Florida Food Policy Council

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Florida Food Forum

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  • 28 Jun 2021 12:48 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: June Florida Food Forum 

    Seed Saving Programs and Practices

    If you were unable to attend the meeting, watch the full presentation online here

    To keep the conversation going, please add your thoughts and comments to our forum page here

    On Friday, June 25th, the Florida Food Forum on “Seed Saving Programs and Practices” featured Melissa A. Desa, Cofounder of Working Food in Gainesville, FL, Andrea Figart, Director of the New Port Richey Public Library, Stephanie Jones, New Port Richey Public Library Systems and Services Librarian, and Joey Stabenow, Education and Engagement Intern at Seed Savers Exchange.  

    “Seed saving and the way in which this often overlooked and often simply ignored practice can play a vital role in our food system,” remarked host Dell deChant at the opening of the forum. 

    “Although most of those who are engaged in the food production process acquire seeds from corporate entities, there is a growing interest in learning how to save seeds and utilize this resource in an ongoing, sustainable manner. Seed saving literally is as old as agriculture itself. In fact, it’s the very basis not just of agriculture but of what we call civilization, dating back to 10,000 years to the beginning of the domestication of plants.”


    The first speaker, Melissa A. Desa, delved into the important work that is being done at Working Food, while exploring local and national policies and regulations that affect seed savers on a global level. 

    “Working Food is a nonprofit that does a lot of really cool things in the Gainesville area – celebrating, advocating for, and doing local food,” introduced Melissa A. Desa. 

    “Why would we save seeds and do the extra work when it’s so easy to buy them? When we start saving our own seeds and teach our friends and colleagues and other farmers and gardeners how to save a seed, what we start creating is a local and reproducible seed supply that’s close to home,” explained Melissa. 

    Melissa indicated that having our own local and reproducible seed supply would allow us to decentralize the seed network. 

    She stressed the importance of having lots of seeds in the hands of a lot of people, rather than having a handful of people controlling most of our seed supply. “This allows us to start regionally adapting our crops,” she noted. 

    “And you know we’re humans, we’re storytellers, part of the fascination of saving seeds is of course telling the stories of where these seeds came from, who they came from, and of course there’s often a lot of really painful history in learning about our food history and food culture. And how some of these seeds and varieties of cultures have been erased, but we can tell those stories and bring them to life again.” 

    Melissa gives examples of stories that are being told across generations through the preservation of seeds. She tells us about Feaster Family Mustard, Motherland Okra, Grandma Ernestine’s Butterbean, and Seminole Pumpkin.

    Melissa explained how food sovereignty is the basis for an empowering and inclusive food system. 

    Through projects such as The Heirloom Collard Project and through their Tomato Tasting event, Working Food is making sure that their communities get to choose which varieties they want to see in their local gardens and are working towards having their local communities actively involved in their seed saving initiatives. 

    “One of the most special things to me is that it is very inclusive of all different races, genders, and abilities, we make it a lot of fun, and it’s slow seeds,” mentioned Melissa. 

    Working Food partners with Grow Hub and is involved with the Farm To School Program, both of which cultivate an empowering, sustainable, and learning space for adults and kids with disabilities who take interest in seed saving. 

    Exploring policies

    “By in large, I’m pretty happy with Florida’s seed state laws. They have not been overly restrictive on anything that we have had to do. As far as free community seed sharing, organizations and libraries like Seed Swap, there are no restrictions,” indicated Melissa. 

    However, she shares her worry about a policy on the national level – the Intellectual Property Rights and Patents that have been put on seeds. Melissa described that these patent laws ultimately restrict future seed saving, they restrict future plant breeding that helps in adapting to climate change, and they aid in the decrease of plant diversity.


    The next speaker, Andrea Figart, guided us through what the seed lending program in the New Port Richey Public Library looks like, what resources are available to the community, and how community involvement is pivotal to ensure the survival of seeds. 

    Andrea reflected on the policies that were passed to make this seed lending program at the New Port Richey Public Library possible. 

    “The city of New Port Richey passed an ordinance allowing for nonprofit community gardens in 2013. In 2016, the city council passed an urban gardening ordinance, which allows residents to grow gardens instead of grass,” recounted Andrea. 

    “To support this initiative in building community interest in a way that was truly meaningful, the library set about creating a seed library to offer central resources that could really and truly help people change their lives." 

    Andrea then described the process of becoming a part of their seed library community and showed an informational video which featured Richey Public Library Systems and Services Librarian Stephanie Jones.

    First, community members must obtain a library card to have access to the resources (which includes books, films, classes, participating in committees, and having access to various databases) provided by the New Port Richey Public Library to learn about seed saving and growing crops. Then, library members can start harvesting what they have grown. 

    “After feeding their families with food that they have grown themselves after checking out seeds at the seed library, our urban farmers can sell their extra produce at the weekly Tasty Tuesday Farmers Market held in the library’s courtyard. By doing that, they can add additional financial support for their own families while making fresher, locally grown, non-GMO food available to others.” 

    Andrea explained that the library’s participation with Feeding Florida’s Fresh Access Bucks Program only magnifies the effect that this has on local communities, namely on local growers and farmers. This program, explains Andrea, allows farmers to accept SNAP and EBT benefits, while also doubling the buying power of locally grown produce. 


    The final speaker, Joey Stabenow, gave an overview of the work that is being done at Seed Savers Exchange. 

    “Our mission,” noted Joey Stabenow, "is to promote America’s culturally diverse, but yet endangered food crop heritage for future generations by collecting and growing and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, as well as the stories that are connected to them.”

    Seed Savers Exchange, one of the major sources of heirloom seeds in the world, has “over 20,000 heirlooms, historic varieties, and open pollinated varieties” in their seed bank, noted Joey. 

    Joey gave us a handful of resources, community science programs, and projects that are being offered by Seed Savers Exchange and their partner organizations. 

    One great resource offered by Joey is their partner organization’s website, the Community Seed Network. This platform includes resources, networking opportunities, maps that are designed to make it easy to find community seed initiatives in your area, as well as state policies and regulations on seed saving and selling.

    Joey briefly talked about two community science programs that are being hosted by Seed Savers Exchange. 

    Seed Savers Exchange’s first community science program is their ADAPT program. Their second community science program is their RENEW program for more “experienced seed savers” stated Joey. Through these programs, participants will help preserve and strengthen the Seed Savers Exchange collection and catalog, while also engaging in meaningful work that would benefit their local communities. 

    Joey also briefly talked about two projects that are being done with partner organizations. 

    The first is Seed Rematriation Project, which is being done in collaboration with the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network (ISKN) and other Indigenous farmers and growers to restore heirloom seeds to their respective Indigenous communities. 

    The second is The Heirloom Collard Project, which is being done in collaboration with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Working Food, Culinary Breeding Network, and The Utopian Seed Project, and “aims to build a coalition of seed stewards, gardeners, farmers, chefs, and seed companies working to preserve the heirloom collard variety and their culinary heritage,” explains Joey. 

    “We can do that through those community science programs that I mentioned before, by trialing some of those varieties, and by creating and supporting local seed swaps, and featuring those heirloom collard varieties on the Seed Savers Exchange catalog.” 

    After the conclusion of the presentations, the speakers continued a discussion potential policies they would want to see on a local level that would aid in seed saving initiatives during the Q&A session.



    Learn more about Working Food

    Learn more about New Port Richey Public Library

    Learn more about Seed Savers Exchange

    Guest Presenter Information:

    Melissa A. Desa is co-founder of Working Food, a non-profit organization based in Gainesville, Florida. Her background in wildlife and ecosystems has brought depth of knowledge and understanding to her current non-profit work tackling food systems — specifically with a focus on seed stewardship and outreach. She has 10 years of experience in non-profit start up and management, community organizing, food systems, seed stewardship, gardening, farming, education, outreach, and youth programming.

    Her primary focus and love is for stewarding seeds important to the Southeastern climate, and building community through seeds in a way that is accessible and collaborative. Ten years ago it started from a small seed library, and grew to a thriving community program providing classes, workshops, training, regional seed varieties, and collaborative work on seed system projects with regional and national partners. Working Food’s seed collection has grown to over 700 accessions, representing a cornucopia of rare, heritage and regionally adapted varieties. Her place-based seed work functions synergistically with a partner non-profit - Grow Hub, that provides meaningful opportunities for adults with disabilities through agricultural and horticultural work.

    Andrea "Andi" Figart was appointed New Port Richey Public Library Director in June 2017. A resident of FL since 2006, she began her library career in 2000 as a Children’s Librarian in Dayton, OH, close to the family farm where she grew up. Andi is committed to helping the New Port Richey Public Library anticipate and respond to the changing needs of the community by providing resources and spaces that help advance opportunity and develop a vibrant, engaged community. Andi serves on the boards of the Morton Plant North Bay Hospital Community Advisory Board and the Pasco County Food Policy Board. She is a member of the Florida Library Association (FLA) and American Library Association (ALA).

    Stephanie Jones is the New Port Richey Public Library Systems and Services Librarian. Stephanie provides technical expertise, day-to-day administration and broad support for library hardware and software solutions; manages electronic resources; updates and develops adult collections in all formats; and serves as the volunteer coordinator. Stephanie enjoys developing, planning, and implementing new projects and initiatives that support the library’s services, and after recently growing five of the most delicious cherry tomatoes she has ever eaten, she says she now has dreams of being an expert gardener. Stephanie is a member of Pasco Enterprise Network (PEN), Florida Library Association (FLA), and the American Library Association (ALA).

    Joey Stabenow is the new Education and Engagement Intern at Seed Savers Exchange. Prior to joining the team, Joey was a FoodCorps service member serving Iowa schools by connecting students to healthy school meals through their garden program. She is eager to help others learn about gardening and preserving heirloom seeds through seed saving.

    *Special Thanks to Jeff McGill for assistance with video preparation for the Seed Program at New Port Richey Public Library.

    Jeff McGill provides frontline support to library members and supervision to the Member Support team. He answers references and research questions, provides assistance with computers/mobile devices and library resources, and addresses member account and access issues. He is the library’s “go to” videographer and photographer. Although he doesn’t yet have a star in the Hollywood walk of fame, we feel it’s just a matter of time.

    Forum Host: Dell deChant is the Associate Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of South Florida and a member of the Board of Directors at the Florida Food Policy Council.


    Thank you to our sponsors for making this forum possible:

    FHEED provides food systems planning, GIS analysis, advocacy, and education about food systems and healthy communities.

    Contact: Anthony OlivieriFounder, FHEED LLC

    Website: www.FHEED.com

    J Haskins Law, located in Tampa, empowers communities with the legal and risk management tools they need to exercise food sovereignty. The contact for J Haskins Law is Jesse Haskins.

    Contact: Jesse Haskins, Founder, J Haskins Law

    Website: www.jhaskinslaw.com

    The Florida Food Forum is a free event. To support our work, please consider becoming a member or making a donation. For questions or more information, contact us at: info@flfpc.org

    Disclaimer: The views of the presenters 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.

  • 1 Jun 2021 9:49 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: May Florida Food Forum 

    Sacred Nutrition: Religion and Food Justice


    If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available to watch online here.  

    To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on Youth in the Food System here to add your thoughts and comments. 


    On Friday, May 28th, the Florida Food Forum on "Sacred Nutrition: Religion and Food Justice" featured The Reverend Gabriel Morgan, Pastor of St Paul Lutheran Church and Faith Lutheran Church in Tampa, and The Reverend Andy Oliver, Pastor of Allendale United Methodist in St. Petersburg.  

    “The relevance of our topic to food policy is centered on the cultural nexus, created by the collapse of sustainable local food systems and concurrently, the colonization of our entire culture by the industrial food system,” said host Dell deChant at the opening of the forum.  

    “While this is happening everywhere, the most destructive and tragic consequences are occurring in those communities that have already been harmed due to political, economic, educational, and creative marginalization. Food policy can make a real difference in these communities and it can make a difference right now…What better way to do so than to consider what is being done in those great centers of cultural inspiration as well as cultural critique—namely religious centers.”

    The first to present on this important topic was Reverend Gabriel Morgan, who gave an introduction to the GIFT Center Garden and Faith Lutheran Church in Tampa, and spoke on policies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on the use of property for food production, public policies favoring agrarian projects and strategies for evolving food support into food production in religious communities.

    The GIFT Center Garden (Gardening in Faith Together), now known as the Seeds of Peace GIFT Center, is the community garden at Faith Lutheran Church. The currently garden has 20 beds with micro irrigation and the church has even implemented its own composting system.Produce grown in the garden is placed on the tables of the Kinship Free Markets, a grocery pantry designed around the concept of solidarity, and the remaining unused produce is composted for new gardening. 

    The garden has a number of community partners including First United Church of Tampa and USF Urban Food Sovereignty Group. Reverend Morgan explains that Food Sovereignty is one of the key concepts the garden is evolving into, by focusing production on the foods neighbors prefer to eat.

    Reverend Morgan pointed to The FaithLands Movementa burgeoning movement that many churches are following, as one reason for an increase in projects similar to the Seeds of Peace GIFT Center  At the heart of the movement is the idea that religious communities have something to contribute to the larger movement around food justice and food production.

    “The FaithLands Movement is really a movement across the country that sort of captures what we have gone through here in our context too,” notes Reverend Morgan.

    Started by the Agrarian Trust, the FaithLands Movement is defined as “a growing national movement to connect and inspire faith communities to use their land in new ways that promote ecological and human health, support local food and farming, enact reparative justice, and strengthen communities.”

    Some churches have joined this movement by starting gardens, leasing land to local farmers, or in some cases by donating property to agrarian trusts to protect it from development.

    Reverend Morgan says that church gardens are becoming more common, but are still not the predominant paradigm for land use across the denomination. There is, however, a major program led by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America known as ELCA World Hunger. This program makes connections between the climate crisis, food production and social justice.

    One of the featured programs of the ELCA World Hunger program is the Global Farm Challenge whose goal is to “raise $500,000 to equip communities around the world and in the U.S. with livestock, seeds, tools, training and other agriculture-related activities to turn a hungry season into a hopeful season.”

    Exploring Policies

    One of the noteworthy programs Reverend Morgan noted was the Good Food Purchasing Program. It is part of the DART (Direct Action and Research Training) network, which is a national network with partners across several states that strives to “increase movement coordination with metric-driven standards, enhance capacity of local coalitions, activate policy, empower governments by sharing tools and possible targets, and leveraging buying power via increased supply chain knowledge.”

    He also pointed to the Food Forward New York City plan as it is an example of how a city can sketch out a “Right to Food.” This food system plan has 5 overarching goals: “food access for all New Yorkers, worker protection, good jobs and economic opportunities; modern, efficient infrastructure and supply chains; sustainability from production to disposal; and education, communication and administrative support to implement the plan.”

    For those who want to learn more or for religious leaders who want to continue this conversation with their congregation, Reverend Morgan suggested two resources: A Rocha’s guide to starting church gardens and FaithLand’s toolkit for starting church gardens.

    The next speaker, Reverend Andy Oliver, began his presentation with a story about Allendale United Methodist and how it has changed over the past few years.

    “I arrived at Allendale five and a half years ago to a church that was slotted to close,” said Reverend Oliver. “We had dwindled down from the height of 1968 to 700 people in church to having 40 in church. And it was becoming increasingly impossible to sustain the ministry here. And so we didn’t have any time to lose and we went for it.”

    It was decided that the church would become “one that would be radically inclusive, one that would be centered in justice, one that would center the voices of the marginalized.” Which he notes was an important part to their work in food justice.

    The church also opened up to provide free meeting space to anyone in the community who was doing the work of justice. This brought an immediate result—the once almost empty building was now full of over 1000 community members.

    Allendale became of hub for social justice and naturally, food insecurity and food justice was on the minds of many.

    Located within a quarter mile of 5 major grocery chains, Reverend Oliver notes that just a few miles south on the other side of the dividing line in South St. Petersburg, there are miles and miles without any grocery stores.

    “As we started to look at the way to transformed our empty building into making a space for community, we also started to look at our land that was surrounding our building. And we were asking the same questions Reverend Morgan talked about. How can we use this land to do justice?”

    After being approached by community member Ray Wunderlich about planting pine trees at the church, the idea of started a community garden became apparent. Since then, Reverend Oliver has worked together with Ray, church members and other community members to start and maintain a number of gardens in the surrounding area.

    However, it has not been completely smooth sailing. Reverend Oliver noted that in the State of Florida, anyone can put up a garden on residential land, however this was not the case for churches. After neighbors in the area had complained to the city about the gardens, a year-long campaign to add an exception to the city’s land use plan to allow this for this essential service ensued. Eventually, the church won the right to garden  and has since gained over 50 volunteers.

    In fact, in the previous season, the gardens were able to produce an incredible 1600 pounds of food, including watermelon, winter melon, pumpkin, collards, kale, cilantro, beets and more.

    Reverend Oliver says that these gardens have not only helped to fill a gap in making sure that community members can have more access to fresh fruits and vegetables, they have also continued to offer a way for the church community to be authentic to who they say they are; especially in upholding the values found in their welcoming address, “No matter your race, ethnicity, economic situation, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, background or belief, age or condition of ableness, whether single or partnered, you are God’s beloved and you are welcome here.”

    After the conclusion of the presentations, the speakers were asked a number of questions during the Q&A session on topics such as: how to pursue championing similar projects in one’s religious community, how to sustain labor requirements for such projects, how churches can partner with other churches and community organizations and more.   



    Learn about St Paul Lutheran Church and Faith Lutheran Church in Tampa

    Learn about Allendale United Methodist in St. Petersburg.  

    Guest Presenter Information:

    Rev. Dr. Gabriel Morgan is the pastor of St Paul Lutheran Church and Faith Lutheran Church in Tampa, Florida. Faith Lutheran is home to an urban garden called Seeds of Peace: Gardening in Faith Together, a joint effort together with First United Church of Tampa. Gabriel is a proud USF alumnus of the philosophy and religious studies programs. He holds an MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York with distinction in historical theology, and a PhD from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, dissertation on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Paul Ricoeur. He and his wife, Erin, live in Southeast Seminole Heights.

    Rev. Andy Oliver (he/him/his) is pastor of Allendale United Methodist in St. Petersburg, Florida, a church that is committed to anti-racism and radical solidarity with folx on the margins. He is grounded in liberation theology and following Jesus, a community organizer who always located himself with the oppressed, helping them to use their power to dismantle evil. He is currently president of Methodist Federation for Social Action, a national justice-seeking organization, and was senior staff at Reconciling Ministries Network, a national LGBTQ justice non-profit. Andy is a graduate of the University of Florida and Duke Divinity School. He previously served congregations in Lakeland, Ft. Lauderdale, and outside Gainesville. He loves spending time with his two boys building Legos and seeing the world through their eyes.

    Forum Host: Dell deChant is the Associate Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of South Florida and a member of the Board of Directors at the Florida Food Policy Council.


    Thank you to our sponsors for making this forum possible:

    FHEED provides food systems planning, GIS analysis, advocacy, and education about food systems and healthy communities.

    Contact: Anthony OlivieriFounder, FHEED LLC

    Website: www.FHEED.com

    J Haskins Law, located in Tampa, empowers communities with the legal and risk management tools they need to exercise food sovereignty. The contact for J Haskins Law is Jesse Haskins.

    Contact: Jesse Haskins, Founder, J Haskins Law

    Website: www.jhaskinslaw.com

    The Florida Food Forum is a free event. To support our work, please consider becoming a member or making a donation. For questions or more information, contact us at: info@flfpc.org

    Disclaimer: The views of the presenters 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.

  • 3 May 2021 3:24 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: April Florida Food Forum 
    Youth in the Food System


    If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available to watch online here.  

    To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on Youth in the Food System here to add your thoughts and comments. 


    On Friday, April 30th, the Florida Food Forum on "Youth in the Food System" featured guest speakers Artha Jonassaint, National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Southern Region Vice President, and Lyrica, Zaira, and Nadira, the CEO's and Founders of Bourne Brilliant LLC.

    The topic of youth in the food system is one of great relevance to the future as the youth of today will soon be in positions of leadership in our culture. However, it is but is also of great important today because, as Moderator Dell deChant says, “It’s relevance touches on education, empowerment, opportunity creativity, and all the issues that are tied up with the contemporary food system. Including concerns about social justice, politics, oppressive features of the industrial food system, food security, and food sovereignty to name but a few. If we are going to engage these issues and concerns, we need to start now.”

    The first presenter, Artha Jonassaint, began by explaining the opportunities through which she was able to find her role in the Florida food landscape and beyond.

    Born in Hollywood, Florida, Artha’s parents, who had immigrated from Haiti, soon moved to Okeechobee, Florida, where she was surrounded by agricultural richness. Growing up in such a rural area, she was able to connect with the food system in unique ways, like being able to see what production agriculture looks like first-hand.

    The school system in Okeechobee also gave students like Artha opportunities to interact with agriculture as it is often a common theme in intra-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Artha explained that she first became involved with the National FFA Organization (formerly known as the Future Farmers of America) in 7th grade, when her teacher recommended that she participate in the Extemporaneous Public Speaking Leadership Development Event.

    While being involved in FFA’s state and national-level public speaking programs, she became interested in other areas like dairy judging, food science and agri-science fairs. Yet, it wasn’t until high-school that she discovered her true calling of “building an equitable system in which people have full access to food no matter where they come from and what they look like, and what resources they have at their disposal.”

    Artha noted, “Many marginalized communities, predominately communities of color or lower socioeconomic status communities, don’t have access to the food that exists already. And I knew that my purpose in my life is to figure out how we can build a system where people have access to that food and how we can ensure that we know where our food comes from and how we can be tied to that.”

    With this in mind, Artha continued to participate in FFA throughout high school as a State FFA Officer, and after graduating in 2018 and 2019, served as State President for FFA. Currently she is a National FFA Officer, serving all 760,000 members as the Southern Region Vice President, but has the opportunity to work with members across the US on various FFA projects.

    Thinking of the future, Artha was accepted to Harvard University and is studying Government and Global Health Policy. She hopes to do her thesis research on the new Farm Bill that will pass in 2023, and how the nutrition programs will affect rural America.

    How do we incorporate more youth in the food system?

    “For me it’s an easy answer…It starts with agricultural education,” Artha said. “If we had agricultural education classes in every county in every school, that’s the first step to making life-long informed consumers in our food system.”

    Artha explains, “The cool thing about agricultural education is that it doesn’t stop in the classroom, it also happens in supervised agricultural experiences outside of the classroom.” By allowing children these experiences, and especially in connection with FFA, they gain the ability to not only learn about agriculture but are also prepared to become leaders in the food system. 

    The next speakers, Lyrica, Zaira, and Nadira, together with their mother Syrheda, began their presentation by describing their journey starting Bourne Brilliant, LLC.

    Lyrica first came to her mom at the age of 6 asking what she could do to help her community after noticing a lack of access to food. As the girls were homeschooled, they would often bake and Lyrica came up with a proposal to help with a business. So, in 2013, the family decided to start a bread ministry to tackle the issue of food insecurity in their community in Tallahassee.

    They began traveling and connected with underserved populations noticed many things. A majority of those populations looked like them, however, in the foodpreneur arena their images and perspectives were minimal. Also, that a lack of knowledge and lack of resources was an overwhelming problem for people that look like them.

    Over the years the business has taken many forms. They started out doing community service then produced cottage foods, eventually selling their products at farmers markets. Later they began catering and ran a mobile business. Then in 2020, they decided to open a brick and mortar bakery and juicer, and are now working on opening a restaurant.   

    Their business has been rewarding, and there have been many pros including opportunities for advocacy, entrepreneurship, and leadership, personal and professional growth, and being a voice for the most vulnerable population: COC (children of color). Yet, they have experienced challenges. A lack of access to knowledge, tools and equipment, along with exhaustion from their schedules and frustration when adults don’t take them seriously are just some of them.

    Even though there are challenges, the girls continue in stride. In fact, they are some of the youngest advocates in several organizations and are also members of several different business chambers. And one of the reasons why they participate in events like forums is to "show that advocacy and using your voice and your resources and begin at a really young age."

    Going forward the girls would like to see more youth and families involved in social justice issues and would like youth to be able to share the impact that being a consumer has had on their lives. They also noted that there needs to be an increased understanding of what food deserts and food insecurity means, especially this should be taught in schools, and that state and local government, organizations and entities must do more.

    With the conclusion of the presentations, the Q&A session began, which allowed speakers to go into greater detail about their experiences and how to get youth more involved in the food system going forward.

    Watch the full recording on our YouTube channel here



    Learn about the National FFA Organization on their website.

    Find the National FFA Organization on Facebook and Instagram @nationalffa 

    Learn about Bourne Brilliant on their website.

    Visit Bourne Brilliant's plant-based tonic website.

    Find Bourne Brilliant on Facebook and Instagram @bournebrilliantco

    Contact them at bournebrilliant@gmail.com

    Guest Presenter Information:


    Artha K. Jonassaint is a lifelong Floridian with an affinity for rural development & 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 sophomore at Harvard College studying Government and Global Health and Health Policy with the intention of attending law school and 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 currently taking a leave of absence from Harvard College to serve the 760,000+ members of the National FFA Organization as the National FFA Southern Region Vice President.

    Lyrica, Zaira, and Nadira (ages 14, 12, and 10) are the CEO's and Founders of Bourne Brilliant LLC! Together (and with their parents' assistance) they have dedicated their young lives to the advocacy of women, children and families to be a voice for the food injustices that exist in their local communities and beyond. Their involvement in several organizations, events, and platforms provides them with multiple opportunities to give and receive support and to have their voices and passions shared with many other influential persons in the food justice space, as well. They look forward to further opportunities to fellowship with like-minded (or not) individuals from different backgrounds, interests and careers who are dedicated to food and entrepreneurship equality. They want to remain catalysts in the international battle for Access, Affordability, Advocacy and more for those of us focusing on strengthening the youth's connections with self, their community, and healthier food choices. "We are small; yet mighty!"



    Forum Host: Dell deChant is the Associate Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of South Florida and a member of the Board of Directors at the Florida Food Policy Council.


    Thank you to our sponsors for making this forum possible:

    FHEED provides food systems planning, GIS analysis, advocacy, and education about food systems and healthy communities.

    Contact: Anthony OlivieriFounder, FHEED LLC

    Website: www.FHEED.com

    J Haskins Law, located in Tampa, empowers communities with the legal and risk management tools they need to exercise food sovereignty. The contact for J Haskins Law is Jesse Haskins.

    Contact: Jesse Haskins, Founder, J Haskins Law

    Website: www.jhaskinslaw.com

    The Florida Food Forum is a free event. To support our work, please consider becoming a member or making a donation. For questions or more information, contact us at: info@flfpc.org

    Disclaimer: The views of the presenters 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.

  • 30 Mar 2021 11:16 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: March Florida Food Forum 

    Food is Not a Human Right: Issues in Food Democracy

    If you were unable to attend the meeting, watch the full presentation online here.  

    To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on Food is Not a Human Right: Issues in Food Democracy to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On Friday, March 26th, the Florida Food Forum on "Food is Not a Human Right: Issues in Food Democracy" featured guest panelists Will Schanbacher, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida and Lana Chehabeddine, Behavioral Research Lead with the nonprofit Ruminate.

    The first presenter, Will Schanbacher, began his presentation by noting that although the title of the talk “Food is not a Human Right” may seem to be a provocative statement, in reality, both on a global stage and locally, food is in fact is not treated as a human right.

    Will continued by connecting this idea with the food sovereignty narrative. He explained, “While in its origins, food security was noble in its goal and still remains a noble goal and part of food sovereignty, what food sovereignty has done is change that narrative slightly to focus more on other dynamics related to food.”

    La Via Campesina, a global peasant movement which unites people to fight injustice in the food system and from which the food sovereignty movement emerged, defines the concept as “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.”

    “When we talk about food as a right,” Will explained, “food sovereignty is talking about a human right to food that is also accompanied by a notion of food that is healthy and culturally appropriate.”

    The U.S. and the Right to Food

    Within the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, there are two Covenants that stipulate rights to food. The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Within the ICESCR, nations that sign on have “the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill this right to food.”

    Unlike other nations, the United States is not a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

    The position of the U.S. on the Right to Food states, “The United States supports the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including food, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Domestically, the United States pursues policies that promote access to food, and it is our objective to achieve a world where everyone has adequate access to food, but we do not treat the right to food as an enforceable obligation. The United States does not recognize any change in the current state of conventional or customary international law regarding rights related to food...”

    Will argues that given the position of the U.S. on food security, now is the time to focus on food sovereignty as a more radical approach to change as it introduces a way in which we can rethink about the human right to food.

    “At the very least, adopting a food sovereignty paradigm calls on governments to eliminate laws, regulations, and policies that prohibit, discourage or impede the people’s right to produce their own food, protect their own community health and provide for their families when social safety nets are eliminated,” Will said. “Not only do we need to recognize that the human and natural world and nature provides subsistence, but we also want to add that element of human dignity. As such, we need a more robust concept of food security.” 

    Looking at Food through a New Lens

    Agroecology, which is defined as “the integrative study of the ecology of the entire food system, encompassing ecological, social and economic dimensions,” was the next concept introduced as a tool which will lead us to envision more just food systems.

    In combination, Will explained that Agroecology, Food Justice and Human Rights, reframes the discussion on the human right to food to focus on impediments to access to healthy, nutritious and culturally meaningful food. Moreover, by looking at of the right to food through a Food Sovereignty frame, “this allows us to hold political and educational institutions responsible for ensuring even the most basic access to food.”

    In conclusion, Will noted that local knowledge sharing knowledge and coordination between various social justice organizations, as well as establishing alliances across research disciplines and social activism networks, was at the core of creating a more democratic food system.

    The next speaker, Lana Chehabeddine, began her presentation by describing how she came to study the sociology piece that is largely overlooked in food studies.

    “I experienced an epiphany that the detail oriented and individualized vision of nutrition was not enough to actualize the large issues that drive most of our food-related problems today,” Lana explained. “I became fascinated at trying to find out why in a country so advanced, can we not all be fed, food secure and included. Which led me to ask, ‘Why don’t people care?’ and ‘What drives them to instigate social change?’”  

    These questions led Lana to dive deeper into a Master’s thesis where she researched the relationship between structural injustice in the food system and our ability to empathize. 

    In her research, Lana found that it was important to define the difference between “Democracy” versus “Food Democracy.”

    She explains that Food Democracy aims at boosting participation among citizens by shying away from the powerful corporate food monopoly, and going beyond the idea of food security which focuses on health access to food for all.

    “Food Democracy delves more into the ‘How’,” Lana explained, “…One growing example of this, is ironically food policy councils, which arose from North America in just the past few decades. And we view this type of food democracy as a prerequisite to reaching the goal of the right to food through food sovereignty and can create what has been termed “food citizenship” where social responsibility transcends into belonging and participating.”

    An Illusion of Free Choice  

    As our food system is highly influenced by lobbying groups, food corporations, “Big Ag” and social constructs, Lana said that our food system is far from democratic and quite far from adopting a right to food model.

    “It exploits people for labor, animals for food and the environment for food production. It is important to highlight its history as one that was built on the back of displaced immigrants and in favor of White men who owned and controlled most land across the U.S., and still do today.”

    How can empathy help? 

    Empathy is defined as “the innate and learned ability of stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person, understanding their feelings and perspective, and using that understanding to guide your actions.”

    The 3 key aspects to empathy are: Affective empathy, Cognitive empathy and Emphatic response.  Lana explained that Emphatic response is the step she is most interested in because it, “insights the motivation to respond and express an urge to care about another person’s welfare, which is vital if we want to move toward a more democratic food system.” 

    Although empathy is an important tool for social transformation, research has shown that empathy has been steadily declining. “Our political climate in the last few years has illustrated this well and some have pointed out that empathy is purposefully suppressed in this country to enable power only amongst a few.”

    Facing a Food Apartheid

    Lana notes that the term “Food Apartheid” is slowly overtaking the term “food desert” because it more accurately symbolizes the root problems.

    “Social constructs highly influence our food choices such as race, class and gender. And that is largely because of the urban planning and redlining that developed in this country to segregate certain groups whereby marginalized communities of color were displaced into ghettos and subsidized housing, amongst other injustices, and demeaned by our food system since access to food largely became processed convenience food, which has inconveniently inflicted disadvantageous healthy disparities onto these groups,” she said.

    Although there are initiatives that are striving to solve these problems, Lana suggests focusing on creating a more robust food democracy as the next step.

    “We cannot rely on food corporations alone to do the work. Food Democracy bridges the gap between food security and food sovereignty, and this would involve a more level playing field between corporate food players and consumers to make decisions surrounding food. A U.S. Food Democracy Council, for instance, could be established and have members appointed through our voting system to provide resources and assistance to states that are expanding their Food Policy Councils.”

    Policy Solutions

    Lana and Will proposed a number of solutions that could have a great impact on the food system. Lana described how using Empathy-Activating policy solutions with education, technology and storytelling for changing our thinking and behaviors towards others.

    Will’s proposals included practical policies that would allow populations to facilitate the production of food on home yards and unused land, as well as policies of non-interference, which demand that governments and city councils refrain from implementing policies that impede the community’s ability to produce its own food. Implementing the idea of “Community Food Sovereignty,” was another suggested approach as it is holistic—from the community, by the community and for the community.  

    With the conclusion of the presentations, a rich question and answer session followed which allowed for further discussion on the many important points covered.



    Learn about the University of South Florida (USF) Food Sovereignty Group

    Learn about Ruminate


    The Politics of Food: The Global Conflict between Food Security and Food Sovereignty, William D. Schanbacher

    Food as a Human Right: Combatting Global Hunger and Forging a Path to Food Sovereignty, William D. Schanbacher


    Guest Presenter Information: 

    Will Schanbacher is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida. His research interests concentrate on religious and social ethics with a focus on the global food system and globalization and poverty. He is the author of The Human Right to Food: Combating Global Hunger and Forging a Path to Food Sovereignty (Prager, 2019), The Politics of Food: The Global Conflict between Food Security and Food Sovereignty(Praeger, 2010), an editor of The Global Food System: Issues and Solutions, Ed. (Praeger, 2014). He is currently working with local religious organizations on projects to build gardens in the Tampa area. His forthcoming book, “Food Insecurity: A Reference Handbook (ABC-CLIO, forthcoming, 2022) addresses the history of food insecurity in the United States. He is the director of the department’s Global Citizen Project and member of the steering committee for USF’s Urban Food Sovereignty Policy Group.

    Lana Chehabeddine is currently a Behavioral Research Lead with Ruminate, a nonprofit innovation lab focused on leveraging behavioral science to inspire social change within the food system. Lana is a recent graduate from Oregon Health and Science University’s MSc program in Food Systems and Society, where she focused her thesis on the relationship between the nationwide empathy deficit and the tolerance for structural injustice within the US food system. Lana has a Bachelors in Exercise Physiology from the University of Miami, and a certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University. Her professional experiences involve marketing, research, and public health roles within both for-profit and non-profit sectors of the food industry. She is a Lebanese-American, plant-based home cook and artist, who aspires to tackle and shed light on large systemic issues and foster replicable solutions to help build a more equitable and empathetic society.

    Forum Host: Dell deChant is the Associate Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of South Florida and a member of the Board of Directors at the Florida Food Policy Council.

    Thank you to our sponsors for making this forum possible:

    FHEED provides food systems planning, GIS analysis, advocacy, and education about food systems and healthy communities.

    Contact: Anthony OlivieriFounder, FHEED LLC

    Website: www.FHEED.com

    J Haskins Law, located in Tampa, empowers communities with the legal and risk management tools they need to exercise food sovereignty. The contact for J Haskins Law is Jesse Haskins.

    Contact: Jesse Haskins, Founder, J Haskins Law

    Website: www.jhaskinslaw.com

    The Florida Food Forum is a free event. To support our work, please consider becoming a member or making a donationFor questions or more information, contact us at: info@flfpc.org

    Disclaimer: The views of the presenters 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.

  • 1 Mar 2021 9:58 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: February Florida Food Forum 
    Florida Food Festivals

    If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available online here.  

    To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on Florida Food Festivals here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On Friday, February 26th, the Florida Food Forum on "Florida Food Festivals" featured guest speakers John Solomon, President of the Florida Seafood Festival and Jennifer Morgan, Public Relations and Media Representative of the Florida Strawberry Festival. Boyzell Hosey, Co-organizer of the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival also spoke during the event.

    “The food festivals, based on local food production, are a vital part of building a sustainable food system and establishing food sovereignty in a community,” Dell deChant, Chair of the Policy Committee and Host of the forum, noted at the start of the program. 

    During the forum, presenters touched on a number of topics including the history of the festivals, how they have adapted during COVID-19, some of the challenges they face and what they bring to their local communities.

    First to present was John Solomon who began by explaining how the Florida Seafood Festival came to be.

    The roots of the festival go back to 1914 when the first “King Retsyo” (which is ‘oyster’ spelled backwards) was crowned at Mardi Gras. Over time the festival has had many names such as "Harbor Days,” and “Apalachicola Seafood Festival." It wasn’t until 1963 when the Florida legislature gave it the title of "Florida's Oldest Maritime Event" that the festival took on its current name as the “Florida Seafood Festival”

    John explained that about 28 to 29,000 people attend the 2-day festival each year, which is almost 10 times the local population, making the festival a big economic driver for the area and the community. By promoting the seafood industry in Franklin and surrounding Counties, the festival plays a role in the survival of the local communities.

    Especially after Hurricane Michael in 2018, the festival saw an amazing turnout of 24,000 attendees, which gave a much-needed boost to the local economy. Now with COVID-19, the festival has had to navigate new challenges. In 2020 the festival shut down for the first time in its history, but this year, the festival will be back with COVID safety protection the first weekend of November.

    With certain policy challenges like the closing of the bay for wild oyster harvesting, the festival has shifted to supporting local aquaculture and promoting education on harvesting processes. Going forward, John hopes that the festival can be more involved in policy changes.

    “We always have a philosophy at the festival, ‘We do not change what we do, we enhance what we do’” he said.

    Some of the features of the festival are its maritime exhibit, food booths and arts and crafts. For local non-profits the festival also allows fee-free space rentals to sell local food at the festival which supports both the local producers and the organizations.

    Next to present was Jennifer Morgan from the Florida Strawberry Festival.

    The Florida Strawberry Festival dates back to the 1930s when members of the newly organized Plant City Lions Club decided to give back to the community and celebrate the bountiful harvest of strawberries. In fact, more than 10,000 acres of strawberries are planted annually in the local area and there are some 2,800 farms in Hillsborough County that produce fruit and vegetable crops with an annual value of over $360 million.

    Similar to the Florida Seafood Festival, the Florida Strawberry Festival is also run by volunteers. The Board of 24 members and associates, as well as more than 8,000 volunteers make the event possible every year. Even in light of the pandemic, Jennifer noted that because of such strong community support, the 2020 festival was the third most successful to date.

    Every year the festival hosts around 7 livestock shows and about 300 exhibitors. In 2020, the net sales from the steers, swine and plants came out to a little under $1 million.  

    Because the festival is an agricultural fair, one of their goals is to help support agriculture and youth in the community. One of the ways the festival does this is in the form of scholarships. In 2020 alone, the festival was able to give back almost $1.3 million to youth in the community. The festival also partners with local food banks each year and donates to local churches and organizations that participate in the event.

    In light of the pandemic, the festival has had to adapt, especially its programming and safety measures. In order to make sure the 11-day event is prepared, festival organizers have worked closely with the State Health Department and CDC to follow all necessary mandates to keep attendees safe. The festival will run from March 4th to March 14th, 2021.


    Last to speak was Boyzell Hosey, who began by sharing the history Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival.

    Educating the community on the special technique of cooking collard greens in a pressure cooker is what led to the initial festival in 2018. Similar to the Florida Seafood Festival and Florida Strawberry Festival, the goal of the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival is to do good for the local community, especially where there is suffering from food inequities and food insecurity.   

    In 2020, about 3,000 people attended the festival in the heart of Midtown, St. Petersburg. Some of the partners of the festival were the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, Johns Hopkins All Children Healthy Start Program, the American Culinary Federation of Tampa Bay and the St. Petersburg Free Clinic.

    Although the festival usually takes place in February, this year the one-day festival will be held on May 15th. Because of the pandemic, this year’s festival will be held in a hybrid format, with programming both in person and online. Boyzell said that one of the main features of the festival will be a “drive-thru” collards giveaway and other special in-person and virtual experiences.

    With the conclusion of the presentations, the Q&A session began, which allowed speakers to go into greater detail about their festival composition, supporting local farms and gardens, and how they are overcoming challenges related to COVID.

    Forum moderator, Dell deChant, also proposed the creation of a network for festivals to connect as Florida does not currently have a resource for this. If you are involved in a festival in Florida and interested in being part of this group, reach out to us at info@flfpc.org



    Visit the Florida Seafood Festival: https://www.floridaseafoodfestival.com/

    Visit the Florida Strawberry Festival: https://flstrawberryfestival.com/

    Visit the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival: http://tbcgf.org/

    Guest Presenter Information: 

    John Solomon has been the Executive Director of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce for 6 years, the Franklin County Tourist Development Director for 2 years and President of the all-volunteer Board of Directors of the Florida Seafood Festival for 17 years. Before being elected to the Board of Directors, he worked security for the Seafood Festival and had attended for many years as it was just blocks away from where he grew up. Within 3 years he was elected president and has been ever since. John also served at the Franklin County Sheriff's Office for 20 years as Correctional Officer supervisor, IT Director and Evidence Officer ETC. Born in New Orleans, Solomon grew up in his hometown of Apalachicola and currently resides in Eastpoint, Florida with his wife. He has two children: a 14-year-old daughter and 32-year-old son.

    Jennifer Morgan is a Plant City native and strawberry farmer’s daughter. She is a graduate of the University of South Florida where she obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Education. Mrs. Morgan is currently the Public Relations and Media Representative of the Florida Strawberry Festival. She has spent many years volunteering and working within the fair industry and is grateful for the time-honored tradition. She has been married to her husband Brian of 15 years and they have two children, Rowen and Grymes.

    Boyzell Hosey is the Deputy Editor of Photography and Photojournalist for the Tampa Bay Times. He is also Co-Organizer of the yearly Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival.

    Forum Host: Dell deChant is the Associate Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of South Florida and a member of the Board of Directors at the Florida Food Policy Council. He is also Organizer of the Florida Loquat Festival in New Port Richey.

    Thank you to our sponsors for making this forum possible:

    FHEED provides food systems planning, GIS analysis, advocacy, and education about food systems and healthy communities.

    Contact: Anthony Olivieri, Founder, FHEED LLC

    Website: www.FHEED.com

    J Haskins Law, located in Tampa, empowers communities with the legal and risk management tools they need to exercise food sovereignty. The contact for J Haskins Law is Jesse Haskins.

    Contact: Jesse Haskins, Founder, J Haskins Law

    Website: www.jhaskinslaw.com

    The Florida Food Forum is a free event. To support our work, please consider becoming a member or making a donationFor questions or more information, contact us at: info@flfpc.org

    Disclaimer: The views of the presenters 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.

  • 31 Jan 2021 11:09 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: January Florida Food Forum
    Building Bridges: Bettering Florida’s Food System Together

    If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available to watch online here.  

    To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on Building Bridges: Bettering Florida’s Food System together here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On Friday, January 29th, the Florida Food Forum on "Building Bridges: Bettering Florida's Food System Together" featured FLFPC Board Members Erica Hall, Rachel Shapiro, Anthony Olivieri, Dell deChant, Tom Pellizzetti, Christopher Johns, Rick Hawkins and Jesse Haskins, who discussed how they are building bridges in their respective areas of expertise to better the food system. 

    Dell DeChant, a native Floridian, explained that he has lived through Florida’s transformation from a “largely rural, lightly settled agricultural state, to one that is highly urbanized, densely populated, economically diversified, and ecologically compromised.”

    Dell is a Master Instructor at the University of South Florida where he has served for 35 years. He researches religion in contemporary culture, using a “theology of culture approach.” He has published over 30 articles in professional journals and encyclopedias, presented over 40 conference papers and contributed chapters in 12 books, and has authored 3 books, one of the most popular being “The Sacred Santa: Religious Dimensions of Consumer Culture.” Dell is also the co-author on a text on comparative ethics titled Comparative Religious Ethics, a Narrative Approach. Most recently, he published an article entitled “Where’s the Beef? Looking for Food, Religion and Ecology,” in the book The Global Food System.

    In addition to his academic career, Dell notes how he is active in his community. Serving two terms on the New Port Richey City Council, he initiated the city's first sustainability projects including mulch recycling, Tree City USA designation, recognition of Earth Day and Arbor Day. He served as Chair of the Environmental Committee, which was initiated in 1990, and chartered the first community gardens in New Port Richey. He spearheaded the drive to establish the Martin Luther King Day Celebration in the city, and continues to work to better Florida and his community by serving on the Board of Directors of Ecology Florida, the Pasco County Food Policy Council, and the Florida Food Policy Council.

    Dell said that in his assessment of the contemporary food system, "the area which we see the greatest distortion is the area of food sovereignty and urban agrarianism, which are virtually overlooked in terms of policy and government action. Absent action in these areas as a culture We remain little more than a colony of the industrial food system.”

    Anthony Olivieri, originally from Cambridge Massachusetts, moved to Florida in 1990. His expertise in Community Food Systems, mapping of food and health disparities, land use policy, food systems analysis, and food systems education, programs and workshops, has been greatly seen in his work with FLFPC. 

    In 2012, for the first time Anthony created a map of diabetes in Broward County, a project which catalyzed a number of programs and policy change in the county. His research found that in Broward, cases of diabetes overlapped almost exclusively with low-income Black communities, and those areas also overlapped with an unhealthy food index that was created with funding by the CDC.

    Most recently, Anthony has been working on a project on health disparities and COVID. This type of analysis as well as Land Use Policy analysis is a unique skill that he brings to FLFPC. In fact, he worked with the council to develop a process and analyze 6 counties around the state of Florida, discovering 152 policies that relate to food access and food recovery.

    Another project Anthony helped develop was the creation the “Good Neighbor Store Initiative,” with Arely Lozano, which trained high school and middle school youth to analyze the food environment in their corner stores, how to map the information and how to present that information to the city council to advocate for policy change. Going forward, program implementation and opportunities to work with partners on program development and policy scanning is a high priority.


    Rick Hawkins has spent more than 46 years in the hotel and restaurant industry. During that time, he was the Director of Materials Management for the Breakers Hotel and led the Environmental Impact Team which worked to bring the company to the forefront of sustainability.

    He currently owns a small ranch where he raises beef cattle, chickens, fruits and vegetables, and he has spent much of his life involved in the food system growing sustainable and organic food and connecting growers to eaters.

    “In Florida,” Rick said, “there is a large disconnect between the people that grow the food and the people who eat the food. A lot of his time has been spent trying to help that.” 

    In 2007, Rick co-founded the not-for-profit LocalEcopia, along with Geoff Sagrans, the long-standing President, with the goal of helping sustainable business operations by eliminating the disconnect between growers and eaters. Similarly, at the Breakers Hotel, Rick was able to connect with local chefs to create agreements with local farmers to bring in fresh produce every week which in turn provided stable income to the farmers and also offered hotel employees the opportunity to obtain fresh Florida foods.

    With COVID, however, LocalEcopia has especially faced great challenges without the demand from local consumers such as schools and hotels.


    Jesse Haskins is an attorney based out of Tampa who has a strong passion for eating food, which has fueled his passion for engaging with professional organizations and broader food systems. 

    As the Year in Review Chair of the Agricultural Management Section of the American Bar Association’s Section on Environment and Energy Resources, he explained that, “agricultural Management is recognized as one of several different areas in resources, environmental law, energy law. I’m in charge of highlighting, mostly on the federal level, all of the developments that are going on in terms of agricultural policy.”

    Jesse also takes pride in his community-level work with growers and entrepreneurs, making sure that they are in compliance with regulations and that they have the transactional infrastructure they need to thrive as businesses and entrepreneurs, particularly when it comes to municipal and zoning regulations, and also raising capital. Working with Farm-to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) for herd share agreements is another area Jesse has experience in, where he helped consumers can get direct access to dairy from ranchers on a more local level.

    Apart from his position on FLFPC’s Board of Directors, Jesse serves a Board member of Ecology Florida and Florida Organic Growers.


    Tom Pellizzetti came to FLFPC while he was working in small farm meats in Florida. Ten years prior, with his background in marketing and sales in consumer products, Tom began doing independent sales activities. At that time, by connecting with growers and customers, it became quickly clear that there was no way to “raise, process and sell cattle in Florida.” He realized that this was because of a lack of infrastructure both with cattle and other foods as well.

    Tom brings to the Board his experience of being in the commercial space. He connects food producers and brands with distributors while maintaining focus in that space, and stays closely tied into the activities on the ground. As a member of FLFPC, he said that he has been able to continue his passions in small farm to local food systems.

    “FLFPC is a great place to participate,” said Tom, “to find voice and pick up on cool ideas.” 

    Tom wants to continue to generate revenue and improve FLFPC’s resources and tools. At the same time, he hopes to monetize and give voice to local food people and have an avenue for every day folks to be involved in the conversation.

    Rachel Shapiro, lives in South East Florida in Palm Beach County. Rachel’s current project is the creation of a Food Hub named “The Feast” in Fort Lauderdale.

    “The Food Hub is all about building bridges and solving challenges within the food system,” said Rachel. “My involvement in the food hub has grown out of my involvement with FLFPC and the other Board members over the past decade.” Rachel notes how she is incorporating the work Anthony has done on the “Good Neighbor Store Initiative” to influence nutrition guidelines, and building on the work Rick has done with LocalEcopia to make it easier for small to midsize producers to get their food to the folks that really want to get it. 

    “We know that the food system is a multi-faceted animal.” Rachel explained that with an uncertain job market, the high failure of food-related businesses, and now with COVID and the new landscape it has created as far as food production, delivery and job loss, the hub is a tool to address these problems.

    “By encouraging entrepreneurship and focusing on services being offered, the hub is offering people another option as far as revenue generating facilities,” she said. Meanwhile, “providing a shared-use kitchen, a demo studio, and food hall, culinary entrepreneurs will be able to get off the ground at lower cost…We also have sourcing guidelines and are creating buying clubs to lower the cost for chefs and support the local farms.” 

    Going forward, Rachel hopes to continue to develop one of the main focuses of FLFPC, which is to bring together residents from around the state and bridge the gaps in the food system together. 


    Christopher Johns, a native Floridian, came from a traditional farming background. His family owns a farm in Hastings, which Chris had managed for a number of years before becoming an attorney in environmental law. He explained that seeing a lot of the environmental issues related to farming was the catalyst that made him want to enter law school.

    “I would notice that the different stakeholders in the groups, such as farmers and environmental non-profits, often didn’t seem to understand each other…Then while I was in law school, I had the chance to intern at the Harvard Food Policy and Law Clinic, which opened my eyes to food policy.”

    Until that point, he had thought of food as agricultural-centric, but when he was introduced to the concept of food systems, that helped him understand the broader context in which agriculture sits—a framework which allowed him to see potential issues with food systems and feeding people that he hadn’t seen before.

    Chris is currently working on two projects that relate to food systems. The first is the Florida Food Policy Toolkit which is going to be an introduction to and overview of the legal and regulatory framework in Florida as it intersects with food systems. It will also be a compendium of information for people who are involved in various areas of food systems in Florida such as production, distribution, community food assessments, etc.

    “With the help of volunteers, are currently compiling this information and are building a database and resources that will become tools for Floridians to use to better understand and advocate for healthier food systems.”

    The second project Chris is working on is a Whitepaper exploring the ways to allow urban agriculture to proliferate and flourish without harming protections that are established for urban agriculture.


    Erica Hall, who took over the role as Chair of the FLFPC 3 months prior, was the last to present.

    “In light of the pandemic, and racial and social injustice, more than ever there is a connection and our work is intersectional,” she began.

    Erica explained that intersectionality—an analytical framework for understanding how aspects of a person's social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege (such as gender, caste, sex, race, class, sexuality, religion, disability, physical appearance, and height)—is a framework that attempts to restructure the ways in which food is distributed, consumed, and produced, impacting the social, racial, cultural, political, economic, and environmental dimensions of food.

    “Thus, a racial and social equity lens should be used in every aspect of each intersection of the work as intersectionality centers social justice from various social locations. And that without the input or understanding of resistance from the people whose experiences of injustices we seek to alleviate, we risk reproducing structures that reinforce oppression through different means.”

    Erica noted that conversations around Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) have to take place in safe places to facilitate change, and that is a priority for the council going forward. “The world needs a food system that delivers healthy, safe and nutritious foods to everybody, everywhere; and ensures a decent income for farmers and food workers, tackles climate change, and protects nature while building a community of practice all while working through a JEDI lens.”

    Working to bridge these gaps, Erica has been collaborating with a number of organizations across the state. She was elected Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee, Sierra Suncoast Group working on the connection between Climate Change, Food Waste, Environmental Justice, and Diversity Equity and Inclusion; appointed by Nikki Fried to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) Food Security Advisory Committee (FSAC), a core group of collaborative, cross-sector thought leaders across the state of Florida working together to create a statewide plan for addressing food security; works on the Executive Committee, Leadership Circle for The North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN); is assisting the chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) with planning their CNU Florida Summit 2021, integrating Racial Equity and Justice into their summit which focuses on human-scaled urban design; presented with the Indian River Food Policy Council to Indian River stakeholders on the need for and the development/expansion of the Indian River Food Policy Council; is submitting expressions of interest to contribute to the textbook Food Studies: Matter, Meaning & Movement; and is a member of the Food Politics Action Team League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area.

    Erica also highlighted FLFPC’s plan to partner with FDACS and other groups to create GIS story maps throughout the State, highlighting social, racial and health disparities and inequities.

    What are the next steps?

    Erica ended her presentation by explaining how intersectionality is all about collaboration. That partnerships are key, and through developing those partnerships with other people and organizations, help in funding will follow.

    “Become leaders in your community. Educate and advocate for yourselves and others. Join groups like ours—the Florida Food Policy Council. Reach out to us and tell us how can we help you reach your goals. Are there ways for us to collaborate and partner?​”

    With the conclusion of the presentations, a number of Board members stayed after to answer questions and discuss ways to collaborate.


    If you would like to contact FLFPC, reach out to us at info@flfpc.org.

    Guest Presenter Information:

    Please visit our Board of Directors and Team About Page for full bios.

    Forum Host: Dell deChant is the Associate Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of South Florida and a member of the Board of Directors at the Florida Food Policy Council.

    Thank you to our sponsors for making this forum possible:

    FHEED provides food systems planning, GIS analysis, advocacy, and education about food systems and healthy communities.

    Contact: Anthony Olivieri, Founder, FHEED LLC

    Website: www.FHEED.com

    J Haskins Law, located in Tampa, empowers communities with the legal and risk management tools they need to exercise food sovereignty. The contact for J Haskins Law is Jesse Haskins.

    Contact: Jesse Haskins, Founder, J Haskins Law

    Website: www.jhaskinslaw.com

    The Florida Food Forum is a free event. To support our work, please consider becoming a member or making a donationFor questions or more information, contact us at: info@flfpc.org

    Disclaimer: The views of the presenters 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.

  • 21 Dec 2020 10:10 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: December Florida Food Forum 

    Community Gardens: What's Been Done, What's Ahead

    If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available to watch online here.  

    To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on Community Gardens: What's Been Done, What's Ahead here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On Friday, December 18th, the Florida Food Forum on "Community Gardens: What’s Been Done, What’s Ahead" featured guest panelists Kitty Wallace, Garden Coordinator of Tampa Heights Community Garden and Co-founder of the Coalition of Community Gardens – Tampa Bay and Judith Gulko, Co-founder and Co-organizer of the Rotary Community Garden and Food Forest of Coral Springs.

    “There is a tremendous interest in community gardens which has accelerated recently due in part to the devastating impact of COVID-19 and the pandemic that is still sweeping the country, which has impacted food security and brought a heightened awareness of the fragility of the industrial food system. It has also inspired many to embrace local food production, led others to network and organize food sovereignty projects, and greatly expanded participation in community gardens,” said Dell deChant, Chair of the Policy Committee and Host of the forum, at the start of the program.

    The first presenter, Judith Gulko, highlighted six of the community gardens in Southeast Florida, their work and the challenges they face.

    The first garden she introduced was the Rotary Community Garden and Food Forest of Coral Springs, which she helped co-found, along with the Rotary Club. Judith explained that unlike some of the other gardens she would introduce, Coral Springs is not a food desert.

    “The Rotary sponsored us with the city so we were set up well from the start,” she said.” But we, volunteers and residents, run the garden.”

    The mission of the garden is, “to teach people how to grow food, to build community, and we are really passionate about bringing in plants that thrive here, providing a healthy ecosystem for plants, people, pollinators and other animals.

    One of the unique features of the garden is that it is in a fenced in area on city land in a park, however it is adjacent to an unfenced food forest. Sometimes this leads to thefts, but Judith says that there is a great amount of donations made as well. Another unique part of the garden is that it houses a memorial for the Parkland shooting and serves as a special place for the community.

    The Fruitful Field was the next highlighted garden. Located in a food desert in Pompano Beach, the mission of the garden is to serve under-privileged populations and educate youth, and is currently run by Chris Reesor.

    The Fruitful Field sits on a church property and is able to donate about 4 tons of food per year. In addition, for every CSA share purchased, an in-kind match is donated.

    With the success of the first garden, a CRA grant was received from the City of Pompano which was used to create a second garden, the Patricia Davis Community Garden, which is stewarded by GrowCity youth. Through the grants, youth are provided paid internships for their work.

    GrowCity fosters hands-on organic gardening, healthy cooking, healthy eating—among its many objectives,” said Judith.

    Similar to The Fruitful Field, the Delray Beach Children’s Garden is also located on church grounds. However, with its prime location in downtown Delray Beach, one of the challenges is the increasing amount they pay to rent the land.

    Cofounded by Shelly Zacks and Jeannie Fernsworth, Christina Nicodemo is Director of this unique garden. What makes this garden different, is that it was designed by children with permaculture principles and includes a secret garden for kids only.

    The mission of this garden is eco-consciousness in children’s garden education; adventure education and play; and they follow the Olmstead Quaker principles of having areas for organizing, greeting, gathering and meeting. The garden also services 50 homeschool children with weekly classes, and 25 “Mommy and Me” classes. Through its various service projects, grants and donations, the garden has been able to survive.

    The Lauderdale Lakes Community Garden, located in a food desert, is run by Beverly Williams, who is the founder and now Vice Mayor.

    “For many of our gardens,” Judith said, “development is always the monster that we are dealing with.”

    As the native soil is contaminated, the gardens use raised beds and concrete blocks and can be moved, which is part of its design. The garden offers low-cost box rentals, they teach organic gardening skills, and feed an Alzheimer’s Daycare with the fresh nutritious foods they grow. There is also a children’s garden nearby.

    The next garden Judith introduced is a lesson in resilience. Highland Gardens Community Garden which was located in Hollywood from about 2008 to 2018 was founded by Maria Jackson Ratliff, with help from Adriana Algieri. The garden was managed until the land was sold to a developer, then part of the garden was relocated to a private school in Hollywood.

    Recently, they began the East Hollywood Food Yard project which develops food yards and a new space for kids on diversion has been created as well.

    Miramar Community Garden, one of the oldest in the area, was last garden Judith highlighted. Run by Rita Brown, the garden is located in a city park.

    The garden is all organic, sustainable, and environmentally friendly, and was the first demonstration of a “micro-farming system” in Broward County.

    The mission of the garden is to create a network of healthy food sources of naturally grown vegetables and fruits, a social network for garden volunteers to learn about the urban agricultural industry and the opportunity for vocational training.

    Judith finished her presentation by acknowledging her partners Jackie ida and Satya Rudin.

    The next presentation was given by Kitty Wallace, who began her talk by introducing her background and the history of community gardens in Florida.

    After co-founding and managing the Tampa Heights Community Garden for 10 years, Kitty then co-founded the Coalition of Community Gardens, Inc., a network of community gardens dedicated to supporting the success of community gardening. Working closely with her partner Lena Young Green, Kitty has seen a transformation in the state of community gardens in Florida.

    “In the 1970s, due to the energy crisis, there was a resurgence of victory gardens in the State. Then in the 1990s, the American Community Garden Association performed a survey and found that Sarasota was the only city in Florida that was found to have a community garden at that time. Into the 2000’s, with additional interest in environment, health and community, interest in gardening has increased,” Kitty explained. “You can see where we've come from the 1990s with one city with garden.”

    What is a community garden?

    “A community garden is a single piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people,” Kitty said. “There are many ways to organize a community garden, as many ways as people who get together who have an idea of how they want to do their garden—led by their children, led by others in the community, but where are we now?” 

    At the federal level, Kitty notes that there is now an Office of Urban Agriculture. Established through the 2018 Farm Bill, its mission is to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural practices, including community composting and food waste reduction.

    Why is urban agriculture important today?

    “As we’ve seen what’s happened to us since March, we see a fragile food system in place. There are flaws, there are gaps, there are components that break down, there is an impact in food production, and even meat processing plants being affected. So, everyone is keenly aware of this food system fragility,” Kitty said. “So, we turn to solutions such as improving local production and increasing access to fresh nutritious produce for the health of community and the health of the environment.”

    Kitty noted that according to research on successful community gardens by Dr. Joseph England at USF, there are three main things that contribute to a garden being successful:

    1. The people feel very valued about the produce they are growing

    2. The people feel important about the meaningfulness of donating to others

    3. The celebrations that happen in the garden are important to the success of the garden.

    As for research on failed community gardens Kitty said, “Everyone knows this; drop a garden where no one wants it and it will fail! So, it’s important to have everyone in the community being a part of the development of the garden, setting the goals, planning the garden, and supporting the garden.”

    What is ahead?

    “Community gardens can play an important role in improving local production and distribution at the local level. So, I’m suggesting that you look at your local area, and see how you can help strengthen local government support for community gardening.”

    As for policy, Kitty performed research on several of the cities throughout the state, and found there are a wide range of policies in each municipality.

    “From the state level, the State of Florida supports front yard gardening—that infamous bill that was passed that disallowed home rule. Individual municipalities cannot ban front yard gardens because of this state rule. But what is key for the growth of community gardens is that there is support from the local municipality.”

    Although gardens play an important role individually filling local production gaps, Kitty said that the best strategy to accomplish a goal is to form a network of community gardens because more food can be produced and better distribution can be planned.

    What can you do?

    “I’m advocating that people pay attention to what the food insecurity figures are near you,” Kitty said. The USDA identifies census tracks as Food Deserts: low-income census tracts with a substantial number of residents with low levels of access to retail outlets selling healthy and affordable foods are defined as food deserts. And there is a Food Desert Locator where you can find out if you are within a couple of miles of a food desert or are you in a food desert.”

    By knowing where the food deserts are, you can then advocate for local policies that support community gardens in those areas. Looking at other cities that have well-thought-out policies and procedures for supporting community gardens is a great way to get started.

    Kitty gave some examples of good, well-defined policies that support community gardening are those in:  

    1. St. Petersburg

    2. Ft. Lauderdale 

    3. Orlando

    Making connections with your extension office, with your universities, and with your local government are other ways to get involved.

    Kitty continued her presentation by showing some of her research on community gardens located in different cities across Florida, highlighting some of the policies and procedures that support them. She also went into detail about community gardens found specifically in Hillsborough county, their history, challenges and successes. Then explained some of the important developments and projects that are being spearheaded to strengthen community gardens in the area.

    After two illuminating presentations, the forum opened up for questions.


    Rotary Community Garden and Food Forest of Coral Springs Website

    Florida Permaculture Convergence Facebook Page

    Coalition of Community Gardens Website

    Guest Presenter Information:

    Bio: Judith Gulko is an ecological edible landscape designer and Co-founder and Co-organizer of the Rotary Community Garden and Food Forest of Coral Springs. She is also Co-founder of the Florida Permaculture Convergence. As well, Dr. Gulko is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Coral Springs, specializing in working with people recovering from trauma.

    Bio: Kitty Wallace, retired educator, is past President of the Tampa Garden Club. She is Garden Coordinator of Tampa Heights Community Garden, which was named best community garden in the state by the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs. She is Co-founder of the Coalition of Community Gardens — Tampa Bay. She was named "Inspired Gardener" by the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs for her work with community gardens.

    Forum Host: Dell deChant is the Associate Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of South Florida and a member of the Board of Directors at the Florida Food Policy Council.

    Thank you to our sponsors for making this forum possible:

    FHEED provides food systems planning, GIS analysis, advocacy, and education about food systems and healthy communities.

    Contact: Anthony Olivieri, Founder, FHEED LLC

    Website: www.FHEED.com

    J Haskins Law, located in Tampa, empowers communities with the legal and risk management tools they need to exercise food sovereignty. The contact for J Haskins Law is Jesse Haskins.

    Contact: Jesse Haskins, Founder, J Haskins Law

    Website: www.jhaskinslaw.com

    The Florida Food Forum is a free event. To support our work, please consider becoming a member or making a donationFor questions or more information, contact us at: info@flfpc.org

    Disclaimer: The views of the presenters 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.

  • 22 Nov 2020 7:02 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: November Florida Food Forum
    Black Farmers Matter

    If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available to watch online here.  

    To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on Black Farmers Matter here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On Friday, November 20th, the Florida Food Forum on "Black Farmers Matter" featured guest panelists: Tanikka Watford Williams, Executive Director of The Moore Wright Group, Angelique Taylor and David “Kip” Ritchey, Owners of Smarter By Nature LLC, and Carla Bristol, Collaboration Manager at St. Petersburg Youth Farm. Incoming Chair of the Florida Food Policy Council, Erica Hall, moderated the event.

    The first presenter was Tanikka Watford Williams, who began her presentation by explaining the mission of the Moore Wright Group and her background.

    “The Moore Wright Group (TMWG) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Our mission is to break the cycle of poverty, abuse, and abandonment in the community by providing hope. Our vision is to create communities where everyone can thrive.”

    Tanikka explained how she was the daughter of Black farmers, and that they had instilled in her the importance of, “community, our food system, and of us.”  Thus, it was important that the Moore Wright Group was founded with the principles of helping people thrive.

    “I am also the granddaughter of a sharecropper,” said Tanikka, “a sharecropper from North Carolina. My grandmother also had a small, what she called “garden” that was 20 acres that helped instill in me the importance of growing your food, helping your community with that food, and how education and everything around us can help us grow.”

    Tanikka’s later experience starting and owning a produce distribution company helped her learned about the many holes and issues that existed within the system and she began to work with other organizations to bridge those gaps. “I recognized that a lot of food that was coming to our facility, wasn’t coming from Black farmers. We learned that a lot of things around us, didn’t allow for our farmers to be able to thrive.”

    Tanikka explained that currently Black farmers make up 1.2% of all farmers, 1% of all Ag sales, and that the average age of Black farmers is 61 years old, however, the average age of all other farmers is 54 to 57. “So, the difference in those years creates a lot of different issues for our producers and our processors, which also adds into our Ag sales.

    Another problem is that only 62% of Black farmers have access to Internet. “That limits access to our farmers for information and resources. Especially in times like now when we’re all virtual. This leaves our farmers to a very much so disadvantage that also doesn’t help our farmers to be able to increase sales and access the avenues to increase those sales.”

    History Leads to Understanding

    “A lot of people don’t know the history of how some of our extension services in the USDA were formed,” Tanikka said. She explained about the history of George Washington Carver who went to Tuskegee, Alabama, and came up with a revolutionary way of helping farmers.

    “He had the idea of beginning educating and thought, how do we get our farmers the information they need to be able to produce more, have crops on consistent rotation, and how to actually help our farmers not just to be consumers but to be producers and to supply to consumers? So, the idea of a moveable school came about.”

    Tanikka said that the reason she presents this story is because it helps set a framework for a lot of the mechanisms that help farmers be better producers through the USDA in their farm programs. Yet, even now, a lot of those services do not touch and help the people they were set up to be able to help.

    One example that discusses a failure of the USDA is Pigford v. Glickman. This was a class action lawsuit against the USDA, citing racial discrimination against African-American farmers in its allocation of farm loans and assistance between 1981 and 1996.

    “A lot of people have conversations about Pigford, and they want to say that Pigford existed to be able to help farmers now. That information is incorrect. Pigford was set up to right the wrongs of the past.” Tanikka explained. “Oftentimes Black farmers were not given loans; according to the actual lawsuit it said that Black farmers loans were processed 3 times slower than any other racial makeup. And also, a lot of the loans that were given, farmers didn’t actually know that they had those loans. So, then the USDA would come back and say that they had defaulted on their loan and then take the land. So, this money was to right the wrongs…So I like to talk about that because often the conversation is ‘Why doesn’t that create change now?’ and ‘How does that not set Black farmers up for a part of the platform right now?’”

    The Justice for Black Farmers Act

    Tanikka mentioned one piece of legislation that is currently going through Congress: the Justice for Black Farmers Act. “A lot of components of this act also help with some of the gaps with the land being stolen and access to education and a lot of different component. Will this speak to everything, no, but the point of it is to be able to help so that we have access to land and to be able to grow and to be able to help our farmers to succeed.”

    The second presentation was given by Angelique Taylor and David “Kip” Ritchey, who started with an introduction about their reason for farming and starting Smarter By Nature.

    “We are a small-scale regenerative farm located in Quincy, Florida, and our mission is to facilitate sustainable relationships between people and the natural environment by providing fresh food and education to the local community,” said Angelique.

    Located in a food desert, Angelique and Kip decided to start their business in 2017 to address the lack of fresh food in our community. “We wanted to be an asset to our community by learning different growing methods that would not only feed people but also restore the natural environment. We grow for our farmers market and we are also certified permaculture designers so we use different growing methods that would help feed the soil as well as grow healthy plants.”

    Agriculture is Changing

    Kip explained that agriculture as a whole is changing. “One of the things about agriculture is the excessive use of chemical fertilizers and the continuous tilling which is a practice that’s been going on since the industrial era of agriculture…As regenerative farmers we look at these current issues and we face them head on with our own practices of no-tilling and the use of natural and organic fertilizers and pesticides.”

    A lot of young farmers are at the forefront of addressing these issues in food production. “This is why permaculture, regenerative farming, and sustainability, these words are becoming new trends but they are something that is a huge necessity for our space—not only to think about food for your community, but to think about healing the earth in the process,” Kip said.

    Kip noted that on their farm they like to use cover crops. “People talk about this, like Tanikka said, George Washington Carver helped establish the use of cover crops in the large-scale agriculture, but it’s been something that’s been veered away from that we’re just getting back to.”

    Serving the Community

    Angelique and Kip founded Smarter by Nature in 2017 and currently service the Tallahassee community. Angelique has a background in Environmental Science and her passion for growing came from a love for the environment and wanting to help restore and protect sustainable systems for the future generations to enjoy. Kip’s background in Sociology and agreement with Angelique’s thinking about the earth and about food systems motivated them to create Smarter by Nature.

    Although their farm is 5 acres, they are currently cultivating 1 acre of space and engaging with the surrounding community both in person and online. “We have volunteers come out every Friday and Sunday from 9 to 11am, and they get hands on experience in terms of what we do,” said Kip. “We are learning every day. One of the values that we bring to our online audience is that we share our mistakes that we make along the way, and we share the lessons that we learn, not just the good food that we grow, but we show our challenges. This is something that we think is highly important today is to demystify the agriculture sector and to make it something that is accessible for people,” Kip noted.

    Angelique added, “We also look to inspire others to start growing where they are, because you can be regenerative gardeners on a small-scale and up to a large-scale. There are different practices that can be adopted by anyone and really everyone across the world. So, what we do is share our experience and just share our journey.”

    Improving through Policy

    “I would say that one of our biggest challenges that we face is access to equipment and infrastructure,” Kip said. “When we started our business, we started it urban gardening in smaller spaces but we decided that we wanted to grow more food to help feed our food desert here in Tallahassee.”

    When it comes to policy, there were two types of legislation that they would like to see implemented. “We believe that there should be a mandatory class on food education from elementary to high school. Food is such an underrated core aspect of culture. It’s something that everyone has to engage in all the time. And we need new entrepreneurs. Food is so vast and it’s not only just farming, it’s also processing goods as well. It can happen on a small-scale and on a large-scale. And I think that just how we study math, science, reading and writing, agriculture should be a core part taught in institutions,” Kip explained.

    The second policy recommendation was that at least 20% of food used in institutions be purchased from local farmers within a 200 miles radius of the given institution. “There is a huge disconnect between institutions and communities. We live in Tallahassee, we have Florida State (FSU) and FAMU, two huge institutions with over 20,000 students but they have no idea about what’s going on in the community around them. So, to be able to say that the food served at the institution comes from farmers in that area, and for any given city, we think that would be a huge step towards progressing in the food system.”

    From there, Carla Bristol introduced her background and current projects working with the St. Petersburg Youth Farm.

    “Unlike the previous panelists I was born in South America, in Guyana, grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and moved to St. Petersburg in 1996. When I got into this work, I said at best I am not a gardener, but I know that I can lift and provide visibility and to this space and to this conversation,” said Carla.

    The St. Petersburg Youth Farm program was established in 2019 with the goal of addressing the issue of food scarcity in the South St. Petersburg area. Another goal of the program was to create economic workforce development for youth. So, all of the youth participants are paid a salary. In fact, in the last 17 months, the program has hired over 35 young people.

    The program does a lot more than teach about growing food. Carla explains, “For youth development, which includes everything from character building, we teach Black history, we teach entrepreneurship, a heavy focus on leadership, but I would be remised if I didn’t say that one of the things that we also focus on and that we put as a cornerstone and a priority is mental wellness. Especially with everything that’s happening today, we were sharp in being able to pivot to online. But the beauty of it is that we also grow food.” 

    Carla continued, “One of the things that we didn't want to do was to just indoctrinate knowledge to our young people but actually have them experience how to build this, and how to understand and respect the soil we are growing in.

    The site that the program was assigned is located behind a community center that is right in the heart of what is known as Midtown in St Petersburg. “This .83 acres of land for us to grow food on, we are now past the soil remediation phase, we are past the tree removal phase, and now we are going into full-scale “Let's start building our soil!”

    The program will be erecting a greenhouse that will grow microgreens and with the support of a grant from the Ford Foundation partnered with USF, they will soon be growing hydroponically. 

    Eventually, Carla said that the farm location will be a space for not only growing, but education, which will include workshops and classes, and more importantly, it will become a space for the community.

    Changes in Local Policy

    “Initially when this program began, we would not have been able to sell at the farm location. We would have had to grow the food and we could literally sell at the parking lot next door at the rec center. And some of the policies in our city that are shifting are going to allow us to be able to sell on site at the farm,” said Carla. 

    “Part of what we're focused on right now is actually a huge effort and community survey. It's a big effort to find out what kind of things the community like would like. What are you buying and what do you wish that you could afford to buy? The effort with the greenhouse, 30% of what we grow in the greenhouse will be donated back to the community efforts.” 

    A policy that would enable the residents, community gardens and farm spaces to sell food where they grow would indeed have an impact on this project.

    Carla also noted that increasing healthy foods in the corner stores in the area where people already shop would also have a great impact on the local community.  

    Erica Hall wrapped up the presentation portion of the forum by explaining why this topic was chosen and why it is important to discuss.

    “As a food policy council, and as a statewide food policy council, one of our roles is to address gaps in the food system, and one of the gaps that we identified was this,” Erica explained.

    Erica provided a number of resources for further research and understanding of the topic, and explained what people can do to be more involved.

    With the conclusion of the presentations, the forum opened up for a lively question and answer session. Attendees were left with a greater understanding of the topic and impactful policies that could bring positive changes to the food system.

    Panelist Information: 

    Tanikka Watford Williams has a heart for the community and a love of supply chains and is an advocate for survivors of abuse, and black and brown farmers. Tanikka formed the first African American woman owned produce Distribution Company, as well as a small batch co-packing company. She has worked in wholesale and retail distribution for over 18 years; her experience includes developing markets, logistics center development, distribution center planning, perishable processing, HACCP, and cooperative buying opportunities in urban and rural areas to increase access to healthy and affordable foods, and resources for all community members. She is the creator of National Black Agriculture Awareness Week that got started in July of 2011. She has been recognized as a local hero in the 2012 April Edition of “O” Magazine and has also graced the pages of Family Circle Magazine, Grio, Washington Express, Wall Street Journal, Afro Magazine, ABC News, and the News and Times. In 2010 Tanikka, has had the honor of being recognized by the White House, United Nations, Let's Move!, the US Department of Agriculture, US Health and Human Services, DC Department of Health, and the Metro Washington Public Health Association for her works in communities. She has served on various policy and community councils and has been very active in advocacy and policy work on the east coast and west coast. She has served on councils Co-Chair and the Commerce Chair of the Live Well DC Community Coalition, as well as the Co-Chair of the DC Cancer Policy Taskforce Advisor, and the White House Let’s Move Community Coalition. She has been recognized as a woman of Achievement by the YWCA, and Leader of Excellence by the Urban League. Tanikka has taught classes ranging from Domestic Violence signs to Supply chain Systems Development. Tanikka Watford Williams is the Executive Director of The Moore Wright Group and works daily to put an end to abuse and the cycle of abuse, and be a resource for the community. Since COVID-19 the Moore Wright Group has impacted over 500,000 families nationwide. Tanikka is a wife, and mother of 7, 4 by birth amazing children ages 21, 18, 16, 13, 12, 11, and 10, and is an ordained Pastor.

    Angelique Taylor and David “Kip” Ritchey are regenerative small-scale farmers who own Smarter By Nature LLC. Angelique and David are certified permaculture designers with a background in environmental science and sociology. Smarter by Nature LLC facilitates sustainable relationships between people and the natural environment by providing fresh food and education to the local community. In December 2017, Smarter by Nature LLC was founded as a means to address the issue of lack of fresh locally grown food in underserved communities. They strive to provide access to affordable quality produce and opportunities for economic sustainability through education, as well as restore the natural environment in the process. 

    Sustainability is the guiding principle for how they cultivate diversity on their farm, which strengthens the health of the soil, leading to better quality food. They learned from farmers across the world and built their system using practices that align with their ethics of environmental stewardship. Their growing system is based on a combination of sustainable principles and methods which are used to grow seasonal annual vegetables and perennial plants. Through regenerative agriculture practices, Smarter By Nature aims to provide healthy produce as well as share the knowledge of growing food to their local and online community.

    Carla Bristol is the Collaboration Manager at St. Petersburg Youth Farm and the small business owner/gallerist of Gallerie 909.  She's a local community advocate with extensive global sales experience. Born in Guyana her family moved to the United States when she was 11 years old. She relocated to Florida from New York in 1996. She's birth mother to two but community mother to dozens of young people in the community. The work of elevating Youth Voices in the food equity conversation has been her commitment over the past 18 months. Youth to the delight of our community are now writing editorials for The Weekly Challenger Newspaper. They have created a project for feeding the houseless population in St. Petersburg with kindness message bags and are inspiring so many others. The program has been featured in the news, on television program and you can learn more about this program at www.stpeteyouthfarm.org.

    Forum Host: 

    Erica Hall is the incoming Chair of the Florida Food Policy Council and is a community development professional.

    Thank you to our sponsors for making this forum possible:

    FHEED provides food systems planning, GIS analysis, advocacy, and education about food systems and healthy communities.

    Contact: Anthony Olivieri, Founder, FHEED LLC

    Website: www.FHEED.com

    J Haskins Law, located in Tampa, empowers communities with the legal and risk management tools they need to exercise food sovereignty. The contact for J Haskins Law is Jesse Haskins.

    Contact: Jesse Haskins, Founder, J Haskins Law

    Website: www.jhaskinslaw.com

    The Florida Food Forum is a free event. To support our work, please consider becoming a member or making a donation. For questions or more information, contact us at: info@flfpc.org

    Disclaimer: The views of the presenters 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 Nov 2020 7:45 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: October Florida Food Forum

    The National Farm Bill: What it Means to Florida’s Food System

    If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available to watch online here.  

    To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on The National Farm Bill: What it Means to Florida’s Food System here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On October 30th, the Florida Food Forum on the topic of The National Farm Bill: What it Means to Florida’s Food System was led by guest presenter Mikhail Scott, Strategic Partnerships Coordinator with the Florida Department of Agriculture – Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness.

    Mikhail began his presentation by introducing the Florida Department of Agriculture and the programs that the Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness oversee.

    Within the Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness, we actually conduct, supervise, and administer Child Nutrition Programs, Commodity Food Distribution Programs, and also many other assistance and benefits programs, while also providing outreach, guidance, training and a lot of other resources to students, parents, teachers and the like. So, what we are doing here is really trying to be impactful and touch as many communities as possible with the work we do in the department.”

    Mikhail noted four major programs managed by the division that play an important role in Florida's local food system: The National School Lunch Program, the Summer Food Service Program or Summer BreakSpot, the Emergency Food Program known as The Emergency Food Assistance Program or (TEFAP), and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. 

    The National School Lunch Program, which is a federally assisted meal  program, is operated in both public and nonprofit schools across the state of Florida, as well as in residential child care institutions. The program provides nutritious meals to students, which often results in enhanced academic performance from students.

    “Another great part about the program is that it improves students’ understanding and generally their intake of fruits and vegetables, which we know is good for just general overall health and wellness,” he added.   

    As many students across Florida depend on these meals as their sole source of food during the weekdays, Mikhail notes the importance of this program.

    “Especially after Covid-19 and seeing what happened with school closures, I think it is more evident than ever before, how important programs like the National School Lunch Program are in many children's lives across the state.” 

    The Summer Food Service Program or Summer BreakSpot, offers nutritious meals at no cost to children 18 years and under throughout the entire state during the summer months of the year, helping kids who might otherwise miss out on meals.

    “We operate this program generally in schools and nonprofit organizations. Oftentimes, we might collaborate with government entities, so we will be at parks and local community centers, and we really try to make sure that we are finding and identifying those local communities where those gaps are.”

    Notably, participating organizations in this program are eligible for reimbursements on money that they spend on the program.  

    “We know that is going to be very important for some of these low-income communities where folks might not have the resources or might not have the funding to actually support some of these programs. So, they actually have the opportunity to have that money reinvested or redirected back to their organization,” Mikhail emphasized.

    The next program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program known as TEFAP in Florida, is a UDSA program that the division oversees, which allows for the distribution of high-quality nutritious foods to low-income households.

    “When we are talking about low-income households, we are talking about families that might be anywhere from 130% to 180% of the federal poverty level. And what we are able to do is we partner with regional food banks across the State of Florida who then work with local nonprofits, faith-based organizations, food pantries, soup kitchens, and the like, and we are able to distribute those foods to folks that are really in need for them,” explains Mikhail. “And obviously with the pandemic and the economic challenges that we have seen over the last few months with COVID, there has been a huge increase in the need for these types of resources. Some of our food bank partners are even telling us that their demand has gone up at some places, in some regions, over 100%. So, it's really important to understand that programs like the Emergency Food Assistance Program have a real significant impact on our local food systems and obviously in our communities of need.”

    The final program discussed was the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which focuses on individuals who are 60 years or older, and who are typically on a reduced or fixed income. This program provides monthly food distribution and information about how they can use the foods, as well as and ensuring that they are, “diet sensitive, low sodium and nutritious meals.”

    From there, Mikhail moved on to a brief overview of the Farm Bill and its history.

    “When we think about the history of the Farm Bill, it was actually originally created by Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression back in 1933. When this bill was created, it had a few very small objectives at that time, which were specifically focused more so towards the farmers and farming community” he explained. “What they were aiming to do was provide financial assistance to farmers who were struggling economically due to high crop supply and low prices.”

    By raising the price of farm goods and controlling the actual food supply itself, farmers saw their economic income level and the actual amount of food supply that was in the country stabilize. Yet, the original Farm Bill in 1933, came at a very different time than now.

    “Once we look at how the legislation was actually transitioned to today, we will see that it is actually a lot different and much larger than it was in 1933,” Mikhail said. “Right now, we are dealing with the recession and Covid-19, but we are talking about the Great Depression. The country had recently undergone something called the “Dust Bowl,” which was a several-year drought which struck the Southern and Great Plains region that exacerbated financial hardships for farmers and really created a bad food situation for our nation. In action, that legislation authorized the government to essentially pay these farmers not to grow too much food; and so, this would help to stabilize prices, lower the commodities that were actually on the market like corn, wheat, and rice, and when the supply of those goods went down, this really helped to bring the prices up for farmers.”

    The shift in the Farm Bill over the years has been great. Today, the Farm Bill is classified as an “omnibus bill,” which packages many smaller pieces of legislation and smaller programs into one major bill. In the case of the Farm Bill, it has to be reauthorized every 5 years.

    “In 2008, which was the most recently authorized farm bill, it cost $867 billion to authorize. That’s anywhere from about $100 to $150 plus billion annually of a price tag on that program. It really goes to show how much funding is going into this program to make sure that the food system is sustained.” 

    Although are numerous components of the Farm Bill at large, Mikhail spoke on what he believes are three components that are most impactful to the food system: the support for farmers, financial assistance for low-income consumers, and support for economic protections related to the agricultural industry. 

    Out of the funding that the Farm Bill provides, around 80% goes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, which is essentially a safety net for low-income families that provides a monthly benefit for food purchases depending on factors such as on household income, family size, employment status, and other qualifications.

    “That gives you an idea of the necessary need and the amount of benefits that are needed to actually support some of the folks that are in the country that might have as much or as much access to the same resources as others,” said Mikhail.

    With the large-scale layoffs and economic struggle due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SNAP and other Coronavirus relief efforts like the CARES Act and Pandemic EBT, have been a life-saver for many. The authorization to use SNAP online was especially a big change for food access in Florida and in many states around the nation.

    Although SNAP benefits are a large portion of the Farm Bill, farmers still receive support from two main components of the bill: farm subsidies and crop insurance.

    “Essentially, farm subsidies are governmental incentives that are paid to agribusiness, to agricultural organizations, and to farming families, large and small, that supplement their income,” Mikhail explained. “Those farm subsidies however, have experienced a little bit of criticism over the years from certain people who might be in opposition. This could be in part because sometimes subsidies are only applied to specific commodities, some of which are not necessarily made for human consumption.”

    Some examples of these crops are corn for ethanol fuel, wheat for feed for livestock, cotton and other commodities that aren’t consumed.

    “So this has often led to some of these larger farms and larger farming entities, to get these subsidies over smaller family farms who either can't produce those commodities at the same amount or they just don't grow that type of food because they are growing specialty crops like fruits and vegetables, which, unfortunately, are not covered in the Farm Bill for any type of subsidy program.” 

    The second component for farmer protections is crop insurance.

    “Essentially, it is an insurance policy that is subsidized by federal crop insurance programs,” said Mikhail, “Typically what will happen with that is the USDA Risk Management Agency will subsidize those insurance payments and those expenses, so they will take a portion of the company's administrative and operational expenses. They kind of share the underwriting gains and losses with the company.”  

    Mikhail emphasized that both of these components are extremely important for our food system to ensure that food is produced and goes to feeding our nation. 

    “If some of these policies weren't in place, we might have farmers reconsidering the amount of volume of crops that they actually want to grow, or farmers reconsidering that farming operation altogether. It’s important to remember that although a lot of that money is going to consumers that are really needing help, our farmers are also a very vulnerable population these days as it relates to the agricultural industry, and it's important to have those protections in place for them as well.”

    When it comes to the future of the Farm Bill, Mikhail was hopeful that as new legislation is developed, policymakers recognize the importance of protecting the environment and supporting conservation and environmental protections. As for what will actually end up in the bill, that remains to be seen.

    “If anybody has followed or knows a lot about the Farm Bill, sometimes these negotiations go smoothly and other times they lag on and actually lapse and have to be amended and are not actually reauthorized. The current Farm Bill that I mentioned that was authorized in 2018, is going to be valid through 2023. So, we shouldn't expect any significant change to the policy until we get a little bit closer to that 2023 deadline.”  

    However, for those interested in advocating for change, Mikhail did have some advice.

    "When it relates to larger agricultural policy or larger agricultural policy at large, it’s really easy for people to feel like they don’t have a voice or they don’t have a say in it. But, I want to encourage you all to look more into it, to better understand some of the nuances of this program and some of the nuances of this legislation, so that way you can understand if it affects the people you care about or if it affects different programs or initiatives that you care about, and then find ways to impact it on a local level.”

    He added, “It's really important that you all continue to stay vigilant, continue to stay very active, understanding that your voice matters. And at this point, the best way for any of us to be advocates is starting in the voting booth...You can be in the driver's seat as well, if you just stand up and let your voice be heard.” 

    The presentation was followed by a rich question and answer session.

    If you would like to contact Mikhail, send him an email at: Mikhail.Scott@FDACS.gov


    Florida Department of Agriculture

    Florida Department of Agriculture – Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness

    Farm Bill Grant Programs: 



    Bio: Mikhail A. Scott serves as the Strategic Partnerships Coordinator with the Florida Department of Agriculture – Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness, under Commissioner Nikki Fried. He is responsible for organizing the Department’s efforts related to healthy food access and developing and managing statewide partnerships that support improved food security in Florida. Mikhail has experience in multiple levels of government, having served in both the US House of Representative and the Florida House of Representatives in legislative roles. He has gained an intimate understanding of state policy and built strong relationships with lawmakers and community leaders across the state. He earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Relations from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, where he currently resides.

    Forum Host: Dell deChant is the Associate Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of South Florida and a member of the Board of Directors at the Florida Food Policy Council.

    The Florida Food Forum is a free event. To support our work, please consider becoming a member or making a donation. For questions or more information, contact us at: info@flfpc.org

    Disclaimer: The views of the presenters 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 Sep 2020 5:00 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: September Florida Food Forum 

    Community Organizing and the Food System

    If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available to watch online here.  

    To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on Community Organizing and the Food System here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On September 25th, the September Florida Food Forum on Community Organizing and the Food System featured guest speakers: Monica Petrella, Food System Program Coordinator for Hillsborough County and Wilson Perez, Farmworker Staff Member with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), with interpreter Uriel Zelaya-Perez, National Faith Co-coordinator for the Alliance for Fair Food.

    “Community organizing is vital, not just for projects related to the food system, but for any undertaking that requires community support and community. Everything from social justice work to political action to ecological restoration to caring for economically dissipated families, these and literally countless other endeavors rely on community organizing to be successful,” Dell deChant, Chair of the Policy Committee and Host of the forum, noted at the start of the program.

    The first presenter was Monica Petrella, who began her presentation by defining how she sees organizing and community food systems.

    “Organizing is the process of mobilizing several or many independent entities to accomplish an established unified goal, while a community food system is a conglomerate of activities, enterprises, organizations, individuals, and more that balance community well-being with agricultural production, nutrition, and food entrepreneurship.”

    “If you can imagine a see-saw, on one side you have community well-being, on the other side you have these three: agricultural production, nutrition and food entrepreneurship," Monica said. "In the community system, those activities, enterprises, organizations, and individuals, are all working on different manifestations that are balancing community well-being with this production, nutrition and entrepreneurship aspect.”

    Many of the ways in which the previous activities materialize within community food systems are community gardens, cooking classes, food banks, commercial kitchens, farmers markets, community supported agriculture, new and beginner farmer trainings, conservation and environmental stewardship, regenerative agriculture and permaculture, increase in small and mid-size farming, decrease in food insecurity, farm to table dinners, and agri-tourism.

    Yet, as every community is its own, Monica explained that it is important for individuals to define what their community is like. To do this, they must establish what is valued as a community by identifying common denominators such as environmental justice, nutrition disparities, and economic development, and by asking questions such as “Why are we doing this hard work?” or “Why are we trying to re-establish a food system or change someone’s nutrition?”

    “The faster we can find those common denominators, the faster that we can coalesce around a common unified goal,” she said.

    How do we do that?

    Monica described how using both theory and practice is the best to move forward in organizing.

    “Theory is really important because a lot of times when you think of an idea, it has probably already been thought of. Especially when it comes to food and agriculture—one of the most ancient practices. So, oftentimes, it's probably not being done here, which is why it's a new idea to you. But, there might be another person or another place that is doing this work. So, we should go out and find what they're doing and how they're doing it.”

    Monica recommended first researching best practices and models then tapping into local agencies and institutions to better understand their research and data.

    “We here in Tampa have both the University of Tampa and the University of South Florida, these incredible research institutions. I’ve been to events where I’ve listened to USF researchers talk about data that they had collected locally and it was brand new to me, and I’ve been very ingrained in this work and this scene; and it’s on me to make sure that I am staying up to date on what these researchers are doing and the information they are finding.”

    Putting effort into learning vocabulary and understanding what differentiates them from common or mainstream teams was another important part of theory Monica described.

    “So really, just understanding what we are talking about and getting everybody on the same page when we say ‘regenerative’ or when we say ‘sustainable.’ When we say different words, what do we mean and are we all okay with the definition?”

    The last important action was to continue staying up-to-date on the issues and researching through attending workshops, speaker series, and conferences.

    As for practice, getting out in the dirt and collect data were the two main aspects Monica highlighted. From there, other areas include: experimenting with various models, trying new things, learning from mistakes, setting realistic boundaries, and examining strengths and weaknesses.

    What are some organizing models?

    “The work that motivates me and kind of guides what I do is the Collective Impact Model,” Monica said. "Within this model there are five organizational components that help to successfully create a social paradigm shift: common agenda, shared measurement, mutually reinforced activity, continuous communication, and backbone support organization."

    Monica noted that the last component, backbone support organization, is what she is most closely involved with in her work. Things such as making sure that people have a place to come together, have the ability to share resources, checking to see if people are attending meetings, and making sure that the areas keep advancing. It mainly requires making sure that the other four areas in the model are being accomplished.

    Social Capital is another important model which Monica describes as the “resource of relationships.” As an intangible resource, as opposed to financial, physical or environmental capital, this model is measured by the aggregate of trust, reciprocity and cohesiveness amongst community members.

    By using both of these models together, communities can begin to create a strong unified coalition of people. How that is done is by individuals coming together to brainstorm and forming a collective goal and shared metrics, then designing solutions tailored to their community, but modeled after best practices.

    “That process is going to take a lot of giving and trying, rough drafts, and people coming in and putting in a lot of work. Attending a meeting and then going home isn’t enough. There is a lot of work to be done, and the more people we can divide it by, the easier it will be individually. And there is so much work to be done that anything you have to contribute, that’s enough.”   

    The second speaker, Wilson Perez, with interpreter Uriel Zelaya-Perez, began his presentation by discussing his background and work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

    CIW is a farmworker human rights organization that has been focused, over the last 25 years, on how to eliminate systemic abuses in the agricultural industry in the Immokalee community. After many years of working in the fields for the agricultural industry, Wilson currently works as an organizer addressing the issues that the community in Immokalee faces.

    “When we talk about the conditions that the farmworkers face, or have faced historically, we are talking about things such as sub-poverty wages for farmworkers or for farm labor, abusive conditions such as wage theft that are very rampant in the agricultural industry, things like verbal or physical abuse that is sort of a daily bread for farmworkers in the industry as well.”

    Wilson also noted that although farm work does employ a diverse workforce, it is mostly done by migrants. Within that group of workers, women are the minority and are often faced with rampant abuse in the form of sexual or gender-based violence. Furthermore, one of the most extreme forms of abuse agricultural workers experience is a form of modern-day slavery. With this context, CIW began to ask farm workers what could be done to address these problems.

    When the coalition first started organizing, the main target was to begin a dialogue with large-scale growers and farmer owners, advocating for the elimination of these abuses and also for a wage increase which had been stagnant for 30 years.

    “What we realized in those early years of our organizing was that a lot of these farms didn’t really have significant power in order to change the industry the way we wanted to change it. That there was sort of another player in the supply chain of agriculture—big-time food corporations that exercise what we call ‘significant market power’ over the industry. When these food corporations come to our community they want to buy as cheap as possible, the best quality produce, but they don’t often take into consideration what kind of conditions the products that they were purchasing were coming from,” said Wilson.

    The Coalition soon wondered why these corporations that were able to use their power to make great demands, corporations that were benefiting significantly economically from purchasing in the Immokalee community, why they didn’t demand basic human rights for the farm workers in the fields.

    As a result, in the early 2000s, CIW started what is now known as the “Campaign for Fair Food,” which demanded that food corporations exercise their significant market power to change the conditions that farm workers face in their supply chain.

    The first campaign was with Taco Bell. After 4 years, the campaign was able to bring about great change. Thanks to strategic organizing and consumer pressure, Taco Bell agreed to all three of CIW’s demands: 1. Taco Bell would pay one penny more per pound of tomatoes purchased which would go directly to the farm workers as an added bonus for the work that they were doing; 2. Taco Bell would subscribe to a human right conduct created by the farm workers themselves where there was a zero tolerance policy for gender-based violence and modern-day slavery in the fields; and 3. The farm workers would have a voice in the implementation of these rights in the fields.

    “Since then, 13 other multi-billion-dollar food corporations have also agreed to these three demands and after capturing this significant chunk of market power, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE), the Florida Tomato Industry, agreed to implement these rights into what is now known as the ‘Fair Food Program.’ Which is sort of the embodiment of these demands out in the fields.”

    The establishment of this program has helped to secure basic farm workers' rights—access to clean water, access to a clean bathroom and many other things beyond that.

    “Over $30 million have been distributed to farm workers because of the penny more per pound bonus, over 2,200 complaints have been successfully resolved, and we have virtually eliminated forced labor and gender-based violence by way of that zero-tolerance policy in the fields,” said Wilson.

    This program has also become a basis and a model that has been expanded to other industries including dairy farm workers and garment factory workers.

    With the conclusion of the presentations, a fascinating question and answer session brought up many important topics that were eloquently addressed by the speakers.

    Mailing List Resources:

    Homegrown Hillsborough Mailing List Sign Up for News and Events

    Campaign for Fair Food - Mailing List Sign Up for News and Events

    Informational Resources:

    Hillsborough County Website

    UF/IFAS Extension Website

    Coalition of Immokalee Workers Website

    Fair Food Program Website

    Alliance for Fair Food Website

    Guest Presenter Information:

    Bio: Monica Petrella is a passionate advocate for regional food systems. She first learned about the power of regional economic systems while attending the Small Farms Conference hosted by UF IFAS in 2012. She attended the University of Florida where she graduated with her B.S. in Food and Resource Economics supplemented with a minor in Organic and Sustainable Crop Production. She then later attended the University of Vermont to earn a M.S. in Community Development and Applied Economics, specializing in Community Food Systems. She has worked on small farms, in farm-to-table restaurants, volunteered in community gardens, and met a variety of stakeholders in the Tampa Bay Food System. She has also published Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Investigating the Impact of Social Capital in the Tampa Bay Community Food System. Previously she was involved in community organizing and political advocacy but recently started a new position at Hillsborough County as the Food System Coordinator.

    Bio: Wilson Perez is a farmworker staff member with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). Wilson is originally from Guatemala and has worked in the agricultural industry across the East Coast for many years harvesting all types of produce. As part of the Fair Food Program, Wilson and his colleagues conduct workers’ rights education in the fields on all farms participating in the Fair Food Program.  Wilson’s work at the CIW includes hosting daily radio shows on the CIW’s community FM radio station, leading weekly community meetings, receiving complaints of abuses in the fields, and managing wage theft claims. 

    Forum Host: Dell deChant is the Associate Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of South Florida and a member of the Board of Directors at the Florida Food Policy Council.

    The Florida Food Forum is a free event. To support our work, please consider becoming a member or making a donationFor questions or more information, contact us at: info@flfpc.org

    Disclaimer: The views of the presenters 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.

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