Florida Food Policy Council

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Florida Food Forum

  • 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.

  • 31 Aug 2020 2:55 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: August Florida Food Forum

    Farmer's Markets: Sourcing and Supporting the Local

    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 Urban Planning and the Florida Food System here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On August 28th, the Florida Food Forum on Farmer’s Markets: Sourcing and Supporting the Local was led by Mary Hathaway, Co Manager of the Fresh Access Bucks program (FAB).

    “I’m really excited,” Mary began, “to get the chance to start this conversation on the importance of local, and how to encourage local growers to participate at farmers markets, and how farmers markets are vital for small and beginning farmers and healthy food access.”

    With her extensive experience, Mary holds a unique perspective on farmers markers. Currently working for Feeding Florida, the State’s network of food banks working to solve hunger, Mary acts as Co Manager of the Fresh Access Bucks program or “FAB,” which works closely with farmers markets, mobile markets, community supported agriculture programs, as well as farm stands.

    In 2013, Florida Organic Growers first started the FAB program and in 2018, Feeding Florida was awarded a 3-year large-scale USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant to expand the program. The current program within Feeding Florida continues its mission to increase access to good food for all Floridians while supporting Florida’s farmers and local economies. It is one organization among many nationally that works on joining fresh local food direct from farmers to community members of all income levels. Specifically, FAB takes federal dollars and incentivizes local community members to invest in their own health by matching, dollar-for-dollar, any SNAP dollars spent to purchase Florida-grown fruits or vegetables.

    “We look holistically at our food system, taking into consideration the livelihood of the growers and their communities, as well as folks that are trying to take a step out of poverty—or just a pandemic—and lean on the support of federal benefits to make sure their family has good, healthy food. So, this really helps create a positive feedback loop, invigorating local farms and local economies.”

    Mary described how local farmers at local farmers markets promote individual and public health, serving as conduits for healthy food, offering opportunities for ecological education, physical exercise, social life, and how they provide learning opportunities for every sector of the community.

    “Today I want to share my love of local food, of the local economy, and seasonal eating; and I hope you’ll join me to work towards inclusive spaces that fuel robust communities with their own regional flair.”

    How can we advocate for farmers markets? Why should we be advocates?

    “As a consumer, you go to the farmers market. It’s fresh; it’s beautiful; it’s unique! You’ve got culturally appropriate items, you’ve got varieties grown for different ethnic populations, you’ve got items in different forms,” Mary said. “Local food looks and often tastes better. The crops are picked at the peak of their freshness, transport is minimal, and farmstead products like cheeses and yogurts, jams and bread, are handcrafted for best flavor.”

    From variety to taste, there are a number of benefits gained from shopping at farmers markets including nutrition. “Local food doesn’t just look better, it’s better for you. The shorter the time between the farm and your table, the less likely it is that nutrients will be lost from fresh food.”

    By the time fresh vegetables reach the grocery store, many have lost up to 45% of their nutritional content. So, it’s easy to see how buying directly from farmers is great for health, especially when “80% of direct-to-consumer farmers only sell within 100 miles of their farm.”

    In her presentation, Mary cited a number of positives to shopping local. For one, local food preserves genetic diversity. Additionally, farmers are able to grow appropriate crops that fit the soils in their communities which is important when it comes to resilience and climate. Yet, her most compelling argument may be the idea that, “When you buy directly from your famer, you are engaging in a time-honored connection between eater and grower. Knowing a farmer gives you insights into the season, the land, your food, and in many places, it gives you access to where your children or grandchildren can go to learn about nature, their environment, and agriculture.”

    What happens when we support local farmers?

    “To ensure that local and regional food systems remain healthy and vibrant, and farmers stay in business, we need farmland. When you support your local farmer, you preserve open space.”

    Mary explained that when farmers get paid more for their products by marketing local, they are less likely to sell land for development. And when you buy locally grown food, you are doing something proactive to preserve that landscape, which is an essential ingredient in other parts of the economic activity like tourism or recreation. Additionally, when farmers can keep land, they can invest in sustainable practices and help maintain healthy ecosystems.  

    “The American Farmland Trust shows that about 11 million acres of the nation’s irreplaceable agricultural land was lost just between 2001 and 2016. Which is more than all the land currently in production for fruits, vegetables and nuts,” Mary said, “Most of these local food farms are in the path of development— that’s 55% of the egg and poultry farms, 68% of dairy, 77% of the vegetables we eat are right there on that edge. So, farmland protection is really important, and it is most effective on the state level.”

    Local food benefits the environment in many ways such as keeping taxes down and providing ecosystem services. “Well managed farms conserve fertile soil, they protect water sources, and they sequester carbon from the atmosphere. By supporting local farmers today, you are helping to ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow.”

    How does supporting local help local communities?

    “Local food supports local families. When you buy directly from farmers it cuts out the middleman and allows them to get full retail price for their food. There is research that show that farmers who use direct to consumer channels incur less debt and stay in business longer than those who sell through wholesale,” Mary explains. “Farmers markets provide one of the only low barrier entry points for new farmers, allowing them to start small as they learn and test the market. Small and mid-size farmers who sell at farmers markets have about a 10% greater chance of staying in business than those selling through traditional channels.”

    Another important issue she touched on is inclusion. Farmers markets often operate in locations that traditional grocery stores may not want to be in, providing an opportunity for producers to be there for communities in need.

    “As food systems work is about bringing everyone to the table, making connections, and supporting one another,” Mary says, “I just want to make sure everyone takes a moment to think about who we are leaving out and how we can do better. Don’t forget the role that you play at the local level so that all people have access, feel welcome, and actively participate, because a farmers market is for everybody.”

    In her presentation she also took time to talk about the importance of Market Managers—aka community superheroes—and how their role makes it possible for farmers markets to operate.

    “Farmers markets are these wonderful dynamic places that help increase access to fresh local food, they support local communities, and behind this there is a parking liaison, a special reasoner, a greeter, a community champion, a farm monitor, a property manager, event planner, business incubator, and that’s just one person—our market manager. That work encompasses so much, and it is a tough job.”

    What has COVID-19 taught us? What kinds of policies do we need going forward?

    “Food is political, because policy could be a tool to encourage a better supply chain to make sure everyone has access to affordable and healthy food,” Mary said. “A clear lesson of COVID-19 is that farmers market organizations that had the capacity to build strong relationships, or already had them, with elected officials or other community leaders were better positioned to make their needs known and ensure that markets were listed among essential businesses which is crucial for them staying open and to keep people aware of how to access those markets.

    One of the things that she would like to see is a Florida specific definition of a “Farmers Market.” With this definition, “it could lead to greater clarity for Florida consumers and this would support more of our growers. It could also help expand funding for the WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP)...This is something we’ve seen other states do, and have great success, especially with encouraging people to buy from their farmers.” In fact, 31 states already have a definition through a statute or code.

    With COVID-19 markets faced new challenges which, and many even had to temporarily shut down. Going forward, Mary proposed a number of changes that could help markets overcome these obstacles such as providing consistent, long-term access to free wireless EBT equipment and service, as well as aligning policies with available tech capabilities and the ability to access technical support from a contracted State SNAP processor or direct-marketing liaison.

    “Every state has done something, but every state needs to do more.” One way to exercise agency is through “little p” policies—municipal laws, ordinances or resolutions that can be tailored to fit local needs and priorities in ways that state and federal laws cannot.

    Mary concluded her presentation after illustrating a number of effective local policies and their effects on local communities, and how citizens can advocate for policies they are passionate about. She also provided a number of resources which can be found below.


    Fresh Access Bucks

    Florida Farmers Market Association


    Healthy Food Policy Project

    Farmers Market Coalition

    American Farmland Trust 


    To contact Mary, send her an email at Mary@feedingflorida.org

    Bio: Mary Hathaway has worked as a farmer and an advocate for an equitable food system for more than 10 years. She is currently the Co Manager of Fresh Access Bucks (FAB), the statewide nutrition incentive program active in 62 farmers markets and direct to consumer outlets across Florida. Prior to this work, Mary earned a Masters degree in Agroecology where she spent her time working with Norwegian heritage-breed dairy operations and Tanzanian spice farmers. She lives on her small farm on the east coast of Florida with a few goats, hens and a toddler.

    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.

  • 1 Aug 2020 4:51 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: July Florida Food Forum 

    Urban Planning and the Florida 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 Urban Planning and the Florida Food System here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On July 31st, the July Florida Food Forum on Urban Planning and the Florida Food System featured guest speakers: Earl Hahn, Development Department Director of the City of New Port Richey and Mark R. Hafen, Director of the Master of Urban & Regional Planning (MURP) program at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

    “This is a topic that is often overlooked and misunderstood by growers, activists, marketers and business startups. Yet it is one of the most important areas of consideration for folks working in the food system,” Dell deChant, Chair of the Policy Committee and Host of the forum, noted at the start of the program. “Urban planning is a topic that is ignored at our peril. If we are going to know about the Florida Food System, a critical part of that is planning, and especially urban planning.”

    The first presenter was Mark Hafen, whose presentation explained the role that urban and regional planning plays in promoting and supporting sustainable food systems.

    “What we refer to as agricultural lands, mining, and forestry, is working landscapes as opposed to urban and natural landscapes. And the role of the urban planner is really to balance all three of these.”

    As a rapidly growing state, Mark highlights Florida's particularly difficult task. With an influx of people moving in, there’s a lot of pressure on non-urban land for development. Competition for wetlands and upland scrub and other critical ecosystems both by agriculture and developers is critical.

    “We have a significant amount of high-quality agricultural land in the state, and some of it is really being threatened by development,” he said.

    As urban planners working with agriculture, one of the first things to look at is inventory and status. Showing a graph from a 2012 Census of Agriculture that illustrates the types of farms in Florida, Mark points out how a large percentage of farms are devoted to livestock and horses.

    From the USDA 2017 Census Agriculture, 29% of Florida Farm Land Use is used for crops while 37% is used for pasture, “So, our farmland is really critical for both animal husbandry, as well as for our growing crops,” he said.

    Mark goes on to describe the five main challenges to agriculture: 1. Profitability, 2. Sustainable management of farming operations, 3. Passing the farm/ranch onto the next generation, 4. Resisting the temptation to sell land for development, and 5. Protection of farmland from conflicting land uses and conversion to nonfarm development.

    To address these issues, urban planners are able to use tools such as: zoning, establishing agricultural districts, urban growth boundaries, subdivision and land development regulations and preferential property taxation.

    Other ways that planners can navigate challenges include: right-to-farm laws and policies that reduce conflicts between farmers and non-farmers, the Land Evaluation and Site Assessment system (LESA) of the National Resources Conservation Service which rates the quality of farmland to allow development in low quality lands and protect high quality lands from development, Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) which results in the retirement of development potential, and Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) which moves development potential from one parcel of land to another.

    What about urban agriculture?

    Mark explains that issues with conflicting land uses are quite prevalent. Although there are opportunities to utilize vacant land and brownfields, which are often in low-income, food desert neighborhoods, for some cities the opportunity to make money through development may take priority.

    “That is kind of a serious problem because they will allow the urban gardens, but they won’t provide long-term access to this. In other words, they won’t give long-term leases to the people that are planting the gardens. So, as a result, that doesn’t encourage urban gardening. So, for it to be sustainable for urban agriculture, you’ve got to have some sort of long-term land use for urban agriculture that is guaranteed.”

    To conclude his presentation, Mark had the following suggestions about what people can do, “Find your closest community garden. Get involved. And go play in the dirt!”

    The second presenter, Earl Hahn, continued the forum by talking about Urban Planning from a wider perspective.

    Earl began by giving a brief history of agriculture in North American cities and the progression of urban farms over time.

    “As cities industrialized in the 19th century and large-scale farming of grain and meat came to dominate the North American interior, the metropolitan geography of agriculture shifted,” said Earl. “At the same time, the expansion of public markets reduced the need for city dwellers to grow their own food. By the late 19th century though some farms still remained in cities, urban agriculture was becoming less a necessity and more a form of private recreation a well as a resource for charity.”

    In the 20th century, professional planners began to see more intensive agricultural uses “such as animal production and meat processing as threats to public health and safety, and they used the new tool of zoning to move such facilities out of central cities.”

    With concern for ensuring safe and adequate food supplies, producing reports on regional production transportation, and wholesale markets, planners developed what is now known as metropolitan “foodsheds.”

    “In the United States, food products travel an average of 1,300 miles, and so most of our current foodsheds are considered global. So what we need to be focusing on is producing the local foodshed, which may be defined as one where food is consumed within 100 miles of where it’s produced,” noted Earl. 

    In the early 20th century, how the “Victory Gardens (aka) War Gardens,” which the U.S. government advocated for in response to food shortages during World Wars I and II, and “Depression Gardens,” which were similarly advocated programs during the Great Depression in the 1930s, were the largest-scale urban agriculture initiatives in the United States to date.

    “In 1943, more than 20 million gardens sprouted on private and public lands, producing an estimated 9 to 10 million tons of fruits and vegetables,” Earl said.

    Jumping to how the current grassroots-driven urban agriculture movement took shape in the 1970s, Earl noted that community gardens were responses to deindustrialization, depopulation, increases in acreage of vacant land, and the failures of urban renewal but also to immigration.

    Government and nonprofit programs also helped to institutionalize the community gardening movement. “Between 1977 and 1996, the USDA started an urban gardens program in which agricultural extension agents across the country supported city residents with developing and sustaining gardens, providing seeds and technical advice.”

    How do planners and local government staff have influence over essential resources?

    Earl explained that in fact, planners have considerable influence over the development of production, processing, distribution and transportation infrastructure, consumer demand, and viable markets through public policies and programs.

    Yet, with urban agriculture comes some possible risks. These may include potential health and environmental risks, as well as cause land-use conflicts. Thus, planners have five strategic points of intervention: 1. Long-range community visioning and goal setting, 2. Plan-making actions, 3. Standards, policies and incentives to achieve desired plan goals, 4. Influencing the outcomes of development projects, and 5. Influencing the execution of public investment decisions.

    Ideally, the starting point for urban agriculture planning is the initiation of a community engagement process through which planners identify how urban agriculture contributes to the social, economic, and environmental goals of a community. Although there are a number of ways to do this, Earl highlights Food Policy Councils as one of the most effective ways to facilitate public planning actions.

    Other ways to help build the capacity of local growers or strengthen the infrastructure necessary for widespread, sustainable urban food production include: community garden programs, demonstration farms, municipal composting, education and technical assistance for growers, job training, grants, and direct-sale programs.

    With increased population growth, Earl touched on some concerns and possible solutions related to the loss of agricultural lands through methodology change, Community Planning Act amendments, acquisition of agricultural land forever funds for local governments, and creation of state and local land disposition policies.

    After two remarkably educational presentations, an even richer question and answer session followed.

    Guest Presenter Information:

    Bio: Earl Rafael Hahn is a Dominican born dual citizen who has lived his entire adult life in Florida. He has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Florida and a Master of Science in Planning and a Juris Doctor from the Florida State University. He has been a member of the American Planning Association since 1982 and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and the Florida Bar for almost 30 years. Mr. Hahn has worked for both Chambers of the Florida Legislature and briefly for the Office of the General Council for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Since December 2019, he has been employed by the City of New Port Richey as its Development Department Director, where he is in charge of the planning and zoning functions, and supervising the building and slum and blight functions.

    Bio: Mark R. Hafen is a Master Instructor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where he serves as Director of the Master of Urban & Regional Planning (MURP) program. His teaching, research, and service focus on climate change impacts and adaptation, and urban environmental policy and planning.  He holds a B.S. in Business Logistics from Penn State University, as well as an M.A. in Geography and a Ph.D. in Marine Science (Geology), both from USF.  He has professional experience in land use planning, and has lived in the Tampa Bay region since 1986.  He has co-authored a book (with A.C. Hine, D.P. Chambers, T.D. Clayton, and G.T. Mitchum), Sea Level Rise in Florida: Science, Impacts and Options (2016, University Press of Florida), and actively serves as a member of  the Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel, the USF Urban Food Sovereignty Workgroup, and the USF Center for Brownfields Research and Redevelopment. 

    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.

  • 19 Jul 2020 3:49 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: Special Florida Food Forum 

    Food Insecurity and Food Justice

    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 Food Insecurity and Food Justice here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On July 17th, the special edition of the Florida Food Forum on Food Insecurity and Food Justice was led by FLFPC Board member Dell deChant.

    During the forum, Dell hosted an interactive discussion with three panelists who shared their knowledge and experience with these topics: Will Schanbacher, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida, Arianne Corbett, President of Leading Health, LLC, and Erica Hall, Senior Legal Professional at Johnson Pope Bokor Ruppel & Burns, LLP.

    The forum began with a presentation from each panelist on how they interact with food insecurity and food justice, as well as policy recommendations to address gaps in these areas.

    The first presenter was Will Schanbacher who addressed the topic by focusing on a path towards achieving food insecurity and food justice.

    Will began with the “Tale of Two Pandemics” where we are seeing structural racism and an unjust food system come to light.

    He explained how the effects of COVID-19 have struck our world’s most vulnerable populations and how our communities of color have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, and that concurrently, our food security systems have been negatively affected and will continue to be in the pandemic’s aftermath.

    Feeding Tampa Bay, for example, here locally has between 650,000-1.7 million families in need since the onset of COVID-19.”

    Will pointed out how the apparent destruction from the pandemic is not new, merely a manifestation of an underlying issue of food security, namely in populations of people of color which has existed long before the pandemic began. 

    “Again locally, Feeding Tampa Bay has shown in our backyards, early evidence that food insecurity is rising among Black and Latino communities. And the medium-term economic impacts on food insecurity will be felt. They already are here, as we can see in our grocery stores…Policymakers and officials are already seeing evidence that we are going to see some of the same affects that happened during the financial crisis. And we see that like the recession, in 2008 and 2009, this will likely negatively impact black and Hispanic populations more so.”

    In the midst of this crisis, Will describes the work that many organizations are doing toward making substantive changes in the food system through job training programs, re-imagining how to incorporate healthier foods in food assistance programs, and promoting strategies to mitigate food insecurity through changes in how we understand the food system, including raising awareness and lobbying congress to fund anti-hunger campaigns.

    “Food insecurity efforts that we have here locally are excellent, but we also need to move beyond that. We need to incorporate perhaps more radical strategies.”

    Will suggests the concept of Food Sovereignty as a possible way forward, as it seeks to revitalize the cultural importance of food and feeding people.

    “As we move towards Food Sovereignty, we see that it is a combination of food sovereignty, anti-racist efforts, and ultimately food justice. So, we can only accomplish these things through a holistic and fully systemic and structural address of these issues.”

    Will concluded his presentation with a number of suggestions for moving forward through social action, participation in transformational programs, stronger connections to food through growing at home and increased participation of religious leaders.

    The next speaker was Arianne Corbett who spoke about food insecurity and food justice as it relates to children in Florida.

    “In Florida, and across the country, child food insecurity has been decreasing since the Great Recession. But in Florida we rank 11th in the country in child food insecurity,” Arianne said. “It’s really a critical period to think about nutrition and think about food insecurity because we know that kids who have inadequate nutrition are permanently impacted in their learning; their test scores are lower, their social interactions are impacted, their behaviors, moods and productivity are impacted now and throughout their life.”

    Arianne explained that even before the pandemic, data showed that food insecurity rates in communities of color including Black, Hispanic, and Native American households were at least twice that of non-Hispanic White households. And that food insecurity tracts very closely with poverty and unemployment.

    “The COVID crisis has disrupted our lives in ways that we could not have imagined, but none more so than for low-income working families with children. Unemployment has spiked sharply, families have experienced income losses and increased economic hardship…Feeding Florida estimates that unemployment in the state of Florida could be as much as 35 percent, and given our reliance on tourism and our service industry, it’s very likely that scenario could play out. As a nation, we are estimating that we could see the number of children in food insecure households increase by 7 million.”

    Efforts to step up and fill these gaps are very noticeable. Food banks and food pantries have massive lines, school meal programs that have set up enormous operations to provide food through drive-throughs, school bus routes and even delivery to homes, and outside organizations have stepped up to provide resources to make this happen.

    One of the organizations Arianne illustrates is No Kid Hungry, which is a non-profit based out of DC that is working to end child hunger by connecting schools and communities or helping them better utilize federal nutrition programs such as school breakfast, afterschool meals, and summer feeding programs. With the pandemic, she notes how they have had to make a quick pivot to funding emergency feeding operations to fill the gaps in communities.

    Another important local program that Arianne describes is the Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger, which created an innovative new Meals-on-Wheels program for kids, where they deliver meals directly to houses, and which helps support mobile food pantries, farm to community distribution and funding for school programs.

    “Even though we are doing so much with these programs, there are still big challenges.” To combat these challenges short- and long-term policies are needed.

    Flexibility granted by the local and federal government on who, where and when people can pick up school meals has been one of the most helpful things according to Arianne. What this has required, however, is a great amount of advocacy at the federal level.

    Another strategy and policy that has been crucial is the implementation of the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program, which provides each family of a child who is receiving free or reduced school meals with an EBT card with daily benefits that they would have received through the meal program at school.

    As for long-term sustainable policies, Arianne describes how the SNAP program is one of the most effective ways to fight child hunger and at the same time is an economic driver.

    “For every $1 spent in SNAP benefits, it generates $1.50 to $1.80 in economic activity in the community,” she notes.

    “What we are asking is that in Congress, for any next COVID recovery package, is it needs to increase the maximum SNAP benefit by at least 15%, increase the minimum SNAP benefit from $16 to $30 per month and extend the Pandemic EBT through the end of the next school year.”

    Going forward, Arianne said that the best ways for Floridians to take action is to contact their local legislators and share what food insecurity looks like in their community, find key allies and leaders to help make this case, and build relationships to widen available resources on food insecurity.

    From there, Erica Hall continued the conversation by discussing what she sees as major challenges to resolving food insecurity and making a more just food system.

    Understanding what food insecurity and food justice means is key. “Healthy People defines Food Insecurity as the ‘disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other available financial resources for food at the household level.’ It is also defined as the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food,” Erica explained. “It’s not just having lack of money, but also the lack of transportation and lack of access to reach those anchors and grocery stores to have access to that food.”

    “Food Justice on the other hand is a holistic and structural view of the food system that sees healthy food as a human right and addresses structural barriers to that right. That could be in the form of exercising your right to grow food, sell and eat healthy food. So the food justice movement works not only for access to healthy food for all, but also examines the structural roots of these disparities, and works for racial and economic justice, too.”

    Erica addressed the three main aspects of food justice as the access to healthy, locally grown, fresh and culturally appropriate food, living wage jobs for all food system workers, and community control through cooperatives, faith-based initiatives and community organizations.

    When it comes to major challenges to resolving food insecurity, Erica noted that communities of color remain on the frontlines of fighting two public health crises simultaneously and that the global pandemic and systemic racism are a threat to livelihood and safety on a day-by-day basis. Moreover, low-income families are affected by multiple overlapping issues such as lack of affordable housing, health problems, high medical costs and low wages.

    “Food justice efforts work not only for access to healthy food, but for an end to the structural inequities that have led to unequal health outcomes; and that’s what currently makes the food system unjust in my opinion.”

    Going forward, there are a number of ways to make a difference. One way is to create change is for individuals to think about their personal and professional partnerships, collaborations, and friendships and by growing their “circle” while engaging in dialogue. By expanding networks, this can increase one’s opportunities, whether it be financial or in other ways.

    “Policy is key to creating sustainability and success,” Erica said. “That is what is needed is to improve food security and food justice.” Providing better access to grant and loans to projects seeking to improve access to healthy foods through programs such as the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) is one example Erica gives, as well as creating and funding innovative public-private partnerships that spark economic development and improve health.

    Erica said that citizens can get more involved by volunteering and making their voices heard by joining groups like the Florida Food Policy Council and by becoming leaders in their community.

    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 current challenges and strategies that can be used to combat food insecurity and increase food justice.

    Host Bio: Dell deChant is Board Member of the Florida Food Policy Council, Associate Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida, author of four books and numerous articles. Research foci: Agrarianism and Food Sovereignty. He is Chair of the New Port Richey Environmental Committee and Convener of the USF Food Sovereignty Group. 

    Panelist 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: Combatting 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. 

    Arianne Corbett, R.D., is President of Leading Health, LLC with more than a decade of experience in food and nutrition policy, health promotion and advocacy. As a consultant, Arianne works primarily on efforts to improve children’s access to healthy, high-quality food in schools and early care and education settings. For the past five years, Arianne has supported Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign in the Tampa Bay region. Prior to forming her consulting company, she managed public health and nutrition advocacy efforts for the Center for Science in the Public Interest and School Nutrition Association. Arianne is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida.

    Erica Hall, M.S. CED, MBA, ARM, has an extensive background as a community organizer, advocate, trainer, Board member, and Senior Legal Professional who has worked extensively in urban agriculture and food policy. Erica is active in the US Green Building Council (USGBC), American Planning Association, and other environmental, neighborhood revitalization groups throughout the DC area working in youth development, Black Farmers, food insecurity, workforce training, historic preservation, and urban agriculture in DC, VA, MD, NYC, Atlanta and Los Angeles working in youth development, Black Farmers, food insecurity, workforce training, historic preservation, and urban agriculture. She previously chaired a DC non-profit, Healthy Solutions, that worked with Community Gardens, Brownfield Remediation, food insecurity, and urban agriculture. Erica previously served on the Board of Directors of Groundwork Anacostia River DC, a local non-profit that utilizes environmental restoration goals as a vehicle for community development. Erica is also a Senior Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program, a dynamic network of 900 of the country’s top emerging environmental and social change leaders. Erica was also selected as co-chair of the Host Committee for Greenbuild, the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to Green Building. Since 2011, she has been a Grant Reviewer for the USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture's Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program which funds projects designed to meet the needs of low-income individuals and increase community self-reliance concerning food and nutrition. As a member of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Enoch Davis/St. Pete Youth Farm, Erica helped to define the mission statement for the project, helped guide project direction, while producing some broad actions needed to implement the project. Through this program, youth are empowered to lead urban agriculture projects under community guidance and resources has proven to be a successful strategy in youth, workforce, and neighborhood development. 

    The Florida Food Forum is a free event made available to the public. 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 speakers 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.

  • 28 Jun 2020 8:00 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: June Florida Food Forum 
    Technology in the Food Production System

    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 Technology in the Food Production System here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On June 26th, the Florida Food Forum on Technology in the Food Production System was led by Ricky Stephens, Director of Digital Strategy at Agritecture Consulting

    Ricky began his talk by discussing how his passion for food led him to his current work with technology and urban agriculture.

    “As I started getting deeper into what really drove me around food, it became clearer and clearer that it was also linked to environmental sustainability and human health,” he said. “You get to a point of no return where you understand enough where you feel responsible and that you need to take action. That’s what really happened to me.”

    After moving back to New York, Ricky dove into the world of sustainable agriculture but soon realized there existed a gap for early-stage learners, students, and entrepreneurs who wanted to find access to resources. This led him to launch Ag-Tech X which was acquired by Agritecture Consulting in 2018.

    What were the significant technology advancements of the 20th Century? What problems have they led to?

    Ricky noted that with the mission of creating chloric-dense foods, there was a focus on increasing productivity through row crop equipment, crop breeding and genetics, chemical pesticide and herbicide development, and Haber-Bosch process.

    “All of these things became crucial, but they also got us stuck in the system that we are now in,” he said. “As we got into the 21st century, we saw a mass increase in commodity crop productivity and homogeneity to food production in general, and also huge consolidation of American farming.”

    Although this system was created with a focus on increasing food security, one of the more shocking statistic Ricky pointed to was that as of 2018, “1 in 8 Americans experienced food insecurity, which translates to 2.8 million residents in Florida.”

    Other important problems Ricky discussed were: freshwater use, greenhouse gas emissions, and food waste.

    “Here in the U.S., especially when it comes to leafy greens, we produce 98% of all of our leafy greens in Southern California and Arizona where there is extreme prone-ness to drought, and then we import that produce…You are essentially taking water from areas where we are running out of it and transporting it 3,000 miles or more,” Ricky explained. “For greenhouse gas emissions, generally the food production system is responsible for somewhere between 25 and 33% of total greenhouse gas emissions…And obviously food waste is a huge problem. About 1/3 of all food we produce is never consumed. When it comes to highly perishable items such as fruits and vegetables, estimates are closer to 50%.”  

    Along with the aforementioned problems, Ricky noted how decreasing farmers and increasing labor shortages are a large concern, as well as inequity, systemic racism and discrimination found in the food system.

    How can we understand the “Agri-FoodTech” Landscape?

    “In 2013, the total investment space for all of Agri-FoodTech was about $500 million. By 2019, it had hit almost $20 billion, a 40 time increase in less than 6 years.” Ricky referenced this statistic from a report compiled by AgFunder.com.  

    “Overall Agri-FoodTech is booming, but there are a lot of different categories that makeup that landscape.” Ricky goes on to describe some of the most popular sectors in AgTech such as: ag biotechnology, novel farming systems also referred to as commercial urban farming, and also farm management software, sensing and IoT (Internet of things).

    What is driving this change?

    Ricky explained that there are a number of reasons for such dramatic recent change: heightened consumer awareness, dietary shifts where consumers demand more plant-based options, increased demand for more “local” and “sustainable” products and an increase in research which connects conventional farming to negative environmental and human health effects.

    From an investor’s perspective, the drivers are often more “high-level indicators,” he said. “A commonly heard indicator, especially around 2015, was that agriculture makes up about 10% of the world’s GDP, but only 3.5% of the total venture capital investment…So, that was pointing a lot of typical technology investors into the agriculture space.” With the possibility of gains in productivity and efficiency, that means more profit for investors. In addition, dietary shifts can provide an opportunity for early movers.

    Ricky also addressed some of the driving trends in urban agriculture such as “rising demand for fresh, local and organic food” and “rising inequality,” as well as the importance of entrepreneurs identifying what solution most drives them in their work.

    What are some types of startup financing and alternative investment opportunities?

    “There is this dilemma where new technology can certainly address some of these problems when it comes to sustainability and other major issues that have been presented because of the conventional food system that we are now in, but at the same time that conventional venture capital financing approach can perpetuate the status quo,” said Ricky.

    He pointed to the Food & AgTech Investor Sentiment Report, where investors were asked what their most valuable source of Deal-Flow was. “Warm Intros” was by far the greatest amount at 66%. “What that means is, if you are new to the technology start-up world, you aren’t going to be able to get a Warm Intro like somebody that has two exits under their belt and is connected to dozens of investors and can go out and raise $1 million just based on their resume alone.”

    It was explained that it may be beneficial to look at alternative financing as there are a number of possible high-impact funding sources including: public and private grants, Community Development Financial Institutions funds (CDFI), non-extractive lending, equity crowdfunding, non-dilutive accelerators and impact investment.

    Before opening up for an educational question and answer session, Ricky highlighted the opportunities, challenges and importance of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), small-scale urban farming, and regenerative agriculture and how Agritecture serves to educate and activate companies in these different areas. He provided a number of helpful resources on Agritecture’s website which can be found below.

    Agritecture Counsulting Website

    Agritecture Designer Course

    Agritecture Digital Workshops

    If you would like to get in touch with Ricky, send him an email at ricky@agritecture.com.

    Bio: Ricky Stephens is the Director of Digital Strategy at Agritecture Consulting, a global leader in urban agriculture planning services. Ricky manages all aspects of Agritecture’s digital strategy and online user engagement. He has led programming for multiple urban agriculture conferences and is heavily involved in the NYC Agriculture Collective. Before joining Agritecture, Ricky founded AgTech X, New York’s first incubator space dedicated solely to AgTech education and entrepreneurship. Previously, Ricky served as Manager of Marketing Analytics for Red Ventures, where he helped build out the company’s first international office in Brazil. He holds a BA in History from Davidson College.

    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.

  • 31 May 2020 4:00 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: May Florida Food Forum 

    Policy and Urban Agriculture

    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 Policy and Urban Agriculture here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On May 29th, the Florida Food Forum on Policy and Urban Agriculture was led by James Jiler, Founder and former Executive Director of Urban GreenWorks in Miami. In his presentation, James explored the relevance of urban agriculture in the U.S. and specifically in Florida while discussing how to build a functioning and diverse system to address food security in food insecure urban centers.

    “We are now looking at this global issue of centralization of food systems and very long supply chains, and we are seeing it completely disrupted by our pandemic,” said James. “It’s really a wakeup call for us to start re-analyzing and refocusing on what resiliency means in the time of climate change and pandemics, and what food security really means.”

    James noted that as of 3 years ago, this is the first time in history where more people, are now living in urban centers as opposed to rural habitats. Additionally, by 2030, 2 out of 3 people will live in urban centers. For the near and far future, it is clear that we are really looking at a global urban environment that is going to be directing human lives.

    “You can’t have a stable civilization when people are in need of food," said James. "Civilizations have always collapsed because of a lack of either food, water or environmental stability.”

    When it comes to food in urban centers, there are a number of important things to consider. People spend more money on urban food as it is 3 to 37% more costly, and in all of the urban centers in the United States, 3 out of 10 people are food insecure said James. “That means they don’t have access to healthy foods which keeps them healthy. And we are currently looking at an obesity rate in the United States of about 40% and still rising.”  

    How have urban farms changed over the century?

    “Urban farms and urban agriculture really have their roots in the victory gardens going back to the Depression era, and actually, before that during WWI. We produced almost 50-80% of all our fresh fruits and vegetables on home gardens during that time. And then after the Depression and leading into WWII, people began to abandon the gardens thinking they were food secure again, and then we saw a trajectory of centralization and globalization of food processing,” James explained.

    “When we look at urban agriculture in the U.S., we can really begin in 1977 when the USDA started allocating American dollars through cooperative extension services to assist low-income people to start growing and preserving their own food…By 1989, we had over 200,000 gardeners producing food on 800 acres of urban farmland in 23 major cities.”

    James added that for every $1 dollar of USDA investment, which was $1.5 million dollars, growers grew $6 of food. However, in 1993 the program lost funding as the USDA wanted nonprofits to take over the federal cost of promoting these urban farms. With public outcry, by 1994 the USDA decided to allocate another $3 million under the U.S. Food Security Act which pushed the idea that urban farms had many benefits for producers and consumers. This also linked into SNAP and WIC, "where you had the onset of farmers markets, where urban producers had markets where people could actually use food stamps and other kinds of vouchers to produce foods in low-income neighborhoods that was freshly grown.”

    What are the benefits of urban farms?

    There are environmental services and educational services that urban farms. "Most urban farms with public money or foundation money offer workshops; they bring in schools, they bring in neighborhood children, they grow food to help families in need, and they give jobs to help people in the community."

    Through James’ experience running a 7-acre plot in a low-income area in Liberty city, he realized that at some point a decision needs to be made on whether to provide a service to the city or to try to make money.

    “The difference between a community garden and an urban farm is that urban farms demand full-time staffing to constantly be growing for to generate an income for the farm staff. And then of course, if you have additional benefits like you are providing educational programs or taking food to elderly centers or to healthcare centers, or if you are distributing food to food banks, then you are cutting into your profits…So, it’s kind of a delicate balance. How do you generate income for people running these farms at the same time providing social benefits?”

    This brings up the question: Is there a responsibility for government and policy to promote urban farms as part of an integrated infrastructure in different cities throughout the U.S. in light of all these services they provide?

    “We’re not looking at urban agriculture as a cure-all, but what we are looking at are different ways in which we can inspire urban agriculture to be a full part of the integral functioning capacity of an urban center.”

    How do urban farms affect health and environment?

    “Just because you provide certain cities and communities with access to fresh affordable food, it does not mean they are going to consume it.”

    It is estimated that $140 to $190 billion dollars per year is spent on diet related health issues such as: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. If $190 billion goes into treating the disease but nothing goes into the prevention of disease, "What if you allocated this money into areas like urban farms where people can learn about growing food and then actually eating the food that they grow?” asked James.

    One of the easiest ways to change diet, habit, and addictive nature to certain kinds of food that are unhealthy is by involving people in the actual act of growing food through urban farming.

    In addition, urban farms provide valuable environmental services such as capturing and slowing stormwater run-off, maintaining biodiversity, cooling cities, detoxifying soil, and mitigating outputs from industrial farming systems.

    What lessons are we learning from the COVID-19 pandemic? How do we move forward?

    According to James, the following have become clear through the pandemic, “We need shorter supply chains; we need decentralized food processing (i.e. Slaughterhouses); we need more local access; we need direct farmer to consumer relationships via food marts and markets; and polyculture systems are not just environmentally resilient, they are financially resilient.”

    Going forward, when designing policies that bring urban agriculture into the infrastructure of planning systems that are involved in developing suburban urban areas, James notes the importance of looking at three policy perspectives: the social perspective, associated with subsistence oriented types of urban agriculture, the economic perspective, particularly related to market oriented types of urban agriculture, and the ecological perspective, referring to types of urban agriculture that have a multi-functional character.

    Looking at and adopting implemented models in other cities and around the world is another way to better Florida’s urban food system. In cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Seattle, partnerships between the city and local farms, food banks, resident and community gardens has enabled cities to effectively mobilize people to grow and share food while providing education and facilitating dialogue on the topic of urban agriculture.

    What are the national and local needs for urban farming?

    “The national needs for urban farming are this: urban farmers need crop insurance and loans; we have to look at our public health investments; we need to keep facilitating the SNAP and WIC vouchers through farmers markets; we need to look at secured systems of land tenure and water rights; and all suburban and peri-urban urban planning has to have urban farms as part of infrastructure improvement,” said James.

    As for local needs, “We need to distinguish an urban farm from a community garden, understand full and part time staff as a necessary component; understand land tenure agreements (best use versus commercial use); integrate urban farms into policy food action and community health planning; integrate urban farms into regional planning tied to state planning; and allocate government funding based on meeting the 3 perspectives—social, economic and ecological.”

    In regards to funding, in the 2018 USDA Farm Bill, the USDA established a new office for Urban Agriculture and innovative production. In 2020, they are putting out 3 million worth of grants: $1 million dollars for planning projects, food access, education, business and star-up costs, and development of policies related to zoning and other needs for urban farming; and $2 million dollars for implementation projects, urban indoor and agriculture practices that serve farmers.

    “We are moving in this direction but we really need to integrate this movement with policy planners as a food security hub of every major city,” said James. “Florida is behind the curve, and I hope moving forward we can keep this discussion going.”

    With the conclusion of the presentation, the forum was opened up for questions.

    If you would like to ask James a question, he can be reached at: jamesjiler3@gmail.com.

    For other questions or comments, reach out to us at info@flfpc.org.


    USDA Grants and Loans for Farmers

    UF/IFAS Extension: How to Establish an Urban Agriculture Ordinance

    Tampa Bay Article: FL Legislature approves right to grow veggie gardens

    Ecology Florida Article: COVID-19 Pandemic Reveals Frailty of America’s Food System

    Coalition of Community Gardens, Tampa Bay


    Bio: James Jiler is the Founder and former Executive-Director of Urban GreenWorks, a Miami-based non-profit that provides environmental programs and green job training to incarcerated men and women, youth remanded by court to drug rehab and at-risk high-school youth in low-income neighborhoods. The product is more than the formation of hard skills; GreenWorks provides an environmental artscape that blends science education, horticulture therapy and vocational training as a way to connect people to nature, and subsequently to themselves and their community. In addition the organization creates programs for communities plagued by poor access to fresh food, blighted and neglected open space, low urban tree cover, and an under-employed population of young adults. James is also an adjunct professor at Florida International University (FIU) teaching Global Environmental Studies at inner-city high schools.

    James holds a Masters Degree in Forestry and Social Ecology from Yale University and is the former director of The Horticultural Society of New York’s GreenHouse Program, a jail-to-street horticulture program at New York City’s jail complex on Rikers Island. As a National model, Greenhouse has been and continues to be replicated by other jurisdictions seeking to lower the high rate of recidivism plaguing the U.S. criminal justice system.

    James also works as a landscape designer and has created gardens and landscapes for historic land-marked buildings in New York City, private clients and luxury buildings in the metro area, and for schools and community groups in Baltimore, New Haven, Ahmedabad, India and Miami, Fl. In Miami he specializes in the design and installation of environmentally beneficial gardens, buildings and edible urban landscapes.

    James is author of the book Doing Time in the Garden (New Village Press, 2006), which details the GreenHouse approach to rehabilitation and explores the role of gardening in jails and prisons around the country. He is currently working on a book titled “Food In Security” which examines urban food systems around and outside the US. He has appeared on NPR, CBS Sunday Morning Show, Japan, France and Canadian TV, Radio, and two recent documentaries called the “Healing Gardens” and “Dirt: The Movie” detailing his work at Rikers. In September 2012 he gave a TED talk at the Coconut Grove TEDx conference where he was a recipient of the first annual HOPE Prize.

    Prior to his work in prison, James spent time working as an urban ecologist in Baltimore, New Haven, and India; and spent 6-years living in Kathmandu, Nepal working with ecological farming systems in the Himalayas and teaching at the University of Kathmandu.

    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.

  • 17 May 2020 10:30 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: Special Florida Food Forum 

    COVID-19 Impacts on the Florida Food System

    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 COVID-19 Impacts on the Florida Food System here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On May 15th, the special edition of the Florida Food Forum on COVID-19 Impacts on the Florida Food System was led by FLFPC Board member Dell deChant.

    During the forum, Dell hosted an interactive discussion with three panelists who each represented a distinct part of the food system—a grower, a distributor and a marketer. Jaime Castoro, Manager of Dania Beach PATCH, addressed the impact of the pandemic on growers; Nadia Clarke, Assistant Director for the office of Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Broward County Public Schools, discussed her role from the standpoint of distribution; and Jeff Wright, owner of Wright’s Natural Market, gave a perspective on the pandemic’s effects on markets.

    The forum began with each panelist providing an introduction to how the pandemic has affected their work.

    The first speaker was Jaime, who introduced Dania Beach PATCH. 

    Established in 2012, PATCH is one of the largest and longest running markets in Broward county, and it is supported by the local government

    “The vision of PATCH is to strengthen the community by promoting healthier lifestyles, eating habits and physical activities; increase access to healthy foods; create a clean, safe, family friendly social gathering place for the community; grow and sell fresh non-GMO produce, grown to organic standards; and promote economic development through support of the local home-based food and craft industries.”

    Jaime explained how pre-COVID-19, PATCH would put on weekly events such as yoga, beekeeping workshops, art and craft days and participated in the Fresh Access Bucks program. They had also just began using mobile markets. Post-COVID-19, however, PATCH markets were completely closed for 2 weeks with growing reduced to a minimum. Since then, PATCH has pivoted to selling online where an availability list is released each week and customers are able to email their orders and process payments online. EBT and SNAP users are still able to make purchases, however, they must complete their payment in person. Along with new educational fliers on safe food tips being given with customer purchases, donations of produce to local organizations in the community have also increased.

    “We are living in a historical moment in time,” Jaime said. “The lessons learned and policies enacted will shape the food production and distribution landscape for a long time, so we really need to be thoughtful and inclusive when setting these policies.”

    Through this experience, Jaime pointed to a number of lessons learned. First, online ordering and processing has allowed more time for producing, which is something they may continue to do going forward. Second, it has become more apparent that there is huge demand for locally grown produce, therefore more methods are needed to engage and capture these customers. Third, the importance of using their nursery to its full potential is now clear, which includes selling seedlings and materials to customers as there is growing interest in developing backyard gardens.

    Next to present was Nadia, who spoke about the “Together 4 Broward” taskforce. 

    The taskforce came together with help from a group of Broward service organizations committed to supporting their community during extraordinary times.

    “We know that Broward is the 7th largest in the nation, and that meant that a lot of students wouldn’t have access to meals for breakfast and lunch,” said Nadia. “We also knew that because our buildings are closed after school, and some of our afterschool programs offer snacks and supper, they too would not be able to offer those services.”

    Using a timeline, Nadia described how the taskforce developed over the past two months beginning on March 13th, the date school doors officially closed. After, on March 15th, the taskforce began hearing questions about food rescue and distribution from community partners and on March 17th, held a community initiative meeting. Out of that meeting came the action item: to create a single database of food resources across the county.

    The taskforce was able to partner with Anthony Olivieri, a GIS mapping expert and FLFPC Board member, to create a map which would serve as that special database. Then on March 26th, Broward County Emergency Management decided to join the taskforce which increased access to county resources. On March 30th, the map and webpage went live on the Children’s Services Council of Broward County website and on May 15th, the map and webpage migrated to the Broward County website, which has increased the functionality of the map.

    Now that the map is live, information has been made available via multiple resources including Broward School’s communication team, Broward County and community partners. The map’s special feature is that a location can be found from any address and from there directions can be provided to the closest distribution site.

    Working closely with various food donors and organizations, including Broward Schools Office of School Food and Nutrition, Feeding South Florida and South Florida Hunger Coalition, maintaining the map with up-to-date information has been possible. Going forward, the taskforce is now looking at other ways in which they can provide support for the county.

    The focus then shifted to Jeff, who introduced Wright’s Natural Market.

    In operation for over 26 years, the market that once started out with 840 square feet and has since grown to 3600 square feet. Inside the market mainly locally grown and organic produce is sold, and customers can find bulk foods, bulk herbs, packaged non-GMO and organic groceries, supplements, as well as a café.

    In response to how the pandemic has affected the market Jeff said, “Our goal as a community hub and gathering place, was to try and keep as much normalcy in our operation as we possibly could. We really felt with the anxiety that people were feeling and the uncertainty of not knowing how this [virus] was communicated or passed from one person to another, whether we should be wearing masks or whether we should be wearing gloves, and distancing, we really wanted to keep as much normalcy as possible.”

    Although workshops were discontinued, the farmers market was kept open. “The farmers that had enough harvest to support the community in any kind of volume were spread out and we asked our customers and community to support them but practice social distancing.”

    One of the struggles Jeff noted was how supply chains have been visibly stretched. For example, at one point the store had only received about 30-40% of groceries ordered. In addition to products such as water and toilet paper, they have also had difficulty procuring canned and dried goods, as well as supplements for immune support. Yet, surprisingly, Jeff said that there wasn’t much difficulty stocking certified organic or locally grown produce. In fact, since the stay-at-home order, he has seen an increase in purchasing of fresh produce.

    “We are also seeing where consumers or the general public are finally waking up to the notion of understanding where raw materials come from,” said Jeff.  “We see this need that sourcing of foods and things needs to be closer to home.”

    In regards to policy Jeff said, “Anytime we can have more urban farmers in our community, we make our economy more resilient. We actually make our towns in that community that farming is happening in actually more economically strong and wealthy, as well as the food supply is safer, as well as the enzyme activity or the nutritional value is more relevant to help with digestion and allergies and helps with what we really need in Florida. So, I see a need for policies to change to help foster that.”

    Going forward, Jeff illustrated certain policy actions that may have a positive effect on the Florida food system such as: limiting the amount of crops exported so that more crops are accessible locally, inhibiting crops from coming in to Florida to protect local farmers, and encouraging farmer growth through programs, as well as strengthening distribution channels to help smaller farmers.

    The forum was then opened for a lively question and answer session which brought up a number of important issues. To view the full forum, visit here.

    Links to Resources: 

    Dania Beach PATCH Website

    Together 4 Broward Interactive Food Map

    Wright’s Natural Market & Café Website

    Relevant articles:

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

    Farmers plowing under crops, dumping milk, New York Times

    What the Coronavirus means for Food Insecurity, The Hill

    Host Bio: Dell deChant is a Board Member of the Florida Food Policy Council, Associate Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida, author of four books and numerous articles. Research foci: Agrarianism and Food Sovereignty. He is Chair of the New Port Richey Environmental Committee and Convener of the USF Food Sovereignty Group. 

    Panelist information:

    Jaime Castoro is the current manager of Dania Beach PATCH located in Southwest Florida. Jaime has worked in various capacities with the Dania Beach PATCH and Broward Regional Health Planning Council since 2014 to strengthen fresh food availability to low access communities across Broward county.

    Nadia Clarke joined Broward County Public Schools in February 2016 as the district’s Assistant Director for the office of Family and Community Engagement (FACE). Nadia brought with her over 20 years of experience in community engagement, leadership, out-of-school time program development and management serving under-resourced communities. Under Nadia’s leadership, the office engages families and the community in support of healthy schools through the implementation of research-based strategies and programming. Nadia’s core belief in the power of community led to Broward Schools’ first emancipatory research project, the Community Equity Project (CEP) for the Boyd Anderson and Dillard Zones. The goal for this project is to engage the community as a full partner in creating and implementing an action plan addressing the needs of families while supporting the academic outcomes for students. 

    Jeff Wright has over 26 years of experience in organic grocery and health alternative retailing. Jeff and his wife Kathy are co-owner/operators of Wright’s Natural Market for 26 1/2 years. As certified nutritionist, they teach the community about healthy organic lifestyles. Jeff currently is the chair of Pasco County Food Policy Advisory Council (FPAC). He has been involved in industry trade associations for 25 years serving on regional and national board of directors for Natural Products Association and as past President of the Natural Products Association, and past president of Southeast region. Wright’s Natural Market is located in the downtown district of New Port Richey (a designated food desert). A very important part of the move is to help create a food distribution channel or hub helping local farmers and artisans get their products to market other than farmers markets i.e. natural foods store, and restaurants.

    Disclaimer: The views of the speakers 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.

  • 26 Apr 2020 9:45 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: April Florida Food Forum 

    Murky Waters: Water, Food and Society

    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 Murky Waters: Water, Food and Society here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On April 24th, the Florida Food Forum on Murky Waters: Water, Food and Society was led by Christopher Johns, Board member at the Florida Food Policy Council and Environmental Attorney.

    “The path that has led us to this level of development and interconnectedness around the world has been built, in large part, on having access to abundant amounts of water and clean water that is safe to grow food as well as drink,” Chris said, “and we are approaching a point where we are starting to test the limits of our water supplies. Because of the characteristics of water and how it just exists in the world, the protection and regulation of it as a resource is incredibly complex and it brings up some issues that are really interesting.”

    A native Floridian, Chris became interested in the impact water has on agriculture while working on his family’s potato farm in Hastings. This curiosity eventually led him to pursue a law degree.

    Water is a basic fundamental thing that plays a fundamental role in society that we see today.

    “There’s not a thing in agriculture that doesn’t require water to grow. So, in addition to needing water for people to drink, we also need it for food production,” Chris said. “So, when we talk about a sustainable future and sustainable water resources, agriculture is a big part of that conversation. Folks are growing food and feeding people, but there are secondary impacts and consequences to our production that we have to deal with.”

    According to the USDA, about 80% of the consumptive uses of water are used for agricultural production. 

    Why is protecting water resources so difficult?

    “Water is not stationary. It doesn’t follow political boundaries. So that requires solutions that can create weird legal jurisdictional questions. It presents difficult situations, but it also opens an opportunity for more creative solutions,” Chris explained. “If there is one thing I hope everyone can get from this talk, it is a sense of just how complex these issues are.”

    Water is regulated at the federal level, state level and the local level. The Federal government has limited authority under certain areas that most people are familiar with such as water pollution, drinking water standards and wetland use and protection. States however, generally have the authority to control who uses water and how it’s used.

    Chris gives the Clean Water Act as an example. “The Federal government sets big regulatory framework guidelines and then states hopefully implement the details and nuances of that.”

    When it comes to water quality regulation, Chris continued by illustrating three main areas: watersheds, water quality and water use.

    In relation to wetlands, he clarified the difference between the federal rule for wetland regulation and state rule for regulation. At the Federal Level, the Clean Water Act regulates waters of the U.S. but it also provides one of the main sources of regulation for wetlands in Section 404. The Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act can also be used to protect watersheds. At the state level, wetlands are regulated under Chapter 373, which covers most of Florida’s water resources. Chapter 373 also says water management districts along with DDP have to set minimum flows and levels for all surface and groundwater, which is another protective regulation.

    When it comes to the regulation of water quality, Chris pointed to the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act as the two main legislation found at the Federal level. States then have to create water detailed quality standards and enforce them generally with 3 components: designated uses, water quality criteria, and anti-degradation policy.

    What about issues specific to agriculture and water use?

    Chris discussed water pollution issues such as: nutrient pollution, pesticides and food safety.

    “When you are thinking about agricultural land and agricultural production, you have to think of wetland permitting and land use issues. And increasingly, another issue cropping up is arable land—land than can produce crops,” Chris noted. “Maintaining agricultural practices that maintain the lands ability to produce food for long periods of time is also of significant concern.”

    The presentation concluded with a big picture view.

    “Water is fundamental to society. There is no simple issue when it comes to managing water in a sustainable way. These issues don’t exist in isolation. Water, whether we realize it or not, ties us together. If we want to be able to protect that resource and sustain the society that we built, we need to approach these issues with patience, understanding and humility, but also determination. In order to do that, we need regulations and public officials to focus on long-term solutions as opposed to expedient short-term fixes.”

    A question and answer session followed the presentation which provided even more insightful questions on this important topic.

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

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

    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.

  • 30 Mar 2020 5:45 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: March Florida Food Forum 

    Women in the Food System

    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 Women in the Food System here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On March 27th, the Florida Food Forum on Women in the Food System was led by Rachel Shapiro, Chair of the Florida Food Policy Council.

    During the forum, Rachel hosted an interactive panel discussion with three amazing women who make up the Florida food system: Anna Prizzia, the Field & Fork Program Director and Campus Food Systems Coordinator for the University of Florida, Robin Safley, the Executive Director of Feeding Florida, and Carmen Franz, the Farm Director at Arden, a master planned “Agrihood” community in South Florida.

    The presentation began with introductions after which panelists were asked how their previous work in the food system impacted their current roles.

    “I guess the most basic role I play is as an eater,” Anna said, “And as an eater, I think it has probably influenced my role in the food system most of all because when I was coming back from my stint in Peace corps, I had been eating so differently while I was there—right from the garden and butchering our own meat when we decided to eat meat. So, I really gained an appreciation for where my food comes from and wanted to have that same close connection to my food when I returned.” Unable to find that same connection, Anna ended up founding a Slow Food chapter in her community. For Anna, this experience really cemented the role that she saw herself having, which was helping connect her community to the amazing resources available for local and sustainable food options and trying to make those more accessible.

    Robin’s extensive background as a lawyer, then as Chief of Staff to the Florida Senate President and Chief of Staff to the Florida Commissioner of Education, enabled her to work in high levels of policy, which demanded an ability to problem solve and run programs efficiently. These skills helped her thrive in her position as Director of the Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Through this position Robin became deeply invested in the institutional feeding programs and passionate about how to fix have gaps in the food system.

    “Food access and thinking about healthy food as a human right, but also the desire to leave the planet better than how I found it,” are the things that inspire Carmen the most. After receiving her degree in political science and studying food policy at University of Florida, where she picked up a minor in crop production, Carmen’s interest in food and farming grew. As the Fresh Access Bucks Manager for Florida Organic Growers, Carmen was able to become more involved in the Florida food system, closely working with state and local agencies and nonprofits across the state. “I really enjoyed that position and being able to work with underserved communities to increase their access and the affordability of healthy food,” she said. “Now I’m enjoying my hands in the dirt, and I really enjoy the educational aspect of things. So being able to interact with residents and teaching people where food comes from, and how to prepare it and cooking is definitely my passion.”

    “Why do you do it?” Rachel asked, explaining her curiosity as to what motivates and inspires women to commit so much energy to the food system.

    “One thing I’ve noticed,” Rachel said, “is A) about 80% of those of us who show up and do the work are women and B) doing food system advocacy work takes a heck of a lot of commitment...So why do you stay up until 1 o’clock in the morning working on the initiatives of the non-profit and then get up at 6 o’clock in the morning to get food to the market? And why do you drive thousands of miles around the state without taking any food breaks or bathroom breaks so that you can show up and get food moved or people who need it? And why do you farm in the heat of Florida and make sure that your residents get their baskets of food every week?”

    “When someone calls you from Miami, who is wheelchair bound and has very poor eyesight and broken English and is hungry, and you can make a call and have someone deliver them healthy food and they are telling you ‘God bless you! God bless you!’ I think that’s what drives me. And I think by nature probably everyone on this call is a high-achiever anyway. It’s sort of what happens. So, I just take that energy that I have in life anyway and I’ve channeled it and have become extremely passionate about solving the food system issues, at least for Florida,” Robin said. “I just always say…that if we can land something on Mars, why can’t we figure out how to get healthy food to those who need it and in their environment at the price where they can afford it?”

    “Our food system, and so many of our systems have been built it a structure that just really doesn’t work,” said Anna. “It benefits a few at the exploitation of many. I want to believe that we can create a system that’s truly sustainable. Where people are valued and cared for and that community is at the heart of the work that we do. And that people can make living wages and that people can eat healthy food that’s grown in a way that honors the Earth and the people who are having to do the work.” For Anna, the dynamic of believing in something and being an optimist who believes in sustainability, while also being a pragmatist that knows what is necessary to create changes effectively drives her work.

    “I’m very much so energized by the one on one interaction and seeing people light up about sharing recipes,” Carmen added, “Hearing people share recipes and their cultural experiences and how they grew and what they grew and the whole history of food, is very inspiring to me…And I really get excited about is the opportunity to introduce people to food, and fresh food in cooking and sharing. That is what’s mostly motivating me now.”

    After explaining their reasons, Rachel noted that all three panelists mostly talked about other people as being the inspiration and drive for their commitment. That for them, it was about the joy and the wellness that other people experience, and about their connection with communities. “That,” is what Rachel sees as a, “hallmark trait of people who do food system work.”

    When it comes to the COVID-19 crisis, Rachel asked the panelists how their current roles had been impacted.

    “If you look at historical disasters,” Robin said, “the model for the initial food movement deals with congregate feeding, like with Red Cross and Salvation Army. But with COVID-19 and social distancing, the food bank system has become front and center because we are capable of rearranging our model on pretty short order.” Robin notes that in the last week, pressure on the Feeding Florida system has jumped to 35%. “One of the important things is to bring a sense of calmness to everyone… that the more that we can message, that our supply chain is solid as long as we don’t put pressure on it.”

    “It is very important that on the other side of this, and we will all get on the other side of this, that the ag community, no matter where you are within that community, is still viable and strong,” Robin added, “It is interesting, the silver lining in a disaster is the humanity that you see in the uniqueness and creativity that rises to the top when people in our country have to figure things out. And I’ve seen it day in and day out, the ingenuity people are using and the creativity to continue to help each other.”

    For Anna, her work at University of Florida has been greatly impacted as most programs have been suspended. Yet, the situation has brought a more highlighted focus to the production side of the work because the campus is still providing emergency food service through their food pantry on campus. Thus, Anna’s focus has shifted to, “How do we do that safely? How do we do it appropriately?” while at the same time, shining a light on gaps and bright spots in how the local governments and communities support organizations and how well the mechanisms in place enable coordination. “A lot of my focus has been connecting the dots in some of those areas,” said Anna, “and exploring ways in which we can help the people in the community connect to the resources and support services that people like Robin are developing. How do people know where to go to get that support? How do they find those resources? How can we have a unified and coordinated effort to communicate to our citizens in Alachua county about what’s needed and how they can get it?”

    Rachel commented that this might be one of the bright spots to come out of this experience. That in order to get through this crisis, we actually have to improve how our food system functions. And as we come out on the other side of this, that we will actually come out with a stronger and more resilient food system.

    “Similarly to other farmers, we’ve adjusted how we distribute the food,” explains Carmen. “We previously were doing market-style pickups. And now we are pre-bagging shares and delivering to people’s homes twice weekly. We obviously had to cancel all of our workshops and events and postpone them to later. And we also have a small Florida-only retail space that we’ve unfortunately had to close. But we’ve moved to online sales and the local restaurant that caters food in our hub…we’re starting home delivers from their restaurant to Arden restaurants so we can continue to support them in their time of need.”

    Moving forward, Rachel inquired about the necessary policy changes rising to the surface?

    Anna said that there are two critical conversations that must be had. “The link between food insecurity and other issues in our community are so intertwined that it’s hard to separate them. The reality is that the reason we have food insecurity is because people aren’t making enough money to support their families. And so, they are having to make the decision between feeding their families and paying other bills…So it’s some of those more basic needs conversations that are happening at the local and state level that I think are big.” The second thing is, “the question about what is an essential service? Are farmers market’s essential? Are restaurants that are providing food essential and how do we keep them open while keeping people safe? I think that this is one of the more important policy conversations happening right now.”

    Carmen explained her hope for including immigrant families who work on farms in the stimulus. As they typically live in close quarters and bad conditions, they tend to be easily susceptible to health problems, which is a problem as healthcare and paid time off is not often accessible. “I would like to see more support for them to keep our greater food system running. And somehow figuring out a way to take SNAP purchases online,” said Carmen.

    Some of the positive things that have come out of the crisis are pilots that have begun testing. Robin explained more about SNAP online purchases, “In the 2014 Farm Bill congress authorized 8 demonstration projects where SNAP recipients could do online ordering of food, because the current law is that you have to be in person when you use that asset…When this COVID-19 came up with its uniqueness about social distancing and staying at home, the first thing we thought was let’s  approach Washington to see if we can expedite those pilots…At the end of this, these pilots could be a shining star. And when you look at food access, delivery is probably the biggest thing that would be helpful even under blue skies for individuals to have access to healthy foods.”

    Towards the end, panelists were able to address questions posed by attendees, and provided important information on resources.

    “The time is ripe for policy change,” said Rachel, “and I think the environment is open to it now. I think that we are going to see some leaps and bounds.”

    Resources on this topic:

    Fresh Access Bucks COVID-19 Updates and Resources

    COVID-19 Alternative Market Model Examples

    Online Sales Platforms for Farmers - Oregon Tilth

    Call to Action for Farmers Markets

    Feeding Florida Website

    University of Florida Field & Fork Website

    Working Food Website

    Arden Agrihood Website

    Host Bio: Rachel Shapiro is an experienced wellness professional and chef with a focus on the power of nutritious food to improve quality of life. Her research into the food system and the quality of the food we eat lead her to an interest in food policy and grassroots food activism. Out of a desire to be part of the solution for the challenges facing our food system, Rachel brings her nonprofit management experience coupled with her passion for systems and collaboration in service of the Florida Food Policy Council and the State.   

    Panelist Information:

    Anna Prizzia oversees the Field & Fork Program and works as the campus food systems coordinator for the University of Florida. She has 15 years of experience in sustainability and food system efforts, including working as statewide coordinator for the Florida Farm to School Program, management of sustainability efforts with institutional food service at UF, and serving on the boards of Slow Food Gainesville and the Alachua County Nutrition Alliance. Anna is the President of the Board and co-founder for Working Food (formerly Forage), a non-profit focused on supporting and sustaining local food efforts in North Central Florida. She received her B.S. in marine biology from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and her M.S. in wildlife ecology and conservation with a certificate in tropical conservation and development from the University of Florida. She served in the Peace Corps at Vanuatu from 2004 to 2005. Anna is currently running for Alachua County Commission. When she isn't working she enjoys spending time in nature and seeing live music with her husband and 11 year old daughter.

    Robin Safley is Executive Director of Feeding Florida, formally known as Florida Association of Food Banks. In her role she oversees the lead organization in the fight against hunger in Florida with a statewide network of 12-member food banks and over 2,500 partner agencies that feed every community every day. Safley works to raise awareness of hunger, acquire food and financial donations, as well as work with state policymakers to garner additional support to find solutions to end hunger.

    Previously the Director for the Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness under Commissioner Adam Putnam, Safley integrated Child Nutrition Programs from the Florida Department of Education into The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

    Previous public service included stents as Chief of Staff to the Florida Senate President and Chief of Staff to the Commissioner of Education.  Safley holds a Juris Doctor degree from the FSU College of Law.  Safley is an avid tri-athlete married to Sandy Safley and mother of two daughters Avery and Caldwell.

    Carmen Franz is the Farm Director at Arden, a master planned, “agrihood” community in South Florida. She and her partner grow organic vegetables and fruit for the residents through a CSA program and General Store at their 5 acre farm and barn. Carmen is passionate about growing and sharing food. Before Arden, Carmen managed a CSA in Tennessee. Earlier she directed Fresh Access Bucks, Florida’s SNAP incentive program designed to increase underserved communities’ access to fresh foods while increasing revenue for local farmers. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Political Science, focusing on Agriculture Policy and Organic and Sustainable Crop Production, and later served as a Sustainable Agriculture Peace Corps volunteer in Panama.

    Disclaimer: The views of the speakers 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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