• 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.

  • 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.

  • 17 Jul 2020 2:09 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    On Monday, July 20th, organizations across the nation and in Florida will be participating in a day of action to tell the Senate it must act quickly to pass a COVID-19 relief package that boosts SNAP benefits for struggling households.

    Nationwide, the Food Research and Action Center, Children’s Defense Fund, Coalition on Human Needs, First Focus and many others are supporting this effort and have put out a call to action.

    In Florida, organizations such as United Way, University of Florida, Florida Impact and Bread for the World, are asking Floridians to join with anti-hunger advocates around the country by emailing or calling local Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio between 9am and Noon (EST) on Monday, July 20th.

    If you or your organization would like to send a letter, Bread for the World has put together a template which can be downloaded here.

    To contact your senator, below is a list of names, emails and offices around the state.

  • 10 Jul 2020 3:00 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Erica Hall, M.S. CED, MBA, ARM, has an extensive background as a community organizer, advocate, trainer, Board member, and Senior Legal Professional who has worked extensively in urban agriculture and food policy.

    As a Senior Legal Professional, Erica has worked on all aspects of corporate and commercial real estate transactions. While working at NeighborWorks America, a government chartered national non-profit, Erica assisted in the review and oversight of affordable housing programs including Treasury’s Making Homes Affordable (MHA), the Emergency Homeowners Loan Program (EHLP), the National Foreclosure Counseling Mitigation Program (NFMC), Wells Fargo’s LIFT Program and the Stable Communities Initiative, while helping with the design of NeighborWorks America Green Organization program which is setting an example that will lead the affordable housing and community development industry to a more sustainable future. Erica also performed research and assisted in the creation of NeighborWorks’ initial sustainability efforts focused on resource conservation through initiatives related to energy, water and materials, including Energy Star benchmarking; high-efficiency lighting, plumbing, HVAC equipment; green roofs; recycling and sustainable purchasing.

    Erica has also been active in the US Green Building Council (USGBC), American Planning Association, and other environmental, neighborhood revitalization groups throughout the DC area working in youth development, Black Farmers, food insecurity, workforce training, historic preservation, and urban agriculture in DC, VA, MD, NYC, Atlanta and Los Angeles working in youth development, Black Farmers, food insecurity, workforce training, historic preservation, and urban agriculture. She previously chaired a DC non-profit, Healthy Solutions, that worked with Community Gardens, Brownfield Remediation, food insecurity, and urban agriculture. Erica previously served on the Board of Directors of Groundwork Anacostia River DC, a local non-profit that utilizes environmental restoration goals as a vehicle for community development. Erica is also a Senior Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program, a dynamic network of 900 of the country’s top emerging environmental and social change leaders. Erica was also selected as co-chair of the Host Committee for Greenbuild, the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to Green Building. As co-chair, she worked to connect and introduce the U.S. Green Building Council and Greenbuild to International Real Estate Management (IREM) and other real estate groups. The 2015 Greenbuild Host Committee, on which Erica served, has earned the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2016.

    She has participated in developing Food Policy Councils in NY, DC, VA, and MD and has been very active in the green building and environmental justice community in the DC area, using her platform to combine leadership and activism. In 2007, she worked on the initial Corner Store project in DC that has since been duplicated around the country. The Corner Store Project began with pilot locations in Southeast Washington DC and was designed to thrive in neighborhoods which had been and continue to be overlooked by traditional supermarkets. Erica volunteered and worked with various sectors of the DC's food system including academia, agriculture, health, hospitality, non-profit, and the public to help pass the Supermarket Tax Exemption Act (DC Law 13-166), which offered grocery stores located in designated Priority Development Areas ten-year waivers on real property taxes, business license fees, personal property taxes, and construction

    material sales and use taxes. All of this work led to President Obama’s 2010 Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), which initially offered $400 million in funding to develop and equip grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved urban and rural communities.

    In New York City, Erica assisted on the 2009 Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) Program to promote the establishment and retention of neighborhood grocery stores in underserved communities throughout the city. Since 2011, she has been a Grant Reviewer for the USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture's Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program which funds projects designed to meet the needs of low-income individuals and increase community self-reliance concerning food and nutrition. As a member of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Enoch Davis/St. Pete Youth Farm, Erica helped to define the mission statement for the project, helped guide project direction, while producing some broad actions needed to implement the project. Through this program, youth are empowered to lead urban agriculture projects under community guidance and resources has proven to be a successful strategy in youth, workforce, and neighborhood development.

    Erica is also very active in the International Real Estate Management Florida Chapter 44 by participating in numerous committees, including the National Diversity and Inclusion Committee of Real Estate Management and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the American Society of Aging. Erica continues to be very active in the green building and environmental justice community, using her platform to combine leadership and activism, while working hard to foster collaboration between affordable housing, green building and property management.

  • 10 Jul 2020 2:32 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Tom Pellizzetti is a connector, innovator and self-proclaimed meat mercenary. He has a background in consumer products and foodservice marketing with large food processors. Tom returned to Florida in 2009 to represent small, authentic food brands into mainstream channels. In 2010, Tom co-founded a Florida grass-fed beef producer and a few years later, co-owned a very small USDA inspected processor in NW Florida. This led Tom into the small farm, local foods movement that is alive and underway here in Florida. Tom joined the Florida Food Policy Council to help promote and develop local food systems into the mainstream. Tom has a BS in Animal Science from UF and an MBA in marketing from Thunderbird School of Business.

  • 10 Jul 2020 1:27 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Dr. Martha Louise Lang, PhD, is a holistic philosopher who focuses on ethics, environmental philosophy, social justice, philosophy of science, and well-being. She earned her PhD at Florida State University in 2017. Martha applies philosophy to various projects and consulting endeavors, including co-founding the Seminole Organic Food Garden at FSU. Martha is a former Leon County Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor and has served on the board of ReThink Energy Florida, as well as the Grievance Board of the FL Bar Association. Currently, Martha works as a Grants Specialist at FDACS, where she helps to manage the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. She is also an Adjunct Instructor of Philosophy at FSU in Tallahassee. Further, Martha is working on an initiative called Philosophy & Zen, which features educational and holistic consulting services to promote well-being for individuals and groups. Martha also practices and teaches meditation and loves to hike, kayak, garden, do yoga, cook healthy vegan foods, and fight for justice-oriented public policy reforms. 

  • 7 Jun 2020 3:30 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Picture of a grocery store with empty shelves in Florida due to the Coronavirus. Picture by Mick Haupt.

    By now most Americans have seen images of long lines at food banks around the nation – thousands of cars bumper to bumper in Cleveland, San Antonio, Minneapolis, Pittsburg, and many other cities. The images are devastating. How could this happen? The question echoes across the nation, and certainly with urgent distress for those waiting in those thousand-car lines. How could this happen in our rich nation with the world’s most powerful economy and its most productive agricultural system?  Why has the COVID-19 pandemic left so many Americans desperately short of food?

    The answers are many: the administration’s clumsy reaction to the crisis, widespread job losses in the nation’s massive service sector due to tough “stay-at-home” edicts, fear and panic-hoarding, and politicization of responses to the crisis. Besides these obvious explanations, there are others that are less apparent and unlikely to get much coverage in the 24-hour news cycle, but perhaps more telling.  

    While the pandemic reveals government ineptitude, it also reveals the precariousness of other foundational systems. Healthcare, economics, the media, and education have all been staggered by the sudden eruption of this contagion. What is failing are the systems themselves – most dramatically, our food system.  

    In urban centers around America, grocery stores are facing shortages of basic commodities. There are empty spaces on shelves, and not just in the paper aisles but also in the food aisles.  Food insecurity has increased, exacerbated by economic inequalities and driven even harder by the collapse of the service sector. Long and lengthening lines at foodbanks are leading to shortages there as well. Ironically, in the midst of this food crisis, farmers are plowing under crops, dumping milk and eggs, and laying off workers. 

    Why is this happening?

    Those who have been researching America’s foodways have long been aware of the liabilities of the contemporary food system. As a culture, beginning in the 1950s, the industrial food system began a rapid conquest of America’s foodways. This system relies on inflexible structures of the consumerist economic order: long supply lines, with low wage jobs every step of the way; just-in-time inventory processes; enormous mono-crop farms that destroy whole ecosystems; giant food processing plants, stock yards, and slaughterhouses; and vast extractions of oil, water, and phosphates.  

    Every food product we consume travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to table. We are all dependent on massive quantities of food making this 1,500 mile trek, relying on a rigid, complex system, over which local governments, businesses, and individuals have little control or authority.  We are simply consumers, receiving only what the system delivers to us.  If the system breaks down or even stumbles, there is little that can be done except ask for help, hope the mega-corporations and their complex system can retool quickly enough to avert catastrophe, or look to the federal government for assistance.    

    This is exactly what is happening today. The process is not working. The industrial food system is reacting slowly and with mixed results (watch for more shortages and significant cost increases in basic commodities), the federal government is stumbling into action, and local leaders are hoping for help feeding the food-insecure. But when it comes to food supplies, there is very little local leaders can do besides hoping and asking for help –  because in most communities there does not exist a viable local food system. We are at the mercy of systems beyond our ken and out of our control.

    The poor, the dispossessed, the marginalized, the homeless, and all others experiencing chronic food insecurity are facing grave challenges in this moment. They are now joined by countless others, millions nationwide, who likely never had a concern over food in their lives. As the coronavirus  has highlighted the dramatic weaknesses and tragic inequalities in America’s healthcare system, its consequences may bring to national awareness the dangerous lack of resilience in the industrial food system upon which we have become dependent. Hopefully this will happen and prompt reform, but what would this reform look like?  

    What would reform look like?

    The reform would have to begin with the recognition that what is happening now is not a fluke, it is also not nearly as serious as it could be.  Image what would happen if more meat-packing plants shut down, if there was a sharp decline in the number of farmworkers harvesting crops, if climate change caused a collapse of grain production in the Midwest, if cheap transportation of food was no longer available, if we lost even more pollinators. Imagine what would happen if the federal government did not buy up surplus food from the industrial food system and facilitate its distribution. Imagine if the industrial food system found it more profitable to destroy surplus commodities rather than teaming with food-relief networks. Imagine a virus even more lethal than COVID-19.

    Imagine what would happen if any of those possibilities occurred. Where would our food come from then? The industrial food system is too frail to withstand large-scale cultural traumas, and if reform does not occur, what is happening today will happen again, likely with more dire consequences.  Reform is not impossible, and can begin today, taking many forms, with many options. It would have food banks also act as seed and seedling banks – offering seeds and seedlings along with basic food supplies. It would include community vegetable gardens as a part of every public park, and a line item for urban farms in every city’s budget. Cities would fund staff positions for agricultural  directors and urban gardeners. Local governments would require that new developments include not only green space, but farm space as well.

    Government at all levels would offer tax-incentives for replacing lawns and ornamental plantings with vegetable gardens, giving fruit trees to propriety owners, restoring agriculture classes in public schools – especially urban schools. It would include agriculture programs at every public university (not just the land-grant schools) and courses in horticulture as mandatory graduation requirements for all bachelor’s degrees. From pre-school through college, equal or greater stress would be put on learning gardening as is put on learning cyber systems today.

    This is not an impossible vision. Not at all. If only a fraction of spending by the USDA, state and local governments, schools of higher education, charities, and emergency feeding organizations was diverted to reforms such as these, the food-crisis we face to today might never have occurred – and if we act now, it need never occur again.

    Here are some articles for additional background reading on the impact of the pandemic on the food system:

    The Coronavirus Reveals The ‘Invisible Inequalities’ In Our Food System, Huff Post

    Farmers plowing under crops, dumping milk, New York Times

    What the Coronavirus means for Food Insecurity, The Hill 

    Supply chains stressed, but are run by ‘incredible foragers,’ USF expert says, Tampa Bay Times

    April saw the sharpest increase in grocery store prices in nearly 50 years, Boston Globe from The Washington Post

    US grocery costs jump the most in 46 years, led by rising prices for meat and eggs, CNBC

    The original Post can be found on the Ecology Florida website here.

    Dell deChant is the Associate Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida. He is a Master Instructor and has served at USF since 1986. The author of three books, over 30 articles in professional publications, and chapters in twelve books, his specialization is religion and contemporary cultures. His current research focuses on religious, literary, and ecological expressions of Agrarianism as they manifest in American popular culture. He is Chair of the Environmental Committee of the City of New Port Richey, a founding member of Food Policy Council of Pasco Country, a member of the Florida Food Policy Council, and a member of the Board of Directors of Ecology Florida.

  • 16 Apr 2020 5:00 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    On April 14, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) announced the launch of a pilot program for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to purchase groceries online with the use of an EBT card. SNAP participants do not need to apply to participate in this program as they are automatically eligible.

    Removing barriers and enhancing access to critical services, while supporting Florida's infrastructure, remains a top priority for this agency," said DCF Secretary Chad Poppell in a press release

    The pilot program began on April 16 with the launch at all five Walmart Tallahassee locations and Amazon purchases for Tampa-based SNAP customersStarting Monday April 21, online purchasing will be available statewide at both Walmart and Amazon retailers. DCF is currently working with the USDA and the Florida Retail Federation to expand the network. 

    Under the new program, customers are able to use their EBT cards for the online purchase of approved grocery items and will still be required to provide a unique personal identification number (PIN). Customers are able to opt for curbside pick-up; however, utilization of food assistance benefits cannot be used to pay for delivery services.

    At the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis, all SNAP recipients are to receive the maximum allowed amount for their household size during the months of March and April as one of the federal emergency measures included in the Coronavirus stimulus legislation.

    To ensure Floridians can safely access SNAP, TANF, and Medicaid benefits, DCF has implemented a six-month recertification extension for individuals and families scheduled to recertify in April or May. Additionally, work requirements for individuals participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program have been waived as a condition to receive program benefits.  

    For more information about how to apply for food assistance visit this page or call 1-866-762-2237.

    To get more information about the online purchasing piot click here.

    To see a list of items you can buy with SNAP benefits click here.

  • 5 Apr 2020 4:30 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    An Interview with Christopher Johns

    FLFPC Board Member and environmental attorney Christopher Johns took time to discuss his interest in policy, how he interacts with food policy in his work, and how policy can help fix gaps and challenges to create a brighter future. Below are some highlights from his interview.

    Watch his full interview here:

    Please introduce yourself.

    My name is Chris Johns. I'm an attorney with the law firm Lewis, Longman and Walker. I'm primarily in environmental law and also a little bit of land use law as well. I'm a Florida native. I was born in Hastings and raised there which is in Northeast Florida, just outside of St. Augustine. I went to the University of Florida for undergrad and got a degree in construction management. After undergrad I went back to work on my family's farm. I was the 5th generation in my family to farm. We are all, or were all, potato farmers. So, I spent about 4 or 5 years growing and helping manage my family’s potato production. Then while I was there, I got involved in several environmental issues that intersected with the agricultural community and through that experience I got an interest in law. I decided to go back to school and I went to the University of Florida and I got a law degree. Then after law school I got hired by Lewis, Longman and Walker, and I now live and work in West Palm Beach.

    When did you first become interested in food policy? 

    I first became interested in food policy in law school. I had the opportunity to intern at the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and up until that point, most of my understanding of food and food production was pretty much limited to agricultural production. My time at Harvard really opened my eyes to how much more there is to food production and processing and distribution and consumption and waste, and the framework of looking through food systems really caught my imagination. Ever since then, it's been something I've been kind of interested in because it's a really important thing.

    In what ways does your job intersect with food policy? 

    There are primarily two ways. Land use law has a very direct impact on all sorts of aspects of the food system based on zoning laws and regulations that control where we can build things. As you can imagine, it has a very direct impact on cities and how much green space they have, and whether they allow for urban agriculture or raising animals in the proximity of residential areas with food that's getting produced.

    The second way my job kind of brushes up against food policy is a little more subtle. Most of the work I do relates to water law and water issues. As you can imagine, we need water to grow our food, and in particular, we need clean water to grow our food. There are a number of federal regulations that control and dictate what constitutes clean water and creates a regulatory framework for at least attempting to clean water that's already dirty and then keep water that is clean, clean into the future. And so that impacts the food system in a couple of ways. When growing vegetables, if you're irrigating your land, you don't want to be irrigating your land with water that has a lot of pollutants in it. Especially for something like leafy green vegetables where you might be irrigating through a sprinkler system or something that contacts the leaves. So, if you don't have clean water, then you are going to be putting dirty water out there and it might get on the leaves and it might make a bunch of people sick.

    Another way that is probably even more subtle but a lot more interesting is through what's known as bioaccumulation. Pollutants that go into the water can actually filter up into the food chain through sedimentation and then accumulation as small organisms living in polluted sediment absorb pollutants. Then bigger organisms come and eat those small ones. When they eat those small ones, they take on all the pollutants that are in them. It goes on up the food chain until you get to bigger and bigger things like fish and things that we actually consume. Over time, if your water is not clean enough and a lot of pollutants are going in the water, then you can end up accumulating a lot of serious pollutants into your food supply. It's very subtle but, as we're finding out, it can have significant impacts on really important parts of our food system.

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

    A good example that I always think about is hunger and food security. Florida produces an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, yet if you look at the statistics a pretty surprising number of children are food insecure in our state. I believe it's somewhere in the realm of between 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 kids are food insecure at some point during the year. Looking at things through the lens of food systems allows you to identify if it is a production issue, a distribution issue, or an access issue. Are we not sending produce to where the hungry kids are? Can they not afford the produce? Once you identify where the weak link in the chain is, you can then use food policy to address and hopefully strengthen and mitigate those issues.

    Another interesting food policy tie-in is the environment. Food waste is a pretty serious issue. I think the older statistics are around 1/3 of the food that we produce doesn't get eaten and so it typically ends up in a landfill. One of the consequences of that is it's a huge contributor to greenhouse gases. It's primarily methane which is extremely potent, much more potent than carbon dioxide. So, knowing that is an issue we can then ask why this food is getting wasted and food policy helps us find solutions to reduce food waste or recycle it and put it to other uses that have better outcomes than sitting and decomposing in a landfill.

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

    I think my main hope, well my belief really, is that we can produce enough food to feed everyone in the world. Currently we actually produce enough calories that could feed everyone but it's really not just making sure people have enough calories, it's also about making sure that people have proper nutrition. I think it should be one of the main goals of our society as citizens to make sure that we're producing enough healthy food and making sure that it gets to everyone who needs it. Looking at things from a food systems lens, is probably our best hope of being able to achieve that goal because it can identify issues with production, with distribution, with cost. And it's going to be through those various frameworks that help us figure out why children can’t get fed and why the food that they need is not getting to them. Hopefully, at that point we can get enough people to care to make a change and fix it.

    Bio: Christopher Johns is a native Floridian, born and raised in Hastings, Florida. The son of a 4th generation farmer, Chris was raised helping his family on their commercial farm. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, he returned to his family’s farm to help manage production of their potato crop. After returning to the farm, he participated in the Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute, where he graduated a fellow of Class IX. Chris earned a J.D. with a certificate in environmental and land-use law from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. While in law school, Chris interned at Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic.

    Today, Chris lives in West Palm Beach and works for, Lewis, Longman & Walker, as an environmental attorney. He represents a spectrum of clients from local governments, to Indian tribes, to private landowners, including agricultural producers, on complex issues involving environmental permitting and natural resource protection and development. He remains interested in food policy and using his skills, experience, and insights to foster meaningful improvements to food systems throughout Florida.

    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.

  • 2 Apr 2020 3:30 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Nearly every American life is impacted by COVID-19, but food insecure children are experiencing a unique challenge. With school closures consistent across not only the entire state but nearly the entire country, what is being done to ensure our children don’t have to add hunger to their list of challenges during this time?

    Fortunately, a significant amount. Several Florida counties have stepped up and provided school meal distribution to those in need immediately. Summer BreakSpots are open, and any child under the age of 18 can pick up food and doesn’t need to go to that school. Parents can also pick up the food with a waiver and identification of the student.

    The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Division of Food, Nutrition, and Wellness launched the website to help families find the closest schools where they can pick up breakfast and lunch during the extended break. There are more than 930 locations across the state offering this service. Pickups are generally in mid morning to early afternoon.

    “For millions of Florida’s children, school meals are the only meals they can count on. We are working closely with school districts to ensure that students have access to healthy, nutritious meals while schools are closed due to COVID-19,” stated Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

    To provide a picture of the number of students who rely on these lunches, “In the 2018-19 school year, Florida’s schools served 286,734,316 school lunches, of which 245,782,422 were free or reduced lunches. These schools served 2,908,335 Florida students, of which 2,089,852 were students receiving free or reduced lunches.” The existing issue of hunger is further complicated by many parents losing their jobs due to COVID-19, making purchasing necessities like food more difficult, and the allotted amount is not always enough.

    Many schools and pickup sites have enacted guidelines of social distancing, such as drive through lines and keeping distance if biking or walking, to prevent the spread of the virus. Additionally, everything must be taken to go. It is recommended to disinfect the bags of any take out foods and wash your hands as soon as you get home and again before eating.

    The plan to reopen school this year is still undetermined. In the meantime, this is the new normal. If you’d like to help out, some counties have safe distribution volunteer opportunities as well. 

    The new challenge of virtual schooling exists across the state. In every county, students are back to the books with online lectures and assignments from their teachers. Hopefully, a full belly will not be a challenge as well.

    Rachel Ram is a health educator, policy advocate, adventurer, and overall foodie. Rachel earned her Bachelor of Science in Health Education, Community Health and Preventive Medicine from the University of Florida in 2017. A lifetime resident of south Florida, she now resides in Brooklyn NY working for the American Lung Association. She began her work with the Florida Food Policy Council in 2016 and continues to raise awareness on food policy issues. Besides engaging in food policy, Rachel enjoys traveling, hiking, yoga, cooking and reading.

    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.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software