Congratulations, Rose, on recently starting your new position as Executive Director of Aquidneck Community Table. We’ll get to that in a moment, but let’s start with some of your background. Many will know you as former head of the Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging.

What are some of the highlights of your two+ years at the helm of the R.I. Office of Healthy Aging (OHA)?

I am proud of so many things accomplished during my tenure at OHA. Topping the list would be renaming the agency in law from the Division of Elderly Affairs to the Office of Healthy Aging. Words matter, and ageism is real. Updating the name of our state agency dedicated to older adults was key to shifting our focus to one that honors all stages of life and reinforces the need to build a healthier, more life-friendly state for Rhode Islanders. We all deserve the opportunity to age strong – and to pursue our dreams at any point along the journey. 

OHA is largely a grantmaking agency. I’m also deeply proud of the work done to more equitably disseminate grant dollars to diverse community organizations and to promote culturally responsive programming. This work was particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately impacted older adults and communities of color. It was an honor to serve as one of our state’s pandemic-response leaders and to lead efforts statewide to connect people with food, housing and other vital resources.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau. Rhode Island has about 200,000 residents age 65 and over – roughly a fifth of the total population. What challenges face Rhode Island’s aging populations?

As with other populations, many older adults struggle with access to affordable, life-friendly housing; nutritious, culturally appropriate foods; and quality healthcare – to name just a few. Work continues to ensure that these, and other, basic needs are adequately met for older Rhode Islanders. Work also continues to combat ageism and strengthen economic opportunities for adults 50+. As Carl Jung famously said, “Life really does begin at 40. Up until then, you are just doing research.”

Before your tenure at the R.I. Office of Healthy Aging, you held various positions at the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the state Department of Environmental Management, the state Department of Transportation, and Save the Bay. Can you give us a bit about your responsibilities?

I often think back on my nearly 30-year career. It’s been quite a ride: from my marketing days at RIPTA to studio publicity at NBC Universal in California to marketing director at Save The Bay to chief public affairs officer for several State departments to directing OHA and supporting a whole-of-government response during the COVID-19 pandemic. And there’s been other roles and experiences sprinkled in along the way. I’ve worked with amazingly talented people whose guidance and influence informed a very interesting career. I’ve always been a student of leadership and strategy; those are threads throughout my career – as is public relations and policy development. But I am most proud of my work to promote equity and to serve Rhode Islanders in greatest need, especially in times of crisis. Before there was a pandemic in 2020, there was a gas outage on Aquidneck Island in 2019. I was proud to serve as the governor’s liaison and spearhead efforts, along with community partners, to provide food, housing and other resources to islanders affected by the outage.

And what about your higher education?

My journey to, and through, college was unconventional. When I enrolled at Providence College in 2003, I was already years into my career, a mother of three young children, and a high-school dropout. At first, I wasn’t convinced I was prepared for the academic rigors of college life, in addition to full-time work and mommy life. But I was wrong. I thrived at PC and ultimately graduated in 2006 Summa Cum Laude. Four years later, I graduated from Salve Regina University with my Master in Business Administration degree.

Lastly, who and what were some of the influences that inspired you to go into community and public service?

My father was my greatest inspiration. He was a police officer in the City of Providence, where I grew up between the West End and South Side communities. He rose to the rank of lieutenant during a time when people of color weren’t readily afforded those opportunities. He was also a Golden Gloves boxing champion, a basketball star at Hope High School, a little-league coach, and a community activist. He was a founding member of the Fox Point Boys & Girls Club, of which he was extremely proud. His family had immigrated from the Azores and settled in Fox Point in the 1920s. I grew up under his wing. He’d say, “Rosa, when you are called to serve, you serve. And when you fall, you get back up and keep going.” He lived by the tenets of service and perseverance. They remain my guiding lights to this day.

Now let’s dive into Aquidneck Community Table (ACT). For those who may not be familiar, can you give us an overview?

Established in 2016, Aquidneck Community Table (ACT) is a non-profit organization focused on building an equitable, resilient food system in Newport County that promotes healthier people, communities and economy. In addition to our advocacy work, we operate popular farmers markets on Aquidneck Island and manage a network of community and school gardens and educational programs. We are also intimately involved in broader, statewide efforts to strengthen Rhode Island’s food system and to promote the local food economy.

ACT has several programs and we’d like to learn about them, starting with Aquidneck Growers Market. What is it?

There is something quite special about strolling along Memorial Boulevard in Newport, listening to live music and sampling delicious foods from local growers and producers. That’s what you’ll find at our Aquidneck Growers Market on Wednesdays, 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., through October. Islanders and tourists mixing with myriad local farmers and makers lining the sidewalk between Edgar Court and Chapel Street. It is as delightful a scene as it is an important part of building a local, resilient food system on the island.

A second summer market takes place on Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., conveniently located on the grounds of Embrace Home Loans, 25 Enterprise Drive in Middletown, with nearby free parking.

What about Community (and School) Garden Plots – and Youth Education?

There are so many documented benefits to growing your own food – from personal health to the health of our environment. Promoting these opportunities is core to who we are. Across Aquidneck Island, we offer over 80 community garden plots that provide people a chance to grow gardens with support from knowledgeable staff and volunteers.

At the same time, we are partnering with schools, like Pell Elementary in Newport, to connect students and the surrounding community with gardening opportunities. It’s incredible to witness the joy in little ones when they see the seed they so lovingly tended become the vegetable that will nourish their bodies.

It is equally gratifying to support young adults in gaining valuable skills in entrepreneurialism and gardening. Through our Root Riders program, local teens have an opportunity to learn how to grow, harvest, and sell products at local markets.

Next month, we will host our annual Summer Bounty celebration. It’s a wonderful time to sample local flavors, while learning about and supporting our many community programs. For more information about Summer Bounty or to purchase tickets, visit

ACT has a large number of community partners, including the Newport Historical Society, Newport Hospital, ecoRI News, Pell Elementary School and Salve Regina University. Can you tell us about the role these partners play in ACT initiatives?

Our work and impact would not be possible without the generous support of the community. We are proud to have strong partnerships with organizations and institutions throughout the state that help us to fund, deliver, promote, and further our efforts to build a more equitable and resilient food system on Aquidneck Island.

And finally, Rose, even though you have just started as director, you doubtless have some ideas already for what lies ahead for ACT under your leadership. Can you give us a glimpse?

My top priorities are to continue to build upon the impressive legacy of this organization and to connect more islanders – especially those who have been historically disconnected – to healthful, locally grown foods. At the same time, it is critical that we work collaboratively with partners across the state to strengthen our broader food system. Having now led through two emergencies that impacted islanders’ access to food – and local food businesses opportunity to thrive, I know how critical building our resilience is. We must remain focused.

For related personal and professional background about Rose Jones, see this article written by Providence College.