Creating Sustainable Food Systems in the Time of Pandemic

Hope & Main Founder and Public Health Expert Lisa Raiola to teach new course tackling challenges of food production, equity and profitability in time of social distancing

By Public Affairs
Person holding basket of produce

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – With immense pressure on the food industry worldwide, from the evolving impact of climate change to the sudden supply chain disruptions recently caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to reimagine a more sustainable approach to the way we create food systems.

What’s needed most is a blueprint for food industry leaders to navigate these challenges and find solutions. Businesses that survive and thrive throughout and after this pandemic will need to retool and create food systems that have never existed before. A new course offered through University College at Roger Williams University, “Rising to the Challenge of our Urgent Food Future: Disruption, Innovation and Creating Sustainable Food Systems in the Time of Pandemic,” will bring together each of the partners in the food systems to co-create a food future that meets the needs of consumers, businesses and communities.

“The pandemic has accelerated developing trends across many industries, perhaps nowhere as startling as our food systems,” said Lisa Raiola, Hope & Main founder and public health expert who will be teaching the course. “Covid-19 has broken down barriers once thought immovable and laid bare stark inequities in critical aspects of wellness, including access to healthcare and nutritious food sources. In many ways, these seismic disruptions have created radical permissions to re-think and re-invent the new next for the future of food.”

Every stakeholder in the food industry can play a part in creating a sustainable food future. That includes current or potential owners of restaurants or prepared foods companies, farmers, fishermen and aquaculturists, technology professionals looking to innovate in the food space, as well as social service organizations that support food equity.The fully-online course led by Raiola will guide participants to tackle challenges like food production, distribution, consumption, equity, and profitability, both in a time of social distancing and beyond.

A leading entrepreneur in the food industry, Raiola has helped launch 250 food- and beverage-related businesses through Hope & Main’s innovative programming since 2014. She serves on the Foundation Board of the Specialty Food Association, and has helped dozens of aspiring entrepreneurs to build successful food-related for-profit and social ventures over the past decade. With her unique experience in entrepreneurship, small business assistance, food systems expertise, as well as public health and public/ private financing, she has played an important role in shaping local food systems in Rhode Island and the region. 

Over five weeks, the course includes two weekly virtual class meetings with a cohort of participants to foster collaboration and innovation. Participants also work on projects independently or in partnership with other members of the course. The course begins on Aug. 11, 2020, and costs$250.

For more information on this course, visit:

Rising to the Challenge of our Urgent Food Future: Disruption, Innovation and Creating Sustainable Food Systems in the Time of Pandemic
Date: Aug. 11, 2020; fully online
Cost: $375