Florida Food Policy Council

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  • 4 Apr 2021 7:26 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    The Florida Food Policy Council has joined a public private partnership challenging Floridians to become food waste reduction heroes by launching inaugural Florida Food Waste Prevention Week which runs from April 5th to 9th, 2021.

    FLFPC joins leaders from around the state including the Food Conservation Alliance, EPA Region IV, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Florida Department of Environmental Protection, to team up with Recycle Florida Today, Sustainable Events Network, Florida & Caribbean, and Florida Atlantic University for this important event.

    This partnership represents a commitment to the mission of raising public awareness and inspiring a call to action to prevent food waste, protect the environment, save money and reduce hunger.

    On April 8th at 11AM, Whitney Fung FLFPC member and Data Insights Manager at Feeding Tampa Bay, will be representing the council at the special virtual event Florida Food Policy Update and Road Ahead” to discuss current initiatives on food waste with Josh Kelly, Materials Management Section Chief with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, along with Moderator Elaine Fiore, President of Food Conservation Alliance.

    Beyond consumer level behavior changes, Food Waste Prevention Week prompts Floridians to also consider how food is wasted within their workplaces, communities and recreational destinations. Food Waste Prevention Week challenges both organizations and residents throughout the state to become Food Waste Reduction Heroes.  

    As Food Waste Reduction Heroes, what are we saving?

    • Up to 3 million tons of annual food waste which could feed the 1 in 5 Floridians that lack consistent access to nutritious food. 
    • A family of four can save on average $1500 per year.   
    • Florida’s critical natural resources of land, water, and energy, used to create otherwise good food that is wasted. 
    For more information on the Florida Food Waste Prevention Week, visit here.


  • 16 Dec 2020 10:47 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    From left to right Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).


    As of December 7th, both the House and the Senate passed resolutions recognizing the importance of United States leadership in the effort to reduce global maternal and child malnutrition.

    The Global Nutrition Resolution, H.R. 189, was introduced by Reps. Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) in March, 2020, with 154 bipartisan co-sponsors. Senate resolution S.R. 260 was authored by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chris Coons (D-DE), and had 42 bipartisan co-sponsors.

    “Food security and access to good nutrition in early childhood are vital to children’s physical and cognitive development. Although progress has been made in improving nutrition for mothers and children, nearly half of all child deaths worldwide are related to malnutrition. It is a tragedy that so many preventable deaths still occur,” said Senator Collins in a press release. “Our bipartisan resolution recognizes the important role the United States plays in the global effort to end child and maternal hunger and applauds USAID’s continued efforts to promote global food security.”

    “The number of children lost each year due to malnutrition is staggering. Too many families and communities around the globe are devastated by food insecurity, hunger, and nutrient deficiencies, and we must do more,” said Senator Coons. “I’m proud the Senate adopted the bipartisan resolution I introduced with Senator Collins that recognizes the critical leadership role the United States and USAID play to reduce malnutrition worldwide.”

    The resolutions highlight the severity of malnutrition across the globe and the negative effects that this has on child development, maternal health, and economic development. They also recognize that the USAID Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy, the U.S. Government Global Nutrition Coordination Plan, the Global Food Security Strategy, and the Scaling Up Nutrition movement are all platforms that can help reach global nutrition targets by 2025.

    Several advocacy groups have expressed support for the resolution including Bread for the World, RESULTS, Save the Children, CARE, and UNICEF.


    Read the full Senate resolution here.

    Read the full House resolution here.


  • 25 Nov 2020 8:44 AM | Administrator (Administrator)
    • From left to right: Senator Cory Booker, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. 


    • On November 19th, the Justice for Black Farmers Act was introduced to Congress by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The bill is aimed at addressing and correcting historic discrimination within the U.S. Department of Agriculture in federal farm assistance and lending that has caused Black farmers to lose millions of acres of farmland and robbed Black farmers and their families of hundreds of billions of dollars of inter-generational wealth.

      "Overtly discriminatory and unjust federal policy has robbed Black families in the United States of the ability to build and pass on intergenerational wealth,” said Senator Booker in a press release. “When it comes to farming and agriculture, we know that there is a direct connection between discriminatory policies within the USDA and the enormous land loss we have seen among Black farmers over the past century. The Justice for Black Farmers Act will work to correct this historic injustice by addressing and correcting USDA discrimination and taking bold steps to restore the land that has been lost in order to empower a new generation of Black farmers to succeed and thrive.”

      In 1920 there were nearly 1 million Black farmers in the United States. Today, it is estimated that there are less than 50,000 remaining Black farmers. Over the past hundred years, Black agricultural landowners have lost 98 percent of their land, some 12 million acres. If passed, the Justice for Black Farmers Act will enact policies to end discrimination within the USDA, protect remaining Black farmers from losing their land, provide land grants to create a new generation of Black farmers and restore the land base that has been lost, and implement systemic reforms to help family farmers across the United States.

      Senator Warren said, “For decades, racist policies have robbed Black farmers of the economic opportunity to thrive in our country's agricultural industry. I'm glad to cosponsor Senator Booker's bill, which goes a long way toward restoring and protecting property rights of Black farmers, rooting out discriminatory policies, and providing Black farmers with the necessary tools to succeed.”

      “Black farmers and ranchers have been historically excluded in agricultural industries and inequities in federal aid have stripped them from their land. It is not only our responsibility to investigate this systemic discrimination, we must end and correct it so that the next generation of Black farmers can bloom,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “The Justice for Black Farmers Act will ensure the Department of Agriculture puts an end to discriminatory practices that have harmed Black agricultural producers for more than a hundred years. I thank Senator Booker for his leadership on this issue and I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation to make farming more equitable and inclusive.”

      According to Booker, the Justice for Black Farmers Act will:

      • End Discrimination within USDA: The Act takes steps to once and for all end discrimination within USDA. The Act creates an independent civil rights oversight board to conduct reviews of any appeals of civil rights complaints filed against USDA, to investigate reports of discrimination within USDA, and to provide oversight of Farm Service Agency County Committees. In addition, the Act creates an Equity Commission whose responsibilities include developing recommendations to reform FSA County Committees. The Act also puts reforms in place within the USDA Office of Civil Rights, including placing a moratorium on foreclosures during the pendency of civil rights complaints.
      • Protect Remaining Black Farmers from Land Loss: The Act increases the funding authorization for the USDA relending program created in the 2018 Farm Bill to resolve farmland ownership and succession, or “heirs property,” issues. The Act provides funding for pro bono assistance, including legal assistance, succession planning and support for development of farmer cooperatives, to Black farmers. The Act will also create and fund a new bank to provide financing and grants to Black farmer and rancher cooperative financial institutions, and will forgive USDA debt of Black farmers who filed claims in the Pigford litigation.
      • Restore the Land Base Lost by Black Farmers: The Act creates a new Equitable Land Access Service within USDA to acquire farmland and provide land grants of up to 160 acres to existing and aspiring Black farmers. These land grants will allow hundreds of thousands of new Black farmers to return to the land in the next decade. To help ensure their success, these new Black farmers will be provided access to USDA operating loans and mortgages on favorable terms.
      • Create a Farm Conservation Corps: The Act creates a USDA program where young adults from socially disadvantaged communities will be provided with the academic, vocational and social skills necessary to pursue careers in farming and ranching. Participants in the program will be paid by USDA and will serve as on-farm apprentices at no cost to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, beginning farmers and ranchers, and organic farmers and ranchers with annual gross farm income of less than $250,000.00. Black participants who gain experience through this program will have priority for land grants.
      • Empower HBCUs and Advocates for Black farmers: The Act provides substantial resources to 1890s and to nonprofits who serve Black farmers so that they can provide pro bono assistance in identifying land for USDA to purchase and provide as land grants, help new Black farmers get up and running, provide farmer training, and provide other assistance including succession planning and legal assistance to Black farmers. The Act also provides new funding to HBCUs to expand their agriculture research and courses of study.
      • Assist All Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers: While Black farmers have suffered a unique history of discrimination, other socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers have also been harmed by discrimination. The Act substantially increases funding for USDA technical assistance and for programs such as CSP and REAP, and gives priority for these programs, as well as increased access to capital, to all socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
      • Enact System Reforms to Help All Farmers and Ranchers: In order for existing Black farmers and the new Black farmers created by this bill to have a real chance to succeed and thrive, broader reforms to our broken food system must be enacted. The Justice for Black Farmers Act substantially reforms and strengthens the Packers and Stockyards Act in order to stop abusive practices by big multinational meatpacking companies and protect all family farmers and ranchers. 

    The bill has gained support from more than 90 organizations across the United States. A full list of supportive organizations can be accessed here. The full text of the bill can be viewed here.

    The Florida Food Policy Council covered this topic in the November 2019 Florida Food Forum on “Black Farmers Matter.” The forum featured Tanikka Watford Williams, Executive Director of The Moore Wright Group, Angelique Taylor and David “Kip” Ritchey, Owners of Smarter By Nature LLC, and Carla Bristol, Collaboration Manager at St. Petersburg Youth Farm. Incoming Chair of the Florida Food Policy Council, Erica Hall, moderated the event. Access a summary and watch a recording of the event here.


  • 20 Nov 2020 9:48 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Jesse Haskins is the principal attorney of J Haskins Law, a law firm focused on sustainable, regenerative agriculture.

    Prior to his legal focus on food, Jesse served as assistant attorney general for the State of Florida. In this capacity, he handled a range of civil litigation, from prisoners’ civil rights complaints to challenges about the adequacy of funding for Florida’s public universities. Jesse also served as assistant general counsel for the Florida Department of Financial Services, where he handled matters relating to workers’ compensation compliance, bankruptcy, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

    Jesse graduated from the Duke University School of Law in 2009 and is admitted to practice law in Florida and North Carolina.

    His favorite ingredient is tahini.


  • 12 Nov 2020 1:26 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    NEWS RELEASE 

    FOR RELEASE, November 12, 2020  


    Florida Food Policy Council Announces the Appointment of Erica Hall as New Board Chair 


    Florida, November 12, 2020 — The Florida Food Policy Council announced today the appointment of Erica Hall as Chair to the board of directors. 

    This brings the current number of board members to 9. 

    Erica Hall, M.S. CED, MBA, ARM is the incoming chair and will serve a three (3) year term. Erica brings to the Board an extensive background as a community organizer, advocate, non-profit executive and Board member, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) consultant and Senior Legal Professional. Erica has worked in urban agriculture, community development, urban planning, environmental justice, public health, neighborhood preservation, food policy and advocacy and on all aspects of non-profit management, corporate and commercial real estate transactions.  Three years ago, she relocated from the Washington DC/Northern VA area where she lived for over 14 years and worked with the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the American Planning Association, the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) and other environmental, neighborhood revitalization groups throughout the DC area focusing on youth development, urban agriculture, food insecurity, workforce training, affordable housing, historic and neighborhood preservation.  Erica has collaborated and partnered on developing Food Policy Councils in NY, DC, VA, and MD while remaining active in the green building and environmental justice community, using her platform to combine leadership, advocacy and activism. 

    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. She is still a Grant Reviewer for the USDA's Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LMPP). Erica previously chaired Healthy Solutions a DC non-profit and 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. In 2015, while a member of the DC chapter of the US Green Building Council, Erica was selected as co-chair of the Host Committee for Greenbuild, the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to Green Building.  As co-chair, she worked to connect and introduce the U.S. Green Building Council and Greenbuild to International Real Estate Management (IREM) and other real estate groups. The 2015 Greenbuild Host Committee, on which she served, earned the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2016. 

    Erica is also a Senior Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program, a dynamic network of over 1,000 of the country’s top emerging environmental and social change leaders. Erica is also experienced in lobbying and public policy, working with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Lobby and Leadership Corps, and the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) Public Policy Committee.  Erica has also worked for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and NeighborWorks America on Community Reinvestment Act advocacy and initiatives across the country.   Erica is currently a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the National Board of Directors for IREM as well as the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the American Society on Aging. Erica is also a member of the Executive Committee of the North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN), which was founded in 2015 to offer leadership and technical skills training, networking, and other professional development opportunities for the growing group of individuals supporting the development of equitable and sustainable local and regional food systems. 

    Currently living in St Petersburg Florida, Erica stays busy on a number of projects, including advising and working with the Sierra Club Florida Chapter, Suncoast Group, the League of Women Voters and the City of St. Petersburg on the development of a Food Policy Council for the City of St. Petersburg. Erica has also been elected as an incoming Executive Committee member of the Sierra Club Florida Chapter, Suncoast Group. Erica also serves as a workgroup member of the Grow Smarter Strategy, a comprehensive, integrated, data-driven community plan to enhance St. Petersburg’s competitive position and provide quality, diverse economic growth. Erica also worked on the Enoch Davis/St. Pete Youth Farm project as a member of the Ad Hoc Committee, which helped to define the mission statement for the project, helped guide project direction, while producing some broad actions needed to implement the project while empowering youth to lead urban agriculture projects under community guidance and resources as a successful strategy in youth development, entrepreneurship, workforce and neighborhood development. Erica has a master’s degree in Community Economic Development and a Global MBA from Southern New Hampshire University.  

    We are thrilled to welcome Erica and her passion, knowledge, and experience to the Board. Erica's commitment to equity and inclusivity in the food system align with the Council values of integrity and collaboration and are ever more vital in our current times. With her experience on the national policy stage coupled with her love of building local food systems, we think she is the ideal candidate to lead the Council forward into the next phase of development,” said Rachel Shapirothe Florida Food Policy Council’s outgoing Chair. 

    In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, food policy councils (FPCs) have emerged as a critical struc­ture for organizing community-based responses to multiple food system issues. Food policy councils (FPCs) are being thrust into roles beyond anything their members could have imagined. The Florida Food Policy Council is poised to become an important voice to groups throughout the State of Florida, as well as providing a safe place to encourage and engage in sometimes uncomfortable dialogue and discussion, said Erica. 

     

    About Florida Food Policy Council 

    The Florida Food Policy Council (FLFPC) works to address gaps and affect policy within the food system through integrity and collaboration for the benefit of all Floridians and the environment. 

     

    Media Contact: 

    Kyndra Love 

    Operations and Communications Manager 

    info@flfpc.org 

    www.flfpc.org 


  • 8 Nov 2020 11:20 AM | Administrator (Administrator)


    The FLFPC 2020 Annual Membership Meeting was held virtually on the 7th of November, 2020. During the meeting, members learned about FLFPC team updates and additions to the Board, as well as our current and ongoing projects. Members also discussed their projects and issues important to them. 

    Now at 9 members, Chair Erica Hall, Vice-Chair Rachel Shapiro, Chair of the Development Committee Anthony Olivieri, Chair of the Policy Committee Dell deChant, Treasurer Tom Pellizzetti, Secretary Chris Johns, North Florida Liaison Martha Lang and Southwest Florida Liaison Jesse Haskins, and Southeast Florida Liaison Rick Hawkins, make up the Board.  

    A number of team members including Operations and Communications Manager Kyndra Love, Head of Curriculum Development Sarah Brunnig, Research Assistants Cortney Szafran and Gabby Teixeira, Administrative Intern Artha Jonassaint, and Correspondents Rachel Ram and Candace Spencer, are also working hard on projects that will educate Floridians on policy. 

    Among these projects are the Florida Food Policy Scan project, which looks at local land use planning documents to find policy gaps in access to food, the Florida Food Citizen Curriculum, which will be a tool to educate Floridians in becoming food citizens, the Florida Food Policy Toolkit, which will be a resource for individuals and organizations who are interested in affecting change in food systems in Florida, and the Florida Food Forum, which is an online interactive series that enables Florida food system experts, community advocates, and residents to discuss emerging issues that impact food. 

    In 2021, FLFPC will continue to provide members and Floridians with opportunities to learn about policy and connect. 

    The Annual Membership Meeting was a great chance to engage, and we were inspired by the passion and amazing work our members are doing around the state.  

    A recording of the event is available to members. Reach out to info@flfpc.org for more information. 

    A pdf of the presentation shown during the meeting is available for the public here. 


  • 4 Nov 2020 1:20 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    An Interview with Wade Whitworth

    Wade Whitworth and his fiance Nicole pictured at Stewart Bosley, Jr.'s Henrietta Bridge Farm

    Wade Whitworth is a seventh-generation Floridian and a third-generation farmer. He has lived in Palm Beach County his entire life and has a deep love and passion for food. Growing up and working on a farm gave Wade vast experience and knowledge about growing various types of foods, especially vegetables and fruits. His talents as a producer and grower have helped him in his new role as the Farm Business to Relation Development Manager for Joy 4 Greens, which involves buying and sourcing fresh American produce while supplying farmers with fair wages.

    “I understand how farms work and I understand the importance of working with the farmers to make sure that they get a fair wage for their hard work,” Wade said.  “One of my goals is to develop this type of mutually beneficial relationship between the farmer and Joy 4 Greens in order to help support the farming community.”

    Wade is currently a member of the Florida Food Policy Council and is past President of the Eastern Palm Beach County Farm Bureau. He has sat on the Florida Farm Bureau Trade Committee and is on the Palm Beach County Agricultural Enhancement Council Board, where he helps county officials deal with agricultural-related issues. Wade was also part of the Hemp Advisory Committee for the State of Florida.

    An Obvious Disconnect

    When asked about the challenges that Florida farmers are facing, Wade described a number of factors. To Wade, one important factor is the disconnect between what happens on the farm and what is understood by consumers and buyers.

    The first issue, he explained, is that buyers often do not know about the challenges of growing produce. The evolution of the “fast food” industry – where consumers have had the good fortune of everything being available all the time – is a difficult expectation for farmers to meet.

    “Good and bad has come out of fast food. We can feed our population more efficiently and on an exceptionally large scale; however, the convenience of fast food is contributing to a disconnect between what is being ordered and how that food is being sourced and produced. Trying to reconnect the consumers with their food source is one of my personal goals.”

    The issue of food waste is a second large concern. “As it stands, a tremendous amount of fruits and vegetables are being thrown away because they are not aesthetically perfect. When I think about how many people could be fed nutritiously with this produce, it hurts my heart. It really breaks me.”

    COVID-19, horrific as it continues to be, has been eye opening.  “What I mean is that almost overnight, restaurants were closed and many farmers who typically supply to restaurants lost their largest customer base. At that point, people started cooking more at home and the farmers started offering boxes of fresh produce to the public. It didn’t take long for people to really get into the concept.  So many people were talking about it. So many people started looking forward to driving over to their local farm and picking up their farm-fresh produce boxes. So many people got to meet the farmers and Cattlemen who pour their time, energy, and heart into feeding the community. I sincerely wish that we did not have to experience a pandemic – because it is awful – to make this connection but I do hope that this connection long survives COVID-19.”

    Good Policy, Bad Policy

    When it comes to food policy, Wade immediately pointed to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

    NAFTA, a treaty entered into by the United States, Canada and Mexico was first created to eliminate tariff barriers to agriculture and help American farmers. However, Florida fruit and vegetable farmers have faced a number of challenges, especially when competing with Mexican produce companies as labor is cheaper in Mexico, environmental regulations are more lax, and the industry receives government subsidies.

    Although farmers have gotten more recognition in the past few months, they are still facing an uphill battle. “There is a farmer hotline that doesn't stop ringing off the hook because farmers are at their wit's end. They're afraid that they are going to lose their farm; that they are going to lose their livelihood.”

    This is another reason why connecting the consumers, the businesses and the policy makers to the farmers is important to Wade. “At the end of the day, by creating effective policies that are understood and supported by our communities will hopefully allow our farmers achieve their goals and thrive through positive change.”

    When it comes to policy reform, Wade emphasizes the importance of listening to the farmers and being considerate of the unique conditions that each of them face in their respective growing regions because ‘one size, fits all’ is not necessarily the answer here. “Policies that are going to be implemented for all farmers across the United States likely need to have slight variations because every climate and every location is different. Listen to the farmers and give them a chance to speak. Let them articulate what their issues are. Bringing those policies together and developing an understanding that – for example – the same rules and regulations for California may not work in Florida is important and will go a long way.”

    Making A Connection

    For people who want to be more active and want to advocate for local farmers, Wade says that the first step is to get to know your local farmer.

    “The best way to get started is by getting to know your local farmer. At first, it might be a little overwhelming because there are lots of moving parts on a farm and there's always something going on. But, for the local community to come into the farm and show interest makes most farmers very happy. Spend a little time and create that relationship. By forming that connection, I hope that community members will be inspired to advocate for policies that would better the food system in their local community.”

    Another great place to begin those relationships is local fairs. “You can find them in every area around the state and it's a great chance to talk to farmers and get to know the farmer directly. Having that ability to meet people in person and answer their questions lets us begin that dialogue.”

    If you are interested in connecting with Wade, you can contact him at glennwhitworthjr@gmail.com. 


    Resources:

    Whitworth Farms, Inc. Instagram: @whitworth_farms

    Joy 4 Greens Website

    Palm Beach County Agricultural Enhancement Council Website

    Eastern Palm Beach County Farm Bureau Website

    Urban Growers Community Economic Development Corporation (PIC) Website



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

  • 3 Oct 2020 11:45 AM | Administrator (Administrator)


    On October 1, the President signed a bipartisan continuing resolution (H.R. 8337) to extend federal government funding through December 11. The legislation includes nearly $8 billion for vital nutrition assistance, extends several key flexibilities for nutrition programs, and extends and expands the Pandemic EBT program, which provides resources to families with children who otherwise would have received free or reduced-price meals at school.

    With the CR now in place, the Florida Food Policy Council (FLFPC) is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to use its authority from the CR to take immediate action to issue critical waivers.

    On September 21, FLFPC along with nearly 1,400 national, state, and local organizations sent a letter to the USDA urging the department to extend all child nutrition waivers through the rest of the 2020-2021 school year. Specifically, the USDA was asked to:

    ·      Allow the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to be used to feed children through the school year;

    ·      Extend all nationwide waivers for SFSP and SSO, including non-congregate feeding, parent/guardian pick-up, meal pattern flexibility, meal service time, and area eligibility, through the school year;

    ·      Waive the Afterschool Activity Requirement for the Afterschool Meal Program and the Snack Programs available through CACFP and NSLP; and

    ·      Allow those providing meals through the Summer Food Service Program or Seamless Summer Option to also utilize Afterschool Meal and Snack Programs.

    Extending all waivers throughout the school year will provide much-needed stability for schools and program operators while also: limiting overt identification, reducing the administrative burden on school nutrition departments, allowing safe and efficient meal distribution at the location that makes the most sense for families; supporting non-school sponsors that care for school-aged children during remote learning days, and providing a level of reimbursement more commensurate with the costs of the service models required during a pandemic.


    Read the letter here. A text of H.R. 8337 can be found here.


  • 18 Sep 2020 2:00 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    An Interview with Jesse Haskins

    Jesse Haskins is a member of the Florida Food Policy Council and Attorney. In this interview, Jesse talks about his interest in food policy, how he interacts with food policy in his work, and his hopes for the future.

    Watch his full interview here:


    Please introduce yourself. 

    I'm Jesse Haskins. I'm an attorney now focusing on food law. I graduated from Duke Law in 2009 and then moved down to Tallahassee where I worked for the government for the State of Florida, first with the Department of Financial Services then with the Attorney General's office. This is around the time I also started to get more involved in food issues through my involvement with the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance. I've also spent some time working for a large insurance defense firm, but I've known for a long time that my passion really lies in food. I've loved eating food for my entire life, and so for that reason I went off on my own as a lawyer, and now I am focused on supporting small-scale agriculture and local food systems.

    When did you first become interested in food policy? 

    The first time I learned about how important food policy was, was when I read the Omnivore's Dilemma around the time I was in law school. After that, when I started to work for the State of Florida, I learned about the group Red Hills Small Farm Alliance and I was a major supporter as far as getting the vast majority of our groceries delivered to us online through local farms in that organization. Around that time, I also started gardening more and had a vegetable garden with a number of herbs, and a number of fruit trees. Through that experience I think that's when I really became more invested in ecosystems, especially when it comes to the plight of the honeybees and other pollinators that we depend on for so many different types of foods and products without even realizing it. So, I think gardening was great and it is an area of food policy as far as making it easier to garden and promoting it as well from an educational perspective. I think it's a great way to learn about food policy by actually getting involved in the soil yourself. I think that was also a major part of how I have grown more into food policy. And finally, becoming involved in groups like the Florida Food Policy Council. Most recently I’ve enjoyed contributing articles to the Florida Food Policy Council and speaking for other groups that are part of our food communities like speaking on community supported agriculture most recently with the Florida Organic Growers.

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

    The issue I think is most important to me is the loss of our food diversity and how that’s under threat. So, I’m talking both in terms of biodiversity and losing out. I think the food variety of food we get, our ability to access interesting fruits and vegetables, is becoming increasingly narrowed as various ecosystems are under a myriad number of threats, and this is compounded through the conventional, by-far predominant industrial food system where there's a lot of pressure only produce one type of banana that happens to be very easy to transport and store in grocery stores. I think one of our greatest promises as food communities is to support local food systems through farmers markets and community supported agriculture. And also the great work that Florida Food Policy Council has done in terms of educating everybody about local food systems as well.

    What current projects are you working on? What are you excited about?

    I’m really excited about the promise of community supported agriculture. That’s one of the projects that I've been undertaking. Especially speaking at Florida Organic Growers symposiums about how community supported agriculture is really a great opportunity for the entire community. We are talking about producers and eaters, which should be everyone, to become more self-sustainable, to help growers manage risk, specifically the risk of crop failure, by helping distribute that risk if something goes wrong and spreading it out across all the different members of food communities both growers and eaters. And I think community supported agriculture, as I mentioned earlier, is a great way to help make our food communities and our local food systems more financially sustainable, better able to handle risk, and better able to be the guardians of our heirloom crops.

    I just for example learned about how to cook taro leaves which, this is a digression, but taro uncooked is poisonous. It can cause severe scratchiness and irritation to the throat, but cooked correctly, boiled for a substantial period of time, it is absolutely delicious. It is, I learned, a staple of Filipino cuisine, and I think farmers markets and community supported agriculture can really open up everyone's eyes to these new foods that are a great cultural gateway, a great way to preserve people’s own food heritage, to appreciate others and to literally savor new experiences. Community Supported Agriculture does a great job with that. Farmers markets do a great job with it. 

    So one of my overwriting projects and endeavors has been to help develop ways to build a contract, a framework where everyone can understand where the other side is coming from, whether that's the grower or the eater, to understand the risks they come with and to help manage risks and to understand the role they play.

    Please explain a little more about the purpose of contracts.

    A lot of people have this misperception that when we're talking about contracts this is all to prevent people from suing each other and there are concerns that it creates distance between people. But I don't think contracts should be viewed that way. Contracts aren't just legal documents; they serve several different important functions. It sets the terms of a relationship.

    I'll give one example about that in the context of community-supported agriculture. There was one community member quoted in a survey who said he was disappointed with the experience because he didn't like purple carrots and what he termed “guesses squash.” He said, “We weren't expecting this.” If there was a contract in place explaining what the purpose of community supported  agriculture was and what a community member can expect, those are the types of community eater relation misunderstandings that can be averted when there is a well drafted, nicely toned contract that spells out what the risks are and what the growers concerns are.  And that's actually at the sort of progenitor of the CSA community supported agriculture movement. So, a contract is essentially a groundwork for having a relationship.

    Especially for newcomers who may not know exactly what their role is, it memorializes a relationship so that when people forget details, and most of us actually recall very little, a contract makes it easy to look back and see exactly what this was agreed upon. And it's especially important now when Amazon has emerged as the prevailing assumption of how transactions are done, that there are going to be guarantees, that you are going to know exactly the product that you are receiving, and that if you are not satisfied, you can ask for a refund. We know this isn't the way community supported agriculture works. We know this isn't the way natural farming works. And that's why it's especially important now to have those types of written agreements. So, I think having written contracts are very important in agriculture and there is a way to do it to actually build relationships and to close barriers between different segments of the community.

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

    I think we can hope for a future where there is a broader recognition that reliance on local food systems is more sustainable, more environmentally sustainable, especially in light of the current pandemic. Also, more financially sustainable in the long run for everybody. I think that the current situation is absolutely tragic, but I think the silver lining might be that there is a renewed Interest in local food systems, farmers markets, and community supported agriculture. I also think it's a wake-up call in a sense for a lot of people within the food system and advocates as to realizing a greater potential, especially when we look at online delivery systems. So, my hope for the future would be that there is a broader public understanding about the vital role that local food systems play, and why especially now it should be a lot more appealing. As I mentioned earlier, especially when it comes to safeguarding our heirloom vegetables and fruits and dishes, and our culinary heritage as well.


    Bio: Jesse Haskins started J. Haskins Law, P.A. to focus on local food communities. Jesse builds partnerships between farmers and communities. Prior to dedicating his practice to local agriculture, Jesse served as assistant attorney general for the State of Florida, assistant general counsel for the Florida Department of Financial Services, and as attorney for a large insurance defense firm. Jesse graduated from the Duke University School of Law in 2009. Jesse is an avid foodie. His favorite ingredient is tahini.

    Website: www.jhaskinslaw.com


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

  • 25 Aug 2020 9:29 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    An Interview with Artha Jonassaint


    Artha Jonassaint is an Administrative Intern at the Florida Food Policy Council. In this interview, she discusses her interest in food policy, current projects and her hopes for the future.

    Watch her full interview here:


    Please introduce yourself.

    Hi everyone! My name is Artha Jonassaint. I'm 20 years old and I am a rising sophomore at Harvard College studying government and global health and health policy. Long term I hope to attend law school and then pursue a career in which I contribute to more equitable food and health systems in the United States. I'm from Okeechobee, Florida, and I'll be here for a while because we will not be heading back to campus because of the coronavirus pandemic, but I'm really excited to re-engage with my hometown and stay connected to my roots.

    Before matriculating at Harvard, I was the Florida FFA state president. The FSA is a really robust organization that engages young people and students with the agriculture industry through leadership opportunities and their education happening in their classrooms. I am of Haitian descent, my parents immigrated from Haiti to the U.S. in the eighties and then they got their family started right here in sunny South Florida. I am just so excited to be a part of the Florida Food Policy Council team this year. 

    How did you become interested in food policy? 

    My interest in food policy started in high school. I was enrolled in agricultural education courses and I was also a member of FFA, which stands for Future Farmers of America, however that organization kind of has morphed into you the national FFA organization to reflect that the members of our organization become more than just farmers. My involvement within that organization coupled with my course load in high school revealed a passion and affinity for our food system.

    I always thought it was baffling that we grow so much food in the United States, and we grow so much food across the globe, yet people don't have access to that food. Sometimes it's not affordable, sometimes they don't have cars to get to that food, and I thought that policy was the best way to solve those kinds of issues. And, I also had a natural affinity for the legislative process. I really liked government and I remember being in my seventh-grade civics class and so engaged in everything that we were learning then, and that's me all the way through my career throughout the FFA and in college. That's really what led me to the word of the policy council as well. 

    What topics excite you most? 

    There are so many topics that I find so enticing and so exciting about the policy but I think something that I learned recently that has really stuck with me is something called a food swap. We talk a lot about food deserts and people not having access to healthy foods or a grocery store or farmer's market, but there's also people who live in a food desert which is also a food swap. So, while they may not have access to a farmer’s market or grocery store, they have access to McDonald's and Papa Johns and all of these really fatty foods that make it hard for people to get the nutrients that they need for a healthy diet. And I think it's just so crazy that these food swamps often are in rural areas like Okeechobee, and they are also in the inner cities. So, with that you see different demographics disproportionately affected by having access to only exclusively unhealthy foods. So, whether that's low-income people, people of color, or indigenous people, they don't have the same access to healthy foods and that is just so unfair. It's something that we can totally solve as long as we're working together. 

    What is one of your favorite current projects? 

    One of my favorite current projects is something that I did very recently and it had to do with urban agriculture in with it growing food within localities and what that looks like. For me that was super interesting to see just how much our local governments have in giving zoning ordinances and what can happen where, like building a community garden isn't such a streamlined process. If you are going to sell food for profit, there are certain things and obstacles and hoops that you have to jump through in order to make that happen. So, I thought that was very interesting because in the state of Florida alone there are 67 different counties, meaning there 67 different rules of the land that someone has to understand depending on where they are. So, I thought that was really interesting and it's something that I really enjoyed working on because I didn't know a lot about it going into the project.

    Another project that I really liked was to get the Florida Food Policy Council’s LinkedIn page started, being able to connect on that and seeing all of the great articles that are shared on LinkedIn. 

    How can young people get more involved in food policy?

    I think the first step to getting young people engaged in food policy and agriculture and accessibility, all of these kinds of issues, is letting them know that it is an issue that is of relevance to their lives. I really didn't know how food policy affected me until I was in high school and I realized that free and reduced lunch is something that is a part of a government program in that people in my class had access to food every single day because of something the government put in place in regards to food policy. So I think first and foremost, agriculturalists, policymakers, lobbyist, whomever is a stakeholder within the food industry, we just have to do a better job of letting people know that it affects their lives, that it affects their families, that it affects their friends, and once they know that it's an issue, then it's really easy to get them involved.

    I mean, we can see just how incredible the younger generation of people are in wielding change and fighting for what's right, so when they know that there is something that isn't right, it's easier for us to come together to go in the streets, to lobby, to go advocate for ourselves to our congresspeople about these issues.

    So, I think that the first problem is that we don't know it's a problem. Once we know, then we can do a better job of rallying together with stakeholders in the food industry. We have already done it for so many different issues. Young people are leading the charge in gun reform in so many other industries within our country, so here we are with the food industry. I think as soon as people see that light turned on, we can see change and get young people involved.

    What are your hopes for the future?

    My hope for the future—I'm just going to be bold and say that I want to see food insecurity eradicated. There's just no excuse that every single person does not have access to an affordable, safe, abundant, and healthy food supply, and I think we can get there. I think we need as many hands on deck as possible, as many allies, as many people actively fighting that fight, but that is something that I want to see for the future.

    In a similar vein, I would love to see more people of color, more Black people, and more indigenous people re-engaging in agriculture. So many of our agricultural practices, back when this country was incepted to now, are because of the formative work at those groups of people put into our country and into our agriculture industry. Whether that's land redistribution or other kinds of policies to ensure that they get back to their roots and growing food for this country, I would love to see just more people who were once involved in agriculture come back. I think with that comes going to schools, telling students that agriculture is relevant, that it's fun, it's fresh and we need all kinds of people in all kinds of places to be engaged. So, a more diverse agricultural sector more generally, as well as an eradication of food insecurity, would be my two hopes for the future.


    Bio: Artha K. Jonassaint is a lifelong Floridian with an affinity for agriculture and a long-term interest in creating legislation to provide for more equitable food and health systems in the United States. Artha is a rising sophomore at Harvard College studying Government and Global Health and Health Policy with the intention of attending law school upon graduation. Prior to matriculating at Harvard, Artha served as the Florida FFA State President, a role dedicated to the promotion of agriculture and agricultural education. Artha is excited to join the Florida Food Policy Council team this summer to further her knowledge of the intersection of policy and food systems in our state.


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

     


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