Florida Food Policy Council

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  • 18 Sep 2020 2:00 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    An Interview with Jesse Haskins

    Jesse Haskins is a member of the Florida Food Policy Council and Attorney. In this interview, Jesse talks about his interest in food policy, how he interacts with food policy in his work, and his hopes for the future.

    Watch his full interview here:

    Please introduce yourself. 

    I'm Jesse Haskins. I'm an attorney now focusing on food law. I graduated from Duke Law in 2009 and then moved down to Tallahassee where I worked for the government for the State of Florida, first with the Department of Financial Services then with the Attorney General's office. This is around the time I also started to get more involved in food issues through my involvement with the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance. I've also spent some time working for a large insurance defense firm, but I've known for a long time that my passion really lies in food. I've loved eating food for my entire life, and so for that reason I went off on my own as a lawyer, and now I am focused on supporting small-scale agriculture and local food systems.

    When did you first become interested in food policy? 

    The first time I learned about how important food policy was, was when I read the Omnivore's Dilemma around the time I was in law school. After that, when I started to work for the State of Florida, I learned about the group Red Hills Small Farm Alliance and I was a major supporter as far as getting the vast majority of our groceries delivered to us online through local farms in that organization. Around that time, I also started gardening more and had a vegetable garden with a number of herbs, and a number of fruit trees. Through that experience I think that's when I really became more invested in ecosystems, especially when it comes to the plight of the honeybees and other pollinators that we depend on for so many different types of foods and products without even realizing it. So, I think gardening was great and it is an area of food policy as far as making it easier to garden and promoting it as well from an educational perspective. I think it's a great way to learn about food policy by actually getting involved in the soil yourself. I think that was also a major part of how I have grown more into food policy. And finally, becoming involved in groups like the Florida Food Policy Council. Most recently I’ve enjoyed contributing articles to the Florida Food Policy Council and speaking for other groups that are part of our food communities like speaking on community supported agriculture most recently with the Florida Organic Growers.

    What are some gaps or challenges that can be addressed by food policies? 

    The issue I think is most important to me is the loss of our food diversity and how that’s under threat. So, I’m talking both in terms of biodiversity and losing out. I think the food variety of food we get, our ability to access interesting fruits and vegetables, is becoming increasingly narrowed as various ecosystems are under a myriad number of threats, and this is compounded through the conventional, by-far predominant industrial food system where there's a lot of pressure only produce one type of banana that happens to be very easy to transport and store in grocery stores. I think one of our greatest promises as food communities is to support local food systems through farmers markets and community supported agriculture. And also the great work that Florida Food Policy Council has done in terms of educating everybody about local food systems as well.

    What current projects are you working on? What are you excited about?

    I’m really excited about the promise of community supported agriculture. That’s one of the projects that I've been undertaking. Especially speaking at Florida Organic Growers symposiums about how community supported agriculture is really a great opportunity for the entire community. We are talking about producers and eaters, which should be everyone, to become more self-sustainable, to help growers manage risk, specifically the risk of crop failure, by helping distribute that risk if something goes wrong and spreading it out across all the different members of food communities both growers and eaters. And I think community supported agriculture, as I mentioned earlier, is a great way to help make our food communities and our local food systems more financially sustainable, better able to handle risk, and better able to be the guardians of our heirloom crops.

    I just for example learned about how to cook taro leaves which, this is a digression, but taro uncooked is poisonous. It can cause severe scratchiness and irritation to the throat, but cooked correctly, boiled for a substantial period of time, it is absolutely delicious. It is, I learned, a staple of Filipino cuisine, and I think farmers markets and community supported agriculture can really open up everyone's eyes to these new foods that are a great cultural gateway, a great way to preserve people’s own food heritage, to appreciate others and to literally savor new experiences. Community Supported Agriculture does a great job with that. Farmers markets do a great job with it. 

    So one of my overwriting projects and endeavors has been to help develop ways to build a contract, a framework where everyone can understand where the other side is coming from, whether that's the grower or the eater, to understand the risks they come with and to help manage risks and to understand the role they play.

    Please explain a little more about the purpose of contracts.

    A lot of people have this misperception that when we're talking about contracts this is all to prevent people from suing each other and there are concerns that it creates distance between people. But I don't think contracts should be viewed that way. Contracts aren't just legal documents; they serve several different important functions. It sets the terms of a relationship.

    I'll give one example about that in the context of community-supported agriculture. There was one community member quoted in a survey who said he was disappointed with the experience because he didn't like purple carrots and what he termed “guesses squash.” He said, “We weren't expecting this.” If there was a contract in place explaining what the purpose of community supported  agriculture was and what a community member can expect, those are the types of community eater relation misunderstandings that can be averted when there is a well drafted, nicely toned contract that spells out what the risks are and what the growers concerns are.  And that's actually at the sort of progenitor of the CSA community supported agriculture movement. So, a contract is essentially a groundwork for having a relationship.

    Especially for newcomers who may not know exactly what their role is, it memorializes a relationship so that when people forget details, and most of us actually recall very little, a contract makes it easy to look back and see exactly what this was agreed upon. And it's especially important now when Amazon has emerged as the prevailing assumption of how transactions are done, that there are going to be guarantees, that you are going to know exactly the product that you are receiving, and that if you are not satisfied, you can ask for a refund. We know this isn't the way community supported agriculture works. We know this isn't the way natural farming works. And that's why it's especially important now to have those types of written agreements. So, I think having written contracts are very important in agriculture and there is a way to do it to actually build relationships and to close barriers between different segments of the community.

    What are your hopes for the future? How can policy get us there? 

    I think we can hope for a future where there is a broader recognition that reliance on local food systems is more sustainable, more environmentally sustainable, especially in light of the current pandemic. Also, more financially sustainable in the long run for everybody. I think that the current situation is absolutely tragic, but I think the silver lining might be that there is a renewed Interest in local food systems, farmers markets, and community supported agriculture. I also think it's a wake-up call in a sense for a lot of people within the food system and advocates as to realizing a greater potential, especially when we look at online delivery systems. So, my hope for the future would be that there is a broader public understanding about the vital role that local food systems play, and why especially now it should be a lot more appealing. As I mentioned earlier, especially when it comes to safeguarding our heirloom vegetables and fruits and dishes, and our culinary heritage as well.

    Bio: Jesse Haskins started J. Haskins Law, P.A. to focus on local food communities. Jesse builds partnerships between farmers and communities. Prior to dedicating his practice to local agriculture, Jesse served as assistant attorney general for the State of Florida, assistant general counsel for the Florida Department of Financial Services, and as attorney for a large insurance defense firm. Jesse graduated from the Duke University School of Law in 2009. Jesse is an avid foodie. His favorite ingredient is tahini.

    Website: www.jhaskinslaw.com

    Disclaimer: The views of the interviewee do not represent the views of the Florida Food Policy Council. We are a forum for the offering and sharing of information and encourage diversity and communication within the food system.

  • 5 Sep 2020 10:30 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Much deserved attention has been paid to a large USDA-designated food desert in the Midtown section of St. Petersburg due to the closing of a Walmart more than 1300 days ago. But new food deserts have emerged in other areas of the city that leave leadership concerned.  
    St. Petersburg is only as good as our poorest and sickest residents. 

    A swath of northeast St. Petersburg between the avenues of 62nd and 79th north bordering 4th Street to the west and stretching into Tampa Bay to the east is the site of St. Petersburg’s latest USDSA-designated food desert.  

    The closing of a Winn-Dixie at 7489 4th St. Non February 10 of this year is the catalyst. 

    The USDA uses residents’ income and access to transportation to designate food desertsWith 13 mobile home parks in the 33702 ZIP code it is easy to see why this area emerged with the closing of one store.  

    Residents of Americana Cove, a mobile home park that lies within the new food desert, have been affected.  

    “It was common for people here to take pull carts to Winn Dixie and get groceries,” said Maggie Banta, an Americana Cove resident. “Some who live here don’t have cars and live on fixed incomes.”   

    The shuttered Winn-Dixie is close to the Gateway Market Center which has competitors Publix and Target. To get there, pedestrians must cross 4th Street North and travel to MLK Street North. That is an additional five blocks and the reason for the new food desert designation. 

    These stores fall outside the 1-mile radius the USDA uses to designate an area a food desert.  

    Due west of this new area is a long-existing food desert in Lealman. To the south are deserts in MidtownOld Southeast and Pinellas Point. 

    The COVID-19 pandemic has shown many who live outside of food deserts the issue of health inequity. Interestingly, it has also helped explain the term “nutrition insecurity. 

    Comparatively, the terms “food” and “nutrition” can be defined as quantity of calories for the former and quality of calories for the latter. Food insecurity needs can be met with highly processed, low fiber, low nutrient and shelf-stable calories. Nutrition insecurity is met with fresh food that meets the nutrient needs of the community.  

    Community nutrition security can be defined as the condition that exists when all of the members of a community have access, in close proximity, to adequate amounts of nutritious, culturally appropriate food at all times, from sources that are environmentally sound and just.  

    Grantmakers and funders city and county-wide agree that access to nutrient-dense foods is a necessity for healthy, productive communities. And with a looming pandemic, where mounting a strong immune response is essential, the need is greater than ever especially for the elderly. 

    This new food desert primarily affects that population. 

    St. Petersburg councilmember, Gina Driscoll, and the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg have proposed a new city-wide food policy councilThese two entities bring enormous resources to the problem. Its formation was approved by the city council in August and planning is underway. 

    In addition, the One Community Grocery Co-Op continues to grow its membership and build awareness for the problem of nutrition insecurity city-wide. 

    When the world re-opens, St. Petersburg will return to its booming and sparkling self with a busy downtown and a thriving arts and restaurant scene. All these things make my hometown shine. 

    But many in our community lack access to food, transportation and housing all of which, when available, enable a population to manage cardiac disease, diabetes and kidney failure. 

    Wendy Wesley is a licensed and registered clinical dietitian/nutritionist who works to improve the health of the community. She provides free public health education, individual nutrition counseling and advocacy for access to nutritious foods in her hometown of St. Petersburg. 

    Disclaimer: The views of the writers do not represent the views of the Florida Food Policy Council. We are a forum for the offering and sharing of information and encourage diversity and communication within the food system.

  • 29 Aug 2020 12:29 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Since July, across the U.S. there have been reports of citizens receiving unsolicited packets of seeds in the mail. The recipients are unsure why they received these seeds or what the seed packets contain. Many of these packages are arriving from China or other countries with foreign postage, symbols or addresses.  

    The main concern surrounding the seeds is they could introduce invasive species to the U.S. An invasive species is any organism outside of its native habitat that causes damage in the introduced area. Some of the problems that invasive species can cause include economic losses in agriculture or horticulture, disruption of native ecosystems and waterways, competition with native wildlife, and human and animal health hazards. The pathway for introduction describes how an invasive species arrives to a new location. These unknown seed packets could potentially contain an invasive plant species or be harboring an invasive pest or pathogen. In this case, the pathway of introduction is through shipping seed packages internationally.  

    Officials are concerned about these seeds in Florida since it is a high-risk state for the establishment of invasive species. Florida’s temperate, subtropical, and tropical climates with relatively mild winters allow for year-round survival of many organisms. The state has many international airports and commercial seaports that constantly receive foreign goods serving as pathways for the introduction of non-native plants, animals, and pathogens. Tourism, the number one industry in Florida, also attracts many people to the state acting as additional pathways for the introduction of invasive species.  

    Due to the potential impacts of invasive species, there are many rules and regulations to aid in preventing their introduction and responding to their detection in the U.S. One of the earliest was the Lacey Act in 1900 that allowed for regulation of the import and interstate transport of illegal wildlife. Several additional acts, including the Plant Quarantine Act, the Federal Plant Pest Act, and the Federal Noxious Weed Act of 1974, followed the Lacey Act to aid in regulating the movement of potentially invasive species. The Plant Protection Act of 2000 is a key regulation that consolidated some of the previous legislation. This act allowed for the USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) to address issues involving plant protection, quarantine and emergency actions surrounding invasive species.  

    To collaborate on a national level, Executive Order 13112 created the National Invasive Species Council and the Invasive Species Advisory CommitteeFrom these organizations, the National Invasive Species Management Plan was developed with five strategic goals: prevention, early detection and rapid response, control and management, restoration, and organizational collaboration. In addition to national efforts, there are also state and local efforts that support the strategic goals.  

    The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) are two organizations that are regularly involved in efforts supporting the five strategic goals, including investigating the reports of suspicious seeds in the mailFrom statewide trapping to quarantine and eradication programs to international commodity inspections, these agencies help keep our agriculture and natural resources safe. Some invasive species still slip through these defenses despite all the regulation and resources devoted to invasive species issues. It is important to note that these resources are still limited. In our current globalized world, it is simply not feasible to be able to inspect and regulate all potential pathways of introduction.  

    In an effort to evaluate potential threats associated with the suspicious seed packets, the USDA and FDACS are gathering the suspicious packages for assessmentAs of Aug 12th, there have been no major problems found with the seeds, but only a small amount of the seeds have been tested so far. 

    If you have received packets of seeds in the mail, do not plant the seeds. You should report these seeds to the authorities for testing and proper disposal. There are several different ways to report the seeds: 

    • You can report these seeds online and send them by mail to the USDA-APHIS using this webpage. You can also report the seeds using the USDA-APHIS Anti-Smuggling Hotline at 1-800-877-3835 or SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov.

    • You can contact FDACS Division of Plant Industry at 1-888-397-1517 or DPIhelpline@FDACS.gov for instructions. 

    • You can also drop off the seed packages at select local UF/IFAS County Extension Offices. Please contact your local extension office for more information.  

    Above all, invasive species efforts are not a one person job. It takes the strategic development of policies, the collaboration of many organizations, and the cooperation of the public to protect our agriculture and natural resources. You can do your part by reporting any unsolicited seeds you receive by mail.  


    Morgan Pinkerton is the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Agent with UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County. She is a Doctor of Plant Medicine specializing in invasive species, plant health, and extension education. Prior to her current role, she studied regulatory entomology and focused heavily on policy surrounding the movement of invasive species. She now assists commercial agricultural and horticultural producers in Seminole County in adopting more sustainable practices at their operations. Beyond her work in food systems, she is a competitive beach volleyball player and an avid world traveler.

    Disclaimer: The views of the writers do not represent the views of the Florida Food Policy Council. We are a forum for the offering and sharing of information and encourage diversity and communication within the food system.

  • 27 Aug 2020 3:00 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    “Show me a movement,” President Obama told New York chef and writer Dan Barber while discussing possible reforms to the food system. 

    Specifically, Dan Barber was talking about alternatives to Big Food—a multilayered $1.5 trillion industry. Companies like Monsanto and churn out seeds and chemicals to sell to big corn and soybean industrial farms. Big Ag in turn supplies feed grain to big meat conglomerates, ultimately for the benefit of large scale groceries and fast food operations. Pitted against big food are movements for alternative agriculture—home gardens, community gardens, and businesses that take environmental stewardship seriously. Community organizers are the champs of the sustainable food movement. 

    But the sustainable food movement needs transparency to take root, as the fight over labeling laws demonstrates. Big Food spent $100 million to fight mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”). Even though the behemoth largely won the food labeling fight, author and food activist Michael Pollan explains how the battle for transparency will ultimately empower community food movements: 

    The industry’s $100 million fight to stop G.M.O. labeling has pitted many food companies against the overwhelming majority of their consumers, who tell pollsters they want their food labeled. This is a most uncomfortable position for consumer-goods businesses to find themselves in, which is why many of the G.M.A. member companies sought (unsuccessfully) to hide their involvement in the fight. Battling against transparency is bound to sow seeds of distrust, potentially undermining the most precious pieces of cultural capital Big Food owns: its brands. 

    So, community organizers need transparency. “Right to know” laws, at both the state and federal levels, help community organizers and journalists win on transparency, and get to the truth. To be sure, these “right to know” laws are far from perfect. 

    At the federal level, journalists making requests under the Freedom of Information Act frequently experience delays lasting years to get a response. The substance of FOIA also makes matters difficult for community organizers. Most problematic is Exemption 5. This broad exception to the public's right to know applies to “inter-agency and intra-agency memoranda or letters which would not be available by law to a private party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.” Because it often gives federal agencies free reign to withhold information, it has been consistently referred to as the “withhold it because you want to” exemption. For community organizers, the exemption stymies efforts to learn “how an agency came to a decision, what evidence it considered, what influences came to bear, and what compromises were struck.”

    Despite its flaws, the FOIA has been crucial in holding the government accountable for all sorts of abuses, including environmental. FOIA empowered the nonprofit organization American Oversight to expose former EPA administrator Pruitt's bedfellowery with representatives of regulated industries. FOIA requests showed that environmental groups and public health groups got “almost no time” with the head of the Environmental Protection Agency

    Florida Public Records Law doesn't have an exemption as secret-friendly as the federal Exemption 5, but it does have its own distinctive set of exemptions and shortcomings. By count of the Orlando Sentinel, nearly a year ago, state agencies enjoy a total of 1,122 statutory exemptions from public records law. For example, claims files maintained by governmental insurers are exempt for Florida public records law.  

    But at both the federal and state levels, it is easy to make a request. Both federal and state agencies have open records coordinators. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, for example, maintains a portal dedicated to handling public records requests. The Florida Department of Citrus allows public records requests to be made to any departmental employee. So you don't have to be a professional community organizer or journalist to take advantage of right to know laws, but for professional organizers and journalists, these laws are a big help. 


    Jesse Haskins started J. Haskins Law, P.A. to focus on local food communities. Jesse builds partnerships between farmers and communities. Prior to dedicating his practice to local agriculture, Jesse served as assistant attorney general for the State of Florida, assistant general counsel for the Florida Department of Financial Services, and as attorney for a large insurance defense firm. Jesse graduated from the Duke University School of Law in 2009. Jesse is an avid foodie. His favorite ingredient is tahini.

    Website: www.jhaskinslaw.com

    Disclaimer: The views of the writers do not represent the views of the Florida Food Policy Council. We are a forum for the offering and sharing of information and encourage diversity and communication within the food system.

  • 25 Aug 2020 9:29 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    An Interview with Artha Jonassaint

    Artha Jonassaint is an Administrative Intern at the Florida Food Policy Council. In this interview, she discusses her interest in food policy, current projects and her hopes for the future.

    Watch her full interview here:

    Please introduce yourself.

    Hi everyone! My name is Artha Jonassaint. I'm 20 years old and I am a rising sophomore at Harvard College studying government and global health and health policy. Long term I hope to attend law school and then pursue a career in which I contribute to more equitable food and health systems in the United States. I'm from Okeechobee, Florida, and I'll be here for a while because we will not be heading back to campus because of the coronavirus pandemic, but I'm really excited to re-engage with my hometown and stay connected to my roots.

    Before matriculating at Harvard, I was the Florida FFA state president. The FSA is a really robust organization that engages young people and students with the agriculture industry through leadership opportunities and their education happening in their classrooms. I am of Haitian descent, my parents immigrated from Haiti to the U.S. in the eighties and then they got their family started right here in sunny South Florida. I am just so excited to be a part of the Florida Food Policy Council team this year. 

    How did you become interested in food policy? 

    My interest in food policy started in high school. I was enrolled in agricultural education courses and I was also a member of FFA, which stands for Future Farmers of America, however that organization kind of has morphed into you the national FFA organization to reflect that the members of our organization become more than just farmers. My involvement within that organization coupled with my course load in high school revealed a passion and affinity for our food system.

    I always thought it was baffling that we grow so much food in the United States, and we grow so much food across the globe, yet people don't have access to that food. Sometimes it's not affordable, sometimes they don't have cars to get to that food, and I thought that policy was the best way to solve those kinds of issues. And, I also had a natural affinity for the legislative process. I really liked government and I remember being in my seventh-grade civics class and so engaged in everything that we were learning then, and that's me all the way through my career throughout the FFA and in college. That's really what led me to the word of the policy council as well. 

    What topics excite you most? 

    There are so many topics that I find so enticing and so exciting about the policy but I think something that I learned recently that has really stuck with me is something called a food swap. We talk a lot about food deserts and people not having access to healthy foods or a grocery store or farmer's market, but there's also people who live in a food desert which is also a food swap. So, while they may not have access to a farmer’s market or grocery store, they have access to McDonald's and Papa Johns and all of these really fatty foods that make it hard for people to get the nutrients that they need for a healthy diet. And I think it's just so crazy that these food swamps often are in rural areas like Okeechobee, and they are also in the inner cities. So, with that you see different demographics disproportionately affected by having access to only exclusively unhealthy foods. So, whether that's low-income people, people of color, or indigenous people, they don't have the same access to healthy foods and that is just so unfair. It's something that we can totally solve as long as we're working together. 

    What is one of your favorite current projects? 

    One of my favorite current projects is something that I did very recently and it had to do with urban agriculture in with it growing food within localities and what that looks like. For me that was super interesting to see just how much our local governments have in giving zoning ordinances and what can happen where, like building a community garden isn't such a streamlined process. If you are going to sell food for profit, there are certain things and obstacles and hoops that you have to jump through in order to make that happen. So, I thought that was very interesting because in the state of Florida alone there are 67 different counties, meaning there 67 different rules of the land that someone has to understand depending on where they are. So, I thought that was really interesting and it's something that I really enjoyed working on because I didn't know a lot about it going into the project.

    Another project that I really liked was to get the Florida Food Policy Council’s LinkedIn page started, being able to connect on that and seeing all of the great articles that are shared on LinkedIn. 

    How can young people get more involved in food policy?

    I think the first step to getting young people engaged in food policy and agriculture and accessibility, all of these kinds of issues, is letting them know that it is an issue that is of relevance to their lives. I really didn't know how food policy affected me until I was in high school and I realized that free and reduced lunch is something that is a part of a government program in that people in my class had access to food every single day because of something the government put in place in regards to food policy. So I think first and foremost, agriculturalists, policymakers, lobbyist, whomever is a stakeholder within the food industry, we just have to do a better job of letting people know that it affects their lives, that it affects their families, that it affects their friends, and once they know that it's an issue, then it's really easy to get them involved.

    I mean, we can see just how incredible the younger generation of people are in wielding change and fighting for what's right, so when they know that there is something that isn't right, it's easier for us to come together to go in the streets, to lobby, to go advocate for ourselves to our congresspeople about these issues.

    So, I think that the first problem is that we don't know it's a problem. Once we know, then we can do a better job of rallying together with stakeholders in the food industry. We have already done it for so many different issues. Young people are leading the charge in gun reform in so many other industries within our country, so here we are with the food industry. I think as soon as people see that light turned on, we can see change and get young people involved.

    What are your hopes for the future?

    My hope for the future—I'm just going to be bold and say that I want to see food insecurity eradicated. There's just no excuse that every single person does not have access to an affordable, safe, abundant, and healthy food supply, and I think we can get there. I think we need as many hands on deck as possible, as many allies, as many people actively fighting that fight, but that is something that I want to see for the future.

    In a similar vein, I would love to see more people of color, more Black people, and more indigenous people re-engaging in agriculture. So many of our agricultural practices, back when this country was incepted to now, are because of the formative work at those groups of people put into our country and into our agriculture industry. Whether that's land redistribution or other kinds of policies to ensure that they get back to their roots and growing food for this country, I would love to see just more people who were once involved in agriculture come back. I think with that comes going to schools, telling students that agriculture is relevant, that it's fun, it's fresh and we need all kinds of people in all kinds of places to be engaged. So, a more diverse agricultural sector more generally, as well as an eradication of food insecurity, would be my two hopes for the future.

    Bio: Artha K. Jonassaint is a lifelong Floridian with an affinity for agriculture and a long-term interest in creating legislation to provide for more equitable food and health systems in the United States. Artha is a rising sophomore at Harvard College studying Government and Global Health and Health Policy with the intention of attending law school upon graduation. Prior to matriculating at Harvard, Artha served as the Florida FFA State President, a role dedicated to the promotion of agriculture and agricultural education. Artha is excited to join the Florida Food Policy Council team this summer to further her knowledge of the intersection of policy and food systems in our state.

    Disclaimer: The views of the interviewee do not represent the views of the Florida Food Policy Council. We are a forum for the offering and sharing of information and encourage diversity and communication within the food system.


  • 10 Aug 2020 5:58 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    On August 6th, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Executive Order 20-192 which rescinds the previous employee screening requirements for restaurant employees. 

    Under this order, employees who have previously tested positive no longer need to receive two negative tests before going back to work. Employers are required only to implement screening protocols pursuant to CDC guidance.

    CDC FAQ for businesses can be found here.

    The order follows a July update to the CDC's guidelines. Under the new guidelines, patients recovering from COVID-19 can stop self-isolating 10 days after the first appearance of symptoms, down from the previous recommendation of 14 days, providing that patients don't have a fever or show any new symptoms.

    The guidelines do say that business owners and managers should, however, "actively encourage employees who are sick or have recently had a close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home."

    Read the full executive order here.

  • 5 Aug 2020 11:33 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Senators Chris Coons (left) and Roger Wicker (right).

    A bipartisan group of Senators is hoping to get a new bill passed that could have a big impact on how the United States continues to tackle COVID-19.

    The Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service Act (CORPS Act), which was first introduced to Congress on June 16th by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), is legislation that would significantly expand national service programs to help the country respond to and recover from the public health, economic, and social crises facing the nation in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

    “Thousands of young people across the country are calling for greater opportunity and for new and meaningful engagement to address persistent inequities that have only been exacerbated by COVID-19,”Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said in a press release. “Now is the time to mobilize that energy to make our communities stronger and healthier for everyone.”

    The bill would double the number of AmeriCorps positions available this year to 150,000 and provide a total of 600,000 service opportunities nationwide over the next three years to unemployed youth and others looking to assist their communities. 

    AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs that address critical community needs, including increasing academic achievement, mentoring youth, fighting poverty and sustaining national parks, among other things.  

    These positions could support a variety of response and recovery efforts based on community needs, including expanding food pantry capacity, mentoring and tutoring at-risk students, bridging health inequities by expanding access to COVID-19 screening and testing, and more.

    “As our nation strives to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it is vital that Americans are able to get back to dignified work,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio said. “I am proud to join my Senate colleagues in introducing legislation that will help Americans, especially Americans facing unemployment, contribute to our recovery by serving our local communities, promoting public health, and promoting economic recovery both for themselves and their own families, and for the community and nation they serve.”

    The bill has gained support from more than 150 organizations, including Habitat for Humanity International, Hunger Free America, National Health Corps, Service Year Alliance, FoodCorps, and The Corps Network. A full list of supportive organizations can be accessed here.

    For a one-pager of the bill, click here.


  • 26 Jul 2020 11:00 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    The City of New Port Richey has officially become the 211th city to sign on to the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact after deliberating during its July 7th City Council meeting.

    New Port Richey is now the second city in Florida to join the pact after Miami.

    Created in 2015, the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact is a global initiative that aims to create a network of cities committed to developing and implementing sustainable food systems.

    “The ideals are outstanding and yet I think the pact itself is very pragmatic in its approach in that it recognizes there are no cities that are there yet,” said Dell deChant, who serves as New Port Richey’s Environmental Committee Chairman and Policy Committee Chair for the Florida Food Policy Council. “Worldwide, we don’t have any cities that are living up to fullness of this ideal. But what the pact says is the cities that are engaged in this are the committed to getting there, that are committed to becoming sustainable and creating durable food systems.”

    By signing the pact, the city is committing to the following seven actions:

    1.   Working to develop sustainable food systems that are inclusive, resilient, safe and diverse, that provide healthy and affordable food to all people in a human rights-based framework, that minimise waste and conserve biodiversity while adapting to and mitigating impacts of climate change;

    2.   Encouraging interdepartmental and cross-sector coordination at municipal and community levels, working to integrate urban food policy considerations into social, economic and environment policies, programmes and initiatives, such as, inter alia, food supply and distribution, social protection, nutrition, equity, food production, education, food safety and waste reduction;

    3.   Seeking coherence between municipal food-related policies and programmes and relevant subnational, national, regional and international policies and processes;

    4.   Engaging all sectors within the food system (including neighbouring authorities, technical and academic organizations, civil society, small scale producers, and the private sector) in the formulation, implementation and assessment of all food-related policies, programmes and initiatives;

    5.   Reviewing and amending existing urban policies, plans and regulations in order to encourage the establishment of equitable, resilient and sustainable food systems;

    6.   Using the Framework for Action as a starting point for each city to address the development of their own urban food system and we will share developments with participating cities and our national governments and international agencies when appropriate;

    7.   Encouraging other cities to join our food policy actions.

    “What’s cool about the pact from my perspective in terms of the city of New Port Richey is that we’re already doing these things,” deChant said. “We’re already engaged in creating a resilient food system here in New Port Richey,” such as seasonal food events, urban food policy projects and community, market and residential gardens.

    “We already are well along the road to a sustainable food system and well ahead of many other communities,” deChant added. “This puts us into contact with other cities that are doing it and gets us exposed to programs that are available to us.”

    Signing onto the pact is free. The main requirement is designation of a Focal Point, a person inside the city’s administration, to follow all communication and activities related to the pact. For New Port Richey that will be Earl R. Hahn, Development Department Director.

    With the many benefits of the pact, perhaps other cities around Florida that are interested in creating more resilient food systems will subscribe.

  • 25 Jul 2020 12:26 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    The Farm Bill broke a record in 2018. The 2018 Farm Bill received more yes votes in the House of Representatives than any other farm bill. And a major of the 2018 Farm Bill was the creation of a new funding program for farmers' markets: The Local Agriculture Market Program—or “LAMP” for short. This program is now part of federal law, and appears in the statute books as 7 U.S.C. § 1627c. 

    Reading statutes can be boring, but not section 1627c. Its list of purposes can be mistaken as a mini-manifesto on the virtues of local food. The bill's allocations reveals the winner of it all. But first, a brief overview of the statute. 

    LAMP consists of three pots of grant money. Value-added producer grants are intended primarily for items that take on extra “value” from being processed, like granola. The farmers' markets and local food promotion program recognizes several entities eligible for grants: local governments, nonprofits, food councils, and of course, farmers' markets. The final grant program under LAMP, partnerships, consists of a “partnership” between a “eligible partner” and an “eligible entity.” The eligible partner could be a government, nonprofit, for-profit, university, or bank. The partnered “eligible entity” can be a farmer, rancher, food council, local government, nonprofit, a community supported agriculture network, or a farmers' market. 

    Although LAMP consists of three distinct pots of funding, LAMP as a whole streamlines funding for local food systems. The statute itself directs the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture to create a program that 

    • supports the development, coordination, and expansion of … local and regional food markets and enterprises” 

    • connects and cultivates regional food economies through public-private partnerships” 

    • supports the development of business plans, feasibility studies, and strategies for … local and regional food system infrastructure.” 

    • strengthens capacity and regional food system development through community collaboration and expansion of mid-tier value chains.” 

    • improves income and economic opportunities for producers and food business through job creation” 

    • simplifies the agricultural processes.”  

    The new program doles out grants of up to $500,000 each to be used for any one of ten enumerated activities, including activities to “support and promote … farmers' markets.” Nearly all the enumerated activities have something to do with farmers' markets. For example, grant recipients may also use their grants “to support the processing, aggregation, distribution, and storage of … local and regional food products that are marketed locally or regionally.” That's basically what farmers' markets do. At their core, farmers' markets are distribution sites for local food. Of course, farmers' markets serve several other functions, like community building and education. But in general, people go to farmers' markets to get local food. We could take more time dallying through the remaining eight permitted statutory uses, but eating food can be just as important as reading about it. 

    So let's close with who wins. Farmers' markets. The farmers' market and local food program gets 47% of LAMP grants—more than the value-added program, which gets 35%; and way more than the partnership program, which only gets 10%. The remainder either goes to administrative expenses, and may carry over to the next fiscal year.  

    LAMP as originally enacted provides for fifty million dollars each year in mandatory funding. These funds are not subject to the annual legislative appropriations process. LAMP authorizes another 20 million dollars in discretionary spending, but unfortunatelyCongress's curbed its enthusiasm for LAMP discretionary spending around September 2019. As the current pandemic has renewed public and congressional interest in local food systems, we can hope that more federal funds with go to farmers' markets. Senator Susan Collins and Representative Chellie Pingree have written a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, urging that the USDA use the more recent Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) “to ensure that small- and medium- sized farms are able to survive this unexpected downturn while helping to meet the food security needs of American families.” 

    Jesse Haskins started J. Haskins Law, P.A. to focus on local food communities. Jesse builds partnerships between farmers and communities. Prior to dedicating his practice to local agriculture, Jesse served as assistant attorney general for the State of Florida, assistant general counsel for the Florida Department of Financial Services, and as attorney for a large insurance defense firm. Jesse graduated from the Duke University School of Law in 2009. Jesse is an avid foodie. His favorite ingredient is tahini.

    Website: www.jhaskinslaw.com

    Disclaimer: The views of the writers do not represent the views of the Florida Food Policy Council. We are a forum for the offering and sharing of information and encourage diversity and communication within the food system.

  • 23 Jul 2020 11:19 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Representatives Marcia L. Fudge (left) and Barbara Lee (right).

    On July 16th, a resolution calling on Congress to reaffirm the rights of all Americans living in poverty was introduced through the Poverty Bill of Rights by Representatives Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11) and Barbara Lee (CA-13).

    “The persistence of widespread poverty in the wealthiest nation in the world is both a moral and policy failure,” said Rep. Fudge in a press release.  “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the glaring inequality and deep injustices that plague our country today.  Millions of families who were already struggling to make ends meet have been disproportionately impacted by illness, job and wage losses, evictions, utility shut offs, and growing food insecurity.  During this time of great need, we must uplift low-income Americans and recognize their rights to equal opportunity, a living wage, housing, education, quality health care, and assistance in times of need.  Declaring the fundamental economic rights of all Americans is the first step towards building a future where men, women and children do not suffer the effects of poverty in America.”

    The United States continues to have one of the highest rates of poverty among developed nations, despite being one of the richest countries in the world. Prior to the pandemic, about 1 in 8 Americans lived below the poverty line and across the country, millions of families and individuals living at or near the federal poverty line struggle to afford basic needs, from health care and housing to utilities and food expenses.

    Representative Lee also commented, “We are facing a pandemic and a poverty crisis in this country – both of which disproportionately impact communities of color...This is a national emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed just how deep inequality runs in this country, with 17 million people unemployed and 23 million renters facing the threat of eviction.  As chair of the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity, I strongly support the establishment of a Poverty Bill of Rights to address inequities in housing, education, and health care as well as strengthen the social safety net.” 

    The resolution outlines 23 rights that all Americans should have to live a life free from poverty and its impacts:

    1) The right to equal opportunity, irrespective of race, gender, or socioeconomic status.

    2) The right to working family tax credits, such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, that are proven to lift families out of poverty, free from onerous eligibility requirements.

    3) The right to a livable wage that is enough to ensure adequate housing, food, clothing and other basic household needs.

    4) The right to robust paid leave programs so that they can care for themselves, their families, and dependents without fear of financial devastation.

    5) The right to emergency financial assistance in times of unemployment.

    6) The right to unionize to negotiate for higher wages, better benefits, and safe working conditions.

    7) The right to financial security for themselves and their families during retirement years.

    8) The right to quality, affordable health care and prescription drugs.

    9) The right to clean air through robust environmental and public health policies.

    10) The right to high-quality, affordable, and reliable childcare.

    11) The right to accessible,  affordable, safe housing.

    12) The right to safe, clean, and affordable water and wastewater services.

    13) The right to affordable, reliable energy service.

    14) The right to equitable access to technology and telephone and broadband services.

    15) The right to adequate access to affordable and nutritious foods.

    16) The right to reliable, efficient, and affordable public transportation.

    17) The right to high-quality, equitable PreK-12 public education.

    18) The right to safe public schools that promote racial and socioeconomic diversity.

    19) The right to access affordable higher education, registered apprenticeships, and other vocational training opportunities.

    20) The right to live with their families and not be separated from each other on the basis of poverty.

    21) The right to safe neighborhoods, where they are protected by law enforcement, not targeted, profiled, harassed, and brutalized.

    22) The right to equal treatment in criminal justice settings, free from discrimination.

    23) The right to equal representation and participation in democracy through unfettered, unabridged access to the ballot box, accessible polling places, and alternatives to traditional in-person voting, such as early voting and voting by mail.

    Original cosponsors for the resolution include Representatives Karen Bass (CA-37); Joyce Beatty (OH-03); André Carson (IN-07); Kathy Castor (FL-14); Jim Cooper (TN-05); Dwight Evans (PA-03); Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29); Al Green (TX-09); Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20); Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30); Joseph P. Kennedy, III (MA-04); Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10); Bobby L. Rush (IL-01); Jan Schakowsky (IL-09); Terri A. Sewell (AL-07); and Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7).

    The legislation is endorsed by the following organizations: AAUW California; California Association of Food Banks; California Hunger Action Coalition; Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Children’s Defense Fund; Children’s HealthWatch; Equal Rights Advocates; First Focus Campaign for Children; Food Research & Action Center (FRAC); Greater Cleveland Food Bank; Greater Hartford Legal Aid; Law Foundation of Silicon Valley; Maine Equal Justice; MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger; Mississippi Center for Justice; National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE); National Lawyers Guild - San Francisco Bay Area Chapter; NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice; New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty; Ohio Association of Foodbanks; Parent Voices CA; San Francisco-Marin Food Bank; Share Our Strength; St. Anthony's Foundation; Western Center on Law & Poverty; Women’s Foundation California; and Young Invincibles.

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