Follow Up: January Florida Food Forum
Food Politics: The Role of Food Policy in the Food System
If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available online here. You can also download the PowerPoint presentation here.
To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on Food Politics: The Role of Food Policy in the Food System here to add your thoughts and comments.
On January 31st, the Florida Food Forum on Food Politics: The Role of Food Policy in the Food System was led by Anthony Olivieri, Chair of the Development Committee at the Florida Food Policy Council and founder of FHEED LLC (Food for Health, the Environment, Economy & Democracy).
Anthony begins the talk with one previous experience, when he made the realization that, “Health disparities—nutritional health disparities in particular—are not random. That food access and food health outcomes are clustered in areas of poverty and racial discrimination.” This awareness changed the way he studied environmental planning, moving to a more environmental justice standpoint and eventually a geographic approach to food.
Food Politics is a vast topic, therefore for this presentation Anthony focuses on the area of policy that citizens can affect on the ground and that citizens have a right to affect, which is land use policies.
“Food itself can reflect policy.” In his story about two carrots, one symmetrical, the other asymmetrical, Anthony makes the point that the policy of efficiency can actually be seen in the shape of the carrots. The symmetrical carrot is part of a larger system that prioritizes cost over community, where the size and shape of food must be maximized for the bottom line. Yet, the asymmetrical carrot is grown by the local farmer and everyone sees it being grown, which in turn plays a role in community building and connectivity.
“Policies that shape the city, to a considerable extent, determine how we eat.”
One example that shows the importance of a food policy is the closing of the Miami “Roots in the City Overtown Urban Farm” in 2011. The community had been using public land to grow and sell produce to the community. However, as there was no specific policy that allowed for farmer’s markets, the government was able to force the community to shut down the market to develop the land for other uses.
When communities are aware of the power of food policy, they are able to thrive like the Dania Beach PATCH in Broward county. The community got together to create a new policy that would allow community gardens and farmer’s markets on public lands, which enabled the Dania Beach PATCH garden and market to not only exist, but be able to apply for grants from the government. With the safety of a policy and strong infrastructure for funding, Dania Beach PATCH has flourished.
Anthony says, in reference to Dania Beach PATCH, “If you have a policy to allow food growing, and the policy also says the food growing shall enhance the community cohesion, of the neighborhood and the city, and shall allow for program for people to experience food in multiple ways, you can get outcomes like this.”
Food is powerful. Food is political. Food is intimate.
Anthony makes the case that, “Food has a major component of politics to it—a type of politics that awakens people.”
He shares a quote from McMichael, “the power of food lies in its material and symbolic functions of linking nature, human survival, health, culture and livelihood as a focus of resistance to corporate takeover of life itself,” and uses the example of D-Town Farm.
Run by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network who advocates for justice in the food system, D-Town Farm is example of how local citizens can create stronger local economies and advocate for food justice.
Anthony explains two frameworks through which citizens can advocate for their right to food. One is through food justice, which he explains is a strategy, a response, and a way to harness the power of food. “We see this being done not only at farmers markets but harnessed by our representatives.” The other is through food sovereignty, which is “the right for people to produce and sell, and the right to control and define their own food systems.”
What is the food system?
Anthony goes on to explain that a main part of the food system includes regulations and policies. Therefore, it is important to understand which policies citizens have the power to control. As land anchors food policy, we can harness land use policy to change how we control our food system.
At the local level there are some tools that citizens can use to affect food policy such as comprehensive plans, land development regulations, community redevelopment agency plans and community master plans.
Anthony highlights the elements of comprehensive plans and how to use them to enact change. He shows an example of a visionary policy in Fort Lauderdale’s comprehensive plan, and its effect on the food system and explains that all municipalities in Florida are able to create such robust policies because of The Florida Community Planning Act: 163.3161.
Because of this land use planning act, “all localities have the right to plan in the interest of public health…So, local government can preserve, promote, protect and improve public health and welfare,” notes Anthony. “I think anyone of us can argue that policies that increase healthy food access and food sovereignty and food justice, do indeed improve the health, safety, and general welfare of a community.”
Participants were then asked to join in on the discussion, which lead to a robust conversation on ways citizens can increase food access in Florida communities.
Bio: Anthony Olivieri, Chair of the Development Committee at the Florida Food Policy Council, is the founder of FHEED LLC (Food for Health, the Environment, Economy & Democracy), has a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from FAU (2011) with a focus on community food systems, and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). His specialties are geographic assessments of food and health disparities, program design for healthy food access initiatives, and public speaking about health equity. In addition to his consultancy, Anthony was a full-time instructor with the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida Atlantic University, where he developed and taught the region’s first urban planning course on community food systems (2014-2016). A Fort Lauderdale resident since 1998, Anthony is originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts and has a B.A. in psycholinguistics from the University of Southern California (1994).
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.
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.