognition honors.

The recipient of the John Chafee Conservation Leadership Award is Kids First: “Rhode Island Farm Produce to School Lunch Program” in Pawtucket. The program began in 1999 with the goal of improving children’s nutrition and wellness and providing Rhode Island Farmers with a steady income.

Realizing that strong local support was essential to obtaining the school districts approval to serve local produce, Kids First developed a successful and innovative program to educate virtually everyone in the chain of approval by creating teams of food professionals: nutritionists, dietitians, chefs, food service experts, to provide “on site” education to all those involved in integrating locally grown products into school lunch programs. Farm visits have been an important part of the educational experience. Thousands of students and school community members participated in the Kids First initial educational programs.

Training was followed by introduction of produce into schools. In addition to classroom presentations, guest chefs provided demonstrations of tasty recipes followed by sampling to student in cafeterias. Occasionally PTA groups are invited to attend. Sampling is very popular and helps establish almost immediate approval of previous unknown vegetables.

Today all 36 Rhode Island school districts are involved in the program. During 2010 more than 200,000 pounds of locally grown foods were served in RI School.

The program is a win–win for farmers and students. Schools: students can include fresh fruit or vegetables daily. Farmers: schools have become an important and reliable market for 26 farmers. Community awareness of the importance of fresh produce has been raised and children are requesting more local produce in family meals. Increasing demand for local produce insures predictable farm revenue and sustainable farming practices thus preserving farmland.

There are also three recipients of the Sen. John Chafee Conservation Leadership Honors.

The first is the Arpin Group, of West Warwick, which is a recharging station for electric powered vehicles. Arpin Group is a locally owned moving company with national and international moving and storage operations.

Environmental protection and sustainability are important to Arpin and consistent with its operations, its goals and values. In its search for new technology to reduce emissions and cut costs, Arpin became intrigued by the concept of vehicles powered by electricity rather than gasoline.

The Arpin Renewable Energy division is exploring methods of reducing carbon footprint and energy consumption and is now interested in the possibility of incorporating electric cars and trucks into their moving and storage business.

Not an organization to wait for something to happen, Arpin was the first RI firm to accept the National “Project Get Ready Challenge” a program to prepare RI for the introduction and expansion of electric powered vehicles. Arpin purchased a state of the arts electric charging station capable of charging both 110 volt and 240 volt power systems. They installed it in the conveniently located Cardi Furniture parking lot close to I-95. The recharging station is open to the public 24 hours per day.

The second recipient is Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association, of Charlestown and Richmond, for its dam removal of the Lower Shannock Falls. It's the first dam removal on the Pawcatuck River and will allow passage for migratory herring species; a significant benefit to commercial fishermen and sea food lovers. In the planning phase many additional benefits were developed. The dam locale was the site a fierce fight between the Narragansetts and the Pequots. Tribe representatives were consulted.

Their interest in preserving the site will be acted upon. With the new free flow of the river, improved water quality is reviving interest in recreational fishing; improved launching sites draws paddlers. The revitalization of Historic Shamrock Village is notable while the town of Richmond is also developing a public park and river access on the site of a former textile mill associated with the dam.

The third recipient is Shalom Housing, of Warwick, and its Green Retrofit Program. This 1980’s building has 101 apartments that house seniors and the disabled. It was recently totally upgraded to meet all current standards for efficient energy and water use. Energy Star appliances were installed and the boiler was replaced. The renovation was completed with the installation of a 37 meter wind turbine capable providing power for all of the numerous common areas. It will offset 92,802 pounds of CO2, 279 pounds of nitrous oxide, and 742 pounds of sulfur dioxide.

The Sen. John Chafee Community Conservation Leadership recognitions will be conducted at the the Providence Marriott, Thursday, May 12, 5:30 p.m. reception, dinner 6:30 p.m. For tickets contact ECRI at 521-8048.

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