Florida Food Forum

Our Florida Food Forum is an online, interactive series that enables Florida food system experts, community advocates, and residents to discuss emerging issues that impact food. It is currently the only type of webinar in the state of Florida that touches a wide-range of food-related topics such as food justice, technology and agriculture, food access, urban planning and food policy.

Forum Types

Monthly Forums

Forums are 1 hour-long, interactive webinars with topics ranging from “Food Politics: The Role of Food Policy in the Food System” to “Food Waste and Food Banks” to “Women in the Food System. On average, 50 or more participants attend the monthly events.

Special Sessions

Special sessions of the forum are produced every few months to bring focus to pressing or trending topics. Recent special sessions focused on issues such as: “COVID-19 Impacts on the Florida Food System” and “Food Security and Food Justice.” On average more than 50 attendees attend these unique events.


Florida Food Forums are recorded and available for public viewing on FLFPC's YouTube channel from anywhere around the world.

Florida Food Forum attendees include stakeholders throughout the food-system including growers, business owners, health professionals, professors and teachers, and consumers.

Florida Food Forums are advertised through the FLFPC website and monthly newsletter, as well as through multiple online platforms including Eventbrite, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

  • 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.

  • 3 Mar 2020 9:00 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: February Florida Food Forum 

    Food Politics: Equity in the Food System

    If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available online here.  You can also download a pdf of the presentation here.

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

    On February 28th, the Florida Food Forum on Equity in the Food System was led by Candace Spencer, Policy Specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

    “Food is a universal need. It crosses any type of barrier people would put in place between other people, whether it be race, class, gender, sexual orientation,” Candace said in response to why she is dedicating her life to this work, “Everyone needs food, everyone needs to eat, and establishing equity in that area is a really great way to enhance equity in our society overall.”

    Candace began by clarifying that as the topic of equity is vast, and that this presentation would be an introduction to the topic and a place to start a larger conversation around how people can bring this topic into their own work. Specifically, this talk focuses on racial equity and how to begin to center racial equity in the food system through policy.

     “If we look at the history of the food and the agriculture system in this country, it is based on two things: stolen land and stolen labor.”

    Diving in, Candace describes the two main aspects of a successful agriculture system: land and capital. “Land was stolen from Indigenous people, and labor was stolen from enslaved African people who were brought to this country to work the land and to utilize it for the economic benefit of White people. That economic benefit was estimated by political scientist Thomas Craemer to be between $5.9 to $14.2 trillion dollars in current dollars.”

    She notes that these things didn’t happen in a vacuum. That in fact, they were supported and upheld by policies.

    “Policies are often used as a tool of systemic racism,” she said. “One example is treaties with Indigenous people. They often weren’t explained well or translated into Indigenous languages, completely ignored the idea of land ownership to Indigenous people, if that term even existed, or they just weren’t followed—many treaties that were signed were completely broken by the federal government.”

    Candace explains how the Homestead Act of 1862 provided generational wealth which is present to this day. “It was only available to White people, not to Black or Indigenous people, and allowed people to claim certain tracts of land. If they worked the land for 5 years, they were then able to maintain ownership of that land.”

    Another important policy we still see today is the Farm Bill. “A notable way in which it upheld systemic racism is by delegating a lot of decision-making power to states and countries in the implementation of Farm Bill programs,” Candace says, “This is important to note because something can either implicitly or explicitly uphold systemic racism. Because systemic racism is so prevalent, if something is not actively opposing it, it’s implicitly upholding it. So, the Farm Bill allowed states and counties to decide on who received loans from the federal government, who had access to land, who had access to federal programs, and that control was used to discriminate, especially in the South, against Black farmers.”

    Candace describes the lasting effects of these policies through notable statistics. According to the 2017 Ag Census conducted by the USDA, 95% of agricultural producers in this country are White and 1.4% of producers are Black. In another study performed by the Institute for Policy Studies, the results found that the average White household owns 86 times more wealth than its Black counterpart, and 68 times more wealth than its Latino one.

    So, where do we go from here?

     “Acknowledgement is the first step to righting wrong.”

    Candace points out that acknowledging the reality that this system is built on structural inequity is critical to moving equity forward. And that if we are to apply this knowledge to policy and move equity forward through policy, we have to ask the right questions of the right people at the right time.

    The first question we need to ask is “Why?” Why is this policy the way it is?

    “We think about policy in two different contexts: If we have a policy that already exists, then we are trying to make it more equitable and if it’s a new policy, then we are trying to make it equitable from its inception,” she says. “In order to change any system or structure, you have to know how it came to be in the first place by getting to the root of the ‘Why.’”

    The next question is “What?” What does it mean for a policy to be equitable?

    In this case, Candace notes that the best question to ask is, “Does the policy shift power?” That it’s important to understand if the policy, program, or idea, shifts power from those who have it to those who don’t. If it doesn’t, then it’s not advancing equity.

    The third question is “Who?” Who does this policy effect?

    In order to center equity in policy it is essential to have the input of those who don’t have power. It’s also important to remember that building a new system is going to require time.

    “Moving at the speed of trust.”

    Candace says that engaging people who don’t have power to get their honest feedback as to what is going to help them requires intentional, respectful and lengthy relationship building.

    The final question is “How?” How should we go about creating change?

    Context is key. “There are so many ways depending on the context. Most important is to acknowledge and be willing to listen, then to apply them to a specific context,” she says.

    Candace’s presentation was filled with rich layers on a topic that is sometimes difficult to discuss. At the end of the presentation, the forum was opened up for questions which led to a vibrant discussion.

    Resources on this topic:

    Books -

    Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen

    An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

    Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Ibram X. Kendi

    White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin DiAngelo

    Trainings –

    Racial Justice Training, Race Forward

    Uprooting Racism in the Food System, Soul Fire Farm

    DIA: Building Equitable and Inclusive Organizations, Equity At Work

    Food Justice and Policy Examples –

    Platform for Real Food, HEAL Food Alliance

    Food Sovereignty Action Steps, Soul Fire Farm

    New Roots, Lexington, KY

    Farmworker Association of Florida

    Agricultural Justice Project

    Coalition of Immokalee Workers

    The main webpage for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: 


    To sign up for information from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition on USDA programs: 


    Bio: Candace Spencer is a Double Gator and earned both her B.A. in Environmental Science and J.D. from the University of Florida, as well as a Certificate in Environmental and Land Use Law. She previously worked at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she developed a new program area in the Conservation Clinic focused on environmental justice and community economic development and engaged in local urban agricultural policy. Candace is passionate about equitable food systems and land ownership, particularly Black owned agricultural land and addressing food apartheid. She currently works as a Policy Specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in Washington, D.C. 

    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.

  • 1 Feb 2020 8:40 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: January Florida Food Forum 

    Food Politics: The Role of Food Policy in the Food System

    If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available online here.  You can also download the PowerPoint presentation here.

    To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on Food Politics: The Role of Food Policy in the Food System here to add your thoughts and comments. 

    On January 31st, the Florida Food Forum on Food Politics: The Role of Food Policy in the Food System was led by Anthony Olivieri, Chair of the Development Committee at the Florida Food Policy Council and founder of FHEED LLC (Food for Health, the Environment, Economy & Democracy).

    Anthony begins the talk with one previous experience, when he made the realization that, “Health disparities—nutritional health disparities in particular—are not random. That food access and food health outcomes are clustered in areas of poverty and racial discrimination.” This awareness changed the way he studied environmental planning, moving to a more environmental justice standpoint and eventually a geographic approach to food.

    Food Politics is a vast topic, therefore for this presentation Anthony focuses on the area of policy that citizens can affect on the ground and that citizens have a right to affect, which is land use policies.

    “Food itself can reflect policy.” In his story about two carrots, one symmetrical, the other asymmetrical, Anthony makes the point that the policy of efficiency can actually be seen in the shape of the carrots. The symmetrical carrot is part of a larger system that prioritizes cost over community, where the size and shape of food must be maximized for the bottom line. Yet, the asymmetrical carrot is grown by the local farmer and everyone sees it being grown, which in turn plays a role in community building and connectivity.

    “Policies that shape the city, to a considerable extent, determine how we eat.”

    One example that shows the importance of a food policy is the closing of the Miami “Roots in the City Overtown Urban Farm” in 2011. The community had been using public land to grow and sell produce to the community. However, as there was no specific policy that allowed for farmer’s markets, the government was able to force the community to shut down the market to develop the land for other uses.

    When communities are aware of the power of food policy, they are able to thrive like the Dania Beach PATCH in Broward county. The community got together to create a new policy that would allow community gardens and farmer’s markets on public lands, which enabled the Dania Beach PATCH garden and market to not only exist, but be able to apply for grants from the government. With the safety of a policy and strong infrastructure for funding, Dania Beach PATCH has flourished.  

    Anthony says, in reference to Dania Beach PATCH, “If you have a policy to allow food growing, and the policy also says the food growing shall enhance the community cohesion, of the neighborhood and the city, and shall allow for program for people to experience food in multiple ways, you can get outcomes like this.”

    Food is powerful. Food is political. Food is intimate.

    Anthony makes the case that, “Food has a major component of politics to it—a type of politics that awakens people.”

    He shares a quote from McMichael, “the power of food lies in its material and symbolic functions of linking nature, human survival, health, culture and livelihood as a focus of resistance to corporate takeover of life itself,” and uses the example of D-Town Farm.

    Run by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network who advocates for justice in the food system, D-Town Farm is example of how local citizens can create stronger local economies and advocate for food justice.

    Anthony explains two frameworks through which citizens can advocate for their right to food. One is through food justice, which he explains is a strategy, a response, and a way to harness the power of food. “We see this being done not only at farmers markets but harnessed by our representatives.” The other is through food sovereignty, which is “the right for people to produce and sell, and the right to control and define their own food systems.”

    What is the food system?

    Anthony goes on to explain that a main part of the food system includes regulations and policies. Therefore, it is important to understand which policies citizens have the power to control. As land anchors food policy, we can harness land use policy to change how we control our food system.

    At the local level there are some tools that citizens can use to affect food policy such as comprehensive plans, land development regulations, community redevelopment agency plans and community master plans.

    Anthony highlights the elements of comprehensive plans and how to use them to enact change. He shows an example of a visionary policy in Fort Lauderdale’s comprehensive plan, and its effect on the food system and explains that all municipalities in Florida are able to create such robust policies because of The Florida Community Planning Act: 163.3161.  

    Because of this land use planning act, “all localities have the right to plan in the interest of public health…So, local government can preserve, promote, protect and improve public health and welfare,” notes Anthony. “I think anyone of us can argue that policies that increase healthy food access and food sovereignty and food justice, do indeed improve the health, safety, and general welfare of a community.”

    Participants were then asked to join in on the discussion, which lead to a robust conversation on ways citizens can increase food access in Florida communities.

    Bio: Anthony Olivieri, Chair of the Development Committee at the Florida Food Policy Council, is the founder of FHEED LLC (Food for Health, the Environment, Economy & Democracy), has a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from FAU (2011) with a focus on community food systems, and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). His specialties are geographic assessments of food and health disparities, program design for healthy food access initiatives, and public speaking about health equity. In addition to his consultancy, Anthony was a full-time instructor with the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida Atlantic University, where he developed and taught the region’s first urban planning course on community food systems (2014-2016). A Fort Lauderdale resident since 1998, Anthony is originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts and has a B.A. in psycholinguistics from the University of Southern California (1994).

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

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

  • 23 Dec 2019 10:00 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: December Florida Food Forum 

    Food Policy for Wellness

    If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available online here. You can also view the presentation slides in this pdf.

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

    On December 20th, the Florida Food Forum on Food Policy for Wellness was led by Dave Krepcho, President/CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

    In his talk, Dave covered many important areas such as: the intersection of food insecurity and health, the Central Florida response which included non-traditional partnerships and the Health and Hunger Task Force, and local pilots, projects and next steps.

    Dave began with the Mission of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida: “To create hope and nourish lives through a powerful hunger relief network, while multiplying the generosity of a caring community.”

    As a hunger relief network, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida provides food to 600 various charitable feeding programs including food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, schools, hospitals and clinics over 6 counties: Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Brevard, Volusia and Lake. In total, they reach around 500,000 Central Floridians each year of which around 180,000 are children. Last year alone, they distributed close to 60 million meals.

    With a lack of affordable housing, healthcare, and public transportation in Florida, food insecurity is a serious result.

    “Florida has the 3rd highest number of food insecure children in the country,” Dave noted, “74% of households receiving food from Second Harvest live in poverty, 50% exhaust snap benefits in two weeks, and 60% of households were employed in the past year.”

    Dave went on to frame the cycle of food insecurity and chronic disease and how to look at food insecurity as a way to address social determinants of health.

    “Food insecure patients cost the health care system, on average, almost $1,863 more per year.”

    One of the most serious effects economically of food insecurity is the rise in additional health care costs of up to $52.9 Billion as there is an increase in chronic disease treatment, diabetes hospitalizations, and hospital readmissions.

    By working with healthcare partners as a food bank, there is an opportunity to tackle food insecurity.

    Dave continued with the Health and Hunger Taskforce, a platform which launched in 2015 that focuses on goals such as: food insecurity screening, building value proposition for the work, measuring health outcomes. The taskforce serves as a platform for funding opportunities, knowledge transmission, and advocacy, all while leading the way to improve patient and community health.

    Currently, Second Harvest is working on a variety of short- and long-term pilots and projects to find innovate ways to fight food insecurity. Going forward, the organization is looking at specific areas such as: sustainability of healthy food costs, buy-in from the clinical community, increased awareness, utilization/integration into healthcare systems, addressing barriers, nutrition education expansion, and healthy food access/food as medicine institutionalized across the provision of healthcare.

    In regards to policy, Dave mentioned the Medicaid Waiver 1115, which enables compensation for “experimental, pilot, or demonstration projects that are found by the Secretary [of Health and Human Services] to be likely to assist in promoting the objectives of the Medicaid program.” This kind of policy allows for increased research in this area which may foster long-term change.

    Following the presentation, Vice President of Agency Relations and Programs Karen Broussard joined the discussion which touched on a number of important topics.


    Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida Website

    Feeding America Website 

    Bio: Dave Krepcho is President/CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida; a member of Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger relief organization in the U.S. Second Harvest Food Bank serves a six County area in Central Florida through a network of 550 partner agencies. Last year, Second Harvest distributed enough food for 58 million meals, have trained and placed into jobs 280 graduates of their Culinary and Distribution Center Training programs and generated $100 million worth of SNAP benefits through their award-winning mobile outreach program. Second Harvest’s annual economic impact in Central Florida is $187 million. The organization annually receives Charity Navigator’s Four Star rating.

    Dave has 26 years’ experience in food banking in positions such as a national Feeding America Board member, past president of Feeding Florida, chair of the Feeding America eastern region, chaired various national task forces, member of a bi-partisan Washington, DC think tank, serves on the 4ROOTS Board as well as the Florida Nonprofit Alliance. He was the Orlando Sentinel’s Orlando Sentinel’s “2009 Central Floridian of the Year” and in 2019, Orlando Magazines 50 Most Powerful People: Philanthropy & Community Voices. Prior to his role at Second Harvest, Dave was V.P. of Business Development at Feeding America. Before he reinvented himself as a food banker, he had a career in the Advertising Agency business and attended Columbus College of Art & Design. Dave is married with two children, seven grandchildren.

    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 Nov 2019 12:44 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: November Florida Food Forum 

    Food Waste and Food Banks: An Evolving Strategy

    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 Farm to School here to add your thoughts and comments.   

    On November 15th, the November Florida Food Forum on Food Waste and Food Banks: An Evolving Strategy was led by David Vaina and Krista Garofalo. David is the Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives and Krista is the Chief Resource Officer at the Treasure Coast Food Bank in Fort Pierce, Florida.

    The presentation covered many topics including: food waste and sustainability, innovate strategies to combat food waste, effects of current programs and policies on food waste and food banks, and future initiatives that could lead a change.

     “About 40% of food produced in the US goes to waste, about 62.5 million tons of food waste every year, which equals about 218 billion dollars annually that’s never consumed. 10.1 million tones are left unharvested on farms and 52.4 million ends up in landfills.”

    David went on to explain that traditionally food banks have long focused their efforts with grocery stores. “The Feeding America network collectively annually 4.5 billion pounds of unsellable food,” said David. Through grocery rescue programs, millions of pounds of food are rescued and distributed.

    However, there is waste in all levels of the food system. In fact, “80% of food waste occurs in consumer homes, restaurants and institutions,” David noted.

    Thus, it is interesting to see food banks continue to work to address their traditional role of alleviating hunger and poverty while moving towards a more sustainable framework.

    Krista continued the talk by speaking about innovative things food banks are doing including collaborating with non-traditional partners like organizations that help children and seniors, talking to farmers, growers and ranchers, and schools and organizations that are usually not involved in a food bank’s structure.

    Programs such as Meals for Miles and the Meal Connect Program that specialize in just in time food runs allow for food donations that have a short shelf life. Also, as more individuals are volunteering, personal vehicles are being used to pick up food directly.

    “Because volunteers and partner agencies directly with food donor it helps ensure food is collected before expiration,” said Krista.

    David continued by speaking about innovations at food banks around the county such as in San Diego, where one food bank purchased a zero-landfill food waste composter that allows them to donate the resulting compost to local farms and food gardens.

    As California has a policy that requires businesses to separate organic food scraps from traditional waste, it also has an impact on the amount of food that is collected by this food bank. Other states also have similar policies, like Vermont which has a universal recycling law that requires all organic waste produced in the state be diverted from landfills.

    The presentation then shifted to current programs policies that affect Florida.

    One of the strongest federal policies that protects donors and encourages them to participate in donation is the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.

    In Florida, the statewide program Farmers Feeding Florida further encourages donations as it allows farmers to receive a tax deduction for their donations.

     “It’s a system that offsets the cost of Florida grown crops that can’t be brought into the market. Twenty percent of produce doesn’t make it into the supply chain because of cosmetic reasons or market shifts. This program helps farmers find a market – food banks—that is distributed through the food banks around the state,” Krista explained.

    As for policy reform, Krista spoke about the importance of bill HR3981 Food Date Labeling Act of 2019, which speaks to standardize date labels across the U.S.

    “Currently most food dates only indicate the peak quality of a product. A lot of food is thrown out prematurely because of confusion related to these food date labels.”

    Towards the end of the talk Krista laid out seven main things they would like to see going into the future: further tax incentives, liability protections on the state level, date labeling education, better use of food safety procedures, more funding for school projects, organic waste bans, and general Government support.

    The presentation was followed by a lively Q&A session. Specific links to articles and policies were also shared and can be found below.


    Civil Eats "Where Do Food Banks Fit in to the Fight for a Green New Deal?" 

    FDACS Food Recovery Program 

    Forbes - "FDA, USDA and EPA Team Up With Food Waste Reduction Alliance" 

    Winning on Reducing Food Waste FY 2019-2020 Federal Interagency Strategy, MOU 225-19-003

    Florida FORCE Project 

    Food Waste Warriors 

    Hotel Kitchen Toolkit


    David Vaina is the Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at Treasure Coast Food Bank. As such, he leads the organization’s workforce development, client services, social equity initiatives, data analytics, and evaluation initiatives. Before returning to Treasure Coast Food Bank in November 2019, he was the statewide Education & Outreach Director for the Gainesville-based Florida Organic Growers and taught organic gardening at Santa Fe College. For many years now, he has written and presented on local food systems, organic farming and gardening, GMOs, and fermentation.

    Krista Garofalo is the Chief Resource Officer at the Treasure Coast Food Bank in Fort Pierce, Florida.  She has 17 years of experience in marketing communications,  program development, project management, and advocacy in the non-profit field. For her body of anti-poverty work, Krista was named a member of the National Advisory Council on Maternal, Infant, and Fetal Nutrition of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and been invited to speak at learning conferences hosted by various national organizations, including Feeding America, Food Research & Action Center, and the American Commodities Distribution Association.  She holds a Masters in Public Administration with certificates in Non-Profit Organizations and Women’s Studies from the University of Georgia and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies from The College of New Jersey.

    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.

  • 26 Oct 2019 9:47 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: October Florida Food Forum 

    Farm to School

    If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available online here. You can also view the presentation in this pdf.

    To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on Farm to School here to add your thoughts and comments.   

    On October 25th, the October Florida Food Forum on Farm to School was led by Jeannie Necessary. During the presentation, she gave an overview about Florida's SNAP-Ed and UF IFAS/Extension Family Nutrition Program (FNP), FNP regional specialists, and farm to school initiatives.

    Jeannie explained the mission of UF IFAS/Extension Family Nutrition Program is to help, “limited-resource families in Florida access more nutritious food choices on a budget and adopt healthier eating a physical activity habits to reduce the risk of obesity and chronic disease.”

    Currently the program provides free nutrition education in 40 counties to SNAP-eligible Florida families.

    The FNP Program focuses on three main areas: creating healthy schools, creating healthy communities, and creating healthy child care centers.

    Jeannie introduced specific programs and initiatives related to creating healthy schools like: farm to school gardens, school to garden cafeterias, the Alachua County Food Hub, and Florida Crunch.

    One policy that was highlighted in the presentation was the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Procedure B-18, whose purpose is to incorporate school garden produce into the school food service program.

    Jeannie noted that this kind of policy enables gardens in schools to act as a learning lab for students and teachers to be able to participate in a specific type of learning that involves touching, feeling, smelling, harvesting and understanding where food comes from.

    “I’m happy to say that I’ve seen over the years so many students change their minds about whether they liked radishes at the beginning of the school year. Once they planted and tasted them, they did enjoy radishes. And understanding that a cucumber…actually comes from a plant.”

    In areas where schools are interested in creating similar policies, it is possible to take Miami-Dade’s policy as an example to educate school districts as “the policy focuses on food safety and the best and safest way to incorporate produce into the school food service program.”

    Following the presentation, attendees gave perspectives and asked various questions about the topics presented.

    Jeannie is employed at the University of Florida IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program as the State Food Systems Specialist. She holds Bachelor degrees in communications and political science from the University of Miami. Jeannie has more than 13 years of experience with childhood nutrition programs focused on gardening, cooking, and food insecurity.

    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 Sep 2019 9:00 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Follow Up: September Florida Food Forum 
    Animal Welfare 

    If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available online here. You can also view the presentation in this pdf.

    To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on Animal Welfare to add your thoughts and comments.   

    On Friday, September 27th guest speaker James Wildman presented on the topic of Animal Welfare.

    James began his presentation by discussing the Gestation Crate Ban, which was first passed in 2002 and officially took effect on November 5, 2008.

    The ban reads as such: “Inhumane treatment of animals is a concern of Florida citizens. The people of the State of Florida hereby limit the cruel and inhumane confinement of pigs during pregnancy as provided herein. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person to confine a pig during pregnancy in an enclosure, or to tether a pig during pregnancy, on a farm in such a way that she is prevented from turning around freely.” – Constitution of the State of Florida, Article X, Section 21.

    James went on to discuss resolutions that would condemn and restrict “battery cage egg production” in certain cities across Florida in 2007. He also introduced the 2011 bill SB 1636, which although failed, would have prohibited tethering or confining of hens and calves in a specified manner.

    Along with egg-production, dairy and cattle farming are some of Florida’s largest animal industries. Yet, in 2018, James noted how, “undercover videos of the horrific mistreatment of two dairy farm workers led to public outcry and led to Public Supermarkets to suspend deliveries of milk from the farms.”

    In fact, he said, “over the past decade the animal-agriculture industry has been behind the introduction of ‘ag-gag’ bills in more than half of all state legislatures across the country. These bills are designed to silence whistleblowers revealing animal abuses on industrial farms.”

    In Florida, ag-gag bill SB 1184 was introduced by Senator Jim Norman in 2012. According to the bill, “A person may not knowingly enter upon any nonpublic area of a farm and, without the prior written consent of the farm’s owner or the owner’s authorized representative, operate the audio or video recording function of any device with the intent of recording sound or images of the farm or farm operation.”

    Although the bill was rejected in both the House and the Senate, James points out how ag-gag laws can the negative aspects of these laws, “Ag-gag laws pose a threat to a wide spectrum of values and issues Americans care about. It’s not just animal rights activists who oppose Ag-gag laws. Besides, animal welfare ag-gag laws threaten: food safety, marketplace transparency, workers’ rights, free speech and environmental protection.”

    James continues his presentation touching on other topics such as the growing alternative dairy industry and plant-based foods market. With these new foods have also come proposed bills restricting the use of certain words such as: meat, beef, burger, sausage, and jerky, unless the product came from animals born, raised and slaughtered in a traditional way.

    As interest in plant-based foods increases a number of restaurants have added these items to their menus. James touched on the positive health benefits of this shift. Following the presentation was a lively discussion.

    James Wildman is the Humane Educator for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF). Since 2007, James has given over five thousand presentations at over a hundred different schools and universities in South Florida, teaching respect and compassion for animals and the environments we share. These presentations have reached over a hundred thousand people, empowering youth and adults to live a healthier and more compassionate lifestyle. In 2017, James was featured in the documentary "Food ReLOVution." James has worked with youth for over 20 years, and in 2006, he obtained a master's degree in Humane Education.

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

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