An innovative program that is expanding Providence’s portfolio of green space and improving air quality, public health and local property values is being touted as a national model. “Lots of Hope” is turning vacant, city-owned properties into productive urban farms, creating micro-businesses and bringing fresh fruit and vegetables to neighborhoods. And the program is now the latest subject of a webinar from the national environmental group Climate Communities.
The Southside Community Land Trust works with Providence officials to identify lots in neighborhoods at risk of becoming food deserts due to insufficient access to conventional grocery stores. The city enters into long-term, low-cost leases with Southside, which in turn subleases plots to residents and community organizations for farming. There is even a residential composting component, which enables residents of low-income, environmentally at-risk neighborhoods to reduce their solid waste and create a local source of high-quality compost that supports urban food production.
“Lots of Hope helps Providence achieve all of our sustainability goals by supporting local businesses, cleaning our neighborhoods and helping our students better understand where our food comes from and where our trash goes,” says Sheila Dormody, the city’s policy director. “Everyone in Providence wins when we get to protect the environment, invest in our local economy and create a stronger community all through one project.”