Master Gardener Foundation marks 10th year


Dr. Andrew Schiff, executive director of the RI Community Food Bank, addresses the annual meeting of the Master Gardener Foundation of RI. In rear is Dr. Richard C. Rhodes III, CELS associate dean.

Two trainees in the food bank’s community training kitchen prepare deserts. The kitchen has been able to place 94% of its students in food service jobs.

Lisa Roth Blackman, chief philanthropy officer for the food bank, led one of the tours of the huge facility, a converted supermarket in Cranston. CELS Associate Dean Rhodes asks a question. Gardens run by CELS students and staff and operated or guided by Master Gardeners, contribute tons of produce to the food bank every year.

The Master Gardener Foundation of RI, Inc., marked its 10th anniversary Jan. 12 with a luncheon and annual meeting at the home of one of its beneficiaries, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.More than 20 trustees, advisory board members, and guests attended the event to celebrate the birthday of the group which was started to provide support for the URI Master Gardener Program.

The venue was selected because the food bank is one of the main beneficiaries of the Master Gardener Program and the College of the Environment and Life Sciences (CELS). Annually gardens run or guided by the Master Gardeners and those operated by CELS staff and students contribute tons of fresh produce to the food bank and other charitable entities around the state. In the winter months, the Master Gardeners contribute canned goods as well.

Guest speaker for the event was Dr. Andrew Schiff, executive director of the food bank, who described the role of the food bank and its challenges in this era of economic problems. Schiff, who was given an excellence in achievement award by the foundation last fall, and Lisa Roth Blackman, chief philanthropy officer of the food bank, led tours of the sprawling facility, a former supermarket in Cranston. The facility houses a training kitchen where students are given instruction to enable them to find employment in food service jobs. The kitchen has been able to place 94 per cent of its graduates.

The trainee chefs provided a buffet lunch which was paid for by those attending.

Also speaking at the event were Dr. Richard C. Rhodes III, CELS associate dean, who commented that the “face of hunger is us and our neighbors.” Dr. Marion Gold, CELS Outreach Center director and Greta Cohen, chair of the foundation, also spoke.

The foundation, a 501-c-3, has the sole mission of supporting the Master Gardener Program. Since its founding, it has garnered more than $100,000 in grants and has established an endowment that just passed the $100,000 mark.

The grants that have been obtained include one for a new greenhouse at East Farm where vegetables and flowers are raised and sold to raise operating funds for the Master Gardener Association, a second for a composting facility and tractor for the URI greenhouses on the main campus and most recently a third to purchase a tractor and contribute toward an orchard sprayer for East Farm. Other grants have been attracted in support of the vegetable demonstration garden at East Farm.