Community Engagement through Food Campaign

Community Engagement through Food Campaign

Tommy Paul is a local advocate, or more accurately, a facilitator campaign with the end goal of educating and feeding veterans and the youth of Rhode Island. It motivates him each day. While what he does is known only to those who benefit from his efforts, which is the way he wants it, it’s worth knowing that there are people like Tommy out there giving their time and energy to others in the community.

Tommy was born in Providence, attending Classical High School before going to URI where he studied engineering. He has never been afraid of hard work. His father was a restaurant owner, and Tommy worked for him from a young age throughout school. After graduating from college, he ventured out to New York to work in the finance industry. This was a formative period in his life, where he began to think about but Rhode Island and the welfare of its people, his family, and friends remained on his mind. Being around food all the time in his father’s restaurants, and then seeing the banking and loan crisis in the early 1990s, he saw a connection between money and food that gave him a new direction in my life.

“The two things they never taught us in school are two vital things we do every day, which is eat and spend money,” Tommy says. “You can’t survive or flourish without ether one of these things.”

Tommy did very well in New York, where he was able to work with many different institutions and individuals that should have kept him in New York, but around 2011, he started hearing from friends about various problems around Providence, particularly regarding food availability and food quality when it came to children and veterans. It was soon after this that Tommy moved back to Rhode Island and committed himself full-time to a new line of work, something that combined his experience working both in restaurants and in the financial sector.

“Once you come back to Rhode Island, it just takes over you,” Tommy says. “Since I had such a strong believe that anything can get done when it comes to kids, their nutrition and health, every turn on took from then on was for them and for the veterans.”

Tommy sought to work with local politicians and the business community and find different ways to deliver fresh, healthy food to those in need.

“When you’re giving away food, it’s not just the price of the food,” Tommy says. “That’s never the problem, I’ve found. It’s the kind of food that is being provided.”

Although Tommy doesn’t work for any organization directly, he facilitates relationships between agencies and individuals and sees that food is prepared and delivered where needed.

“My relationships culminate in two areas,” Tommy says. “If I was going to give money back to all these communities for free, I needed a source of income, so I developed strong relationships with local and professional athletes, educational institutions. So, what they do is buy food from me so that I can provide free meals for the community. It’s all about who needs food.”

Along with local children, the veteran’s community factors into Tommy’s efforts. He has recently partnered with a company, Tangelo, to help provide for the men and women who have served the country. Tangelo was founded on the principles of helping people eat healthier and live better. Like Tommy, their goal is to teach people about making healthy food choices and providing those meals to everyone.

“There are a large number of veterans Rhode Island, and they tie our communities together,” Tommy says. “Most people who aren’t veterans themselves, know a veteran, have a family member who’s a veteran, or they just care about the U.S. military. I’m someone who’s always had an affinity to the concept of community, so that’s why got involved with Tangelo.”

Tommy is working with this company to elicit the federal government to provide sufficient funding to feed veterans with chronic illnesses.

“It shouldn’t be that difficult to get healthy food to children in school or to our veterans,” Tommy says. “We are the littlest in the union, but with the most talent that could execute a big change on the national level. We just need to stir the pot.”

For those who want to get involved, and help stir the pot, Tommy encourages you to reach out to him at 401.381.8507 or email at Tommy@tommypaul.org.

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