Two weeks ago, I wrote about bringing backyard chickens back to Rhode Island and paid special attention to the ongoing effort to repeal Woonsocket’s chicken ban. A few days later, the Washington Post ran a feature-length article on low-income Woonsocket residents’ struggles to feed their families.
My last post focused on the ways that historical justifications for chicken bans have become outdated, and also noted some health and environmental benefits of backyard chickens. The Post article casts the Woonsocket chicken issue in a new light: Woonsocket suffers from food insecurity, and backyard chickens can help.
The Post article is worth your time to read (here’s another link to it), but here are a few important takeaways: Every month, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) injects $2 million in benefits (formerly called food stamps) into the Woonsocket economy. With a local unemployment rate of 12% and only low-paying jobs available to many employed residents, a full one-third of Woonsocket residents receive SNAP benefits. In fact, some local grocery stores make up to 25% of their monthly profits on the first of the month, the day when SNAP benefits are transferred to recipients. Together, these numbers – and the article’s well-drawn profiles of several Woonsocket residents – present a picture of food insecurity.
Backyard chickens are not a panacea by any means, but they can help to alleviate food insecurity and promote economic self-reliance. They can turn food scraps, beetles, and grubs into fresh eggs. And their droppings (if dealt with appropriately) are great for growing vegetables too. They add resilience to a broken food system. You can read more about chickens and chicken care by poking around Southside Community Land Trust’s website.
Once you’re satisfied that backyard chickens make sense, you should come out to Woonsocket City Hall on Monday, April 1 at 7 p.m. to show your support for repealing Woonsocket’s chicken ban!