Florida Food Policy Council

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  • 14 Feb 2020 10:00 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Julie Rocco, of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Pete, lead a "Food for Thought" focus group in St. Petersburg in November, 2019.

    By Wendy Wesley

    When a diverse group of St. Petersburg residents were asked to name the greatest barriers to an equitable, resilient and regenerative food system, their answers had less to do with food and more to do with people.

    “1. Lack of interest in government leadership”
    “2. Gentrification”
    “3. Racism”

    “4. Lack of funds/resources for business/lack of owned land”
    “5. Community buy-in. People don’t know there is a problem”

    These answers, collected in November at the Enoch Davis Center in St. Petersburg, are from one of a series of county-wide conversations regarding food insecurity and food deserts called “Food for Thought.” The focus groups were organized by The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg.

    The conversations were timely as St. Petersburg’s Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Dec. 10 a new request for proposal for Tangerine Plaza, which is the site of the shuttered Walmart and Sweetbay grocery stores.

    Kriseman stated the RFPs for the site must include a fresh food option.

    The Foundation’s stated mission, “to end differences in health due to social or structural disadvantages to improve population health,” makes them the proper group to hold discussions about nutrition equity in Pinellas.

    Residents from St. Petersburg, Lealman, Clearwater and Palm Harbor participated in the focus groups, and an online survey was available. Opinions, thoughts and ideas on creating an equitable, resilient and regenerative community-based food system were sought through a series of thoughtful questions posed by Foundation staff.

    The second question, “what is the most effective current activity or intervention,” yielded answers that reflected the diverse makeup of the audience as many from the Youth Farm at Enoch Davis were in attendance.

    “1. Youth Farm”
    “2.  Saturday Morning Market”
    “3. SNAP”
    “4. One Community Grocery Co-Op”
    “5. Food Banks”

    Lastly, Foundation staff asked participants to offer their “boldest idea our community should activate,” which sparked creative and innovative ideas and discussions. Some of these included financial incentives for non-profit co-ops; food policy standards written by citizens; discounts for healthier food and elevating the status and professionalism of farmers.

    Access to affordable and nutritious food, like the ZIP code, is a social determinant to health and should be top priority for local and county government, human service funders and providers of health care.

    This focus group exercise and the mayor’s announcement for the Tangerine Plaza RFP are exciting next steps in addressing a major missing piece to health equity on south St. Pete, where two USDA-designated food deserts exist.

    Stakeholder input collected during the conversation will be compiled and showcased at a larger community-based food system gathering hosted by the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg in February 2020.  

    Wendy Wesley is a licensed and registered clinical dietitian/nutritionist who works to improve the health of the community. She provides free public health education, individual nutrition counseling and advocacy for access to nutritious foods in her hometown of St. Petersburg. 

    Disclaimer: The views of the writers 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.

  • 6 Feb 2020 9:05 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Meeting with Kenwood Organic Produce

    Community-owned grocery co-ops, limitations on dollar-type stores, mobile markets, free food distribution and coolers at city-run recreation centers are myriad ways the City of St. Petersburg is tackling its food insecurity issues. As our city competes with other regions for jobs and new residents its leadership knows a healthy population is a necessity to succeed.

    From an equity profile of Pinellas County by UNITE Pinellas it is evident that the playing field is far from level. Regarding equity, specifically health equity, we know five things:

    --Inequity is historical rooted in public policy and bias and is not based on personal failings

    --Equity is the superior economic model

    --There is a path forward. By learning more about local dynamics and conditions and exposing the root causes that underlie disparities, our community can influence changes that can create a more just, fair and equitable Pinellas County

    --The levelers that are most likely to generate change are policy, institutional practices and changing the traditional narrative.

    --A lack of community awareness of inequity exists nationally and in Pinellas County

    Local businesses, with knowledge of what is available and how to partner, can remain profitable and level the field on food insecurity. Kenwood Organic Produce has done just that.

    Through a Florida program called Fresh Access Bucks, SNAP recipients can double the value of their benefits on Florida-grown organic produce. The “bucks” are accepted at farmer’s markets, produce stands and mobile markets.

    Kenwood Organic Produce, owned by Marcile Powers and Keevy McAlavay, agreed last year to accept what is known as “double SNAP” which doubles the value of SNAP dollars on Florida-grown produce.

    For St. Petersburg residents who live within a 10-mile radius of Kenwood this also means free home delivery on a double produce box.

    This willingness to participate pleases Heather Henderson of Feeding Florida.

    "I'm so impressed with their passion and commitment to increasing healthy food access and supporting Florida farmers,” said Henderson.

    Kenwood co-owner, Powers, agrees and recalls a time when other St. Petersburg residents were in need.

    “When the government shut down happened, we gave produce boxes to Coast Guard members,” said Powers. “Providing double SNAP boxes and delivering them feels the same.”

    Within a 42-block of St. Petersburg’s south side are two USDA-designated food deserts where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is severely limited. For a community that struggles with transportation the program will greatly help those in need of fresh food alternatives.

    Since the closing of the area’s only full-service grocery store more than 1,000 days ago, many residents use public transportation to do their grocery shopping which can make obtaining groceries a time-consuming and labor-intensive task. Lack of access to affordable and nutritious foods exacerbates chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and renal failure.

    Kenwood Organic Produce’s delivery service and willingness to partner with government programs is innovative and speaks to the business owners’ desire to give back to their community.

    Chambers of commerce, city and county economic development experts, Healthy St. Pete and health planners who advocate for Health in all Policies can help local businesses solve our food insecurity problem by educating about and encouraging participation in programs like Fresh Access Bucks and other innovative solutions.

    We have taken countless measurements, written pages of reports and attended numerous conferences to glean best practices to bring back to our communities. It is now time to put resources and energy into solutions.

    It is time for tangible policy and action. It is time for non-profits and government to show businesses what is needed and possible. It is time to put resources, previously used for data collection, into a communications plan that targets local businesses with the key message, “Here’s how you can make a difference in health equity.”  

    Florida SNAP and USDA facts:
    --Approximately 3.5 million people in Florida participate
    -- 134,000 reside in Pinellas County
    -- The average amount of time people receive benefits is 9 months
    -- There are two USDA-designated food deserts in south St. Petersburg
    -- The USDA designates an urban food desert as a census tract area with a poverty rate of 20 percent or greater where 33 percent or more of the population lives 1 mile from a grocery store.

    Kenwood Organic Produce Facts:
    --Phone: 727-777-7306
    --Address: 3325 5th Ave. N. St. Petersburg, FL 33713
    --Web: kenwoodorganic.com

    Wendy Wesley is a licensed and registered clinical dietitian/nutritionist who works to improve the health of the community. She provides free public health education, individual nutrition counseling and advocacy for access to nutritious foods in her hometown of St. Petersburg. 

    Disclaimer: The views of the writers 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 Feb 2020 3:30 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Get ready for Guidewell Block by Block 2020 on Monday, February 10th! This event is the kickoff event and continuation of the second phase of programming for the Guidewell Wellbeing Challenge 2019. 

    Who’s invited?

    All of the applicants, judges, speakers, mentors, coaches and partners from the last years challenge are coming. Key stakeholders and leaders in the state including Nikki Fried, Robin Safley, Karen Broussard, and many others.

    Why should you attend?

    Block by Block 2020 is a great way to network with other innovators from all over the state, not just an individual region.

    • Matchmaking Opportunities: Bring your elevator pitch and collateral! Invited innovators will have a unique opportunity to network with potential strategic partners or customer prospects that can help support their innovative work. Innovators will also have the opportunity to collaborate and receive real-world feedback from prominent leaders in the field.
    • Innovation Workshop: Empathic Accuracy for Winning Collaborations: In this active, two-part session (before and after lunch) participants will take a self-assessment on their level of empathic competency when approaching partnerships for the best possible joint outcomes. Tools will be learned to improve the accuracy of understanding partners’ priorities and deepest needs. Knowing these drivers allow participants to position offerings and collaborations in the most appealing and successful way for long-term impact in the community.
    • Funding Resource Panel: Pick the brain of resources and thought leader panel who will discuss funding mechanisms, and sustainability efforts for your business.
    • Grow Your Business: Get a sneak peak into the Regional Workshops and other events we have in store for you in the coming months leading into our Community Health Symposium [May 4th and 5th].


    • 9:30AM - 10:00AM: Registration
    • 10:00AM - 10:15AM: Welcome
    • 10:15AM - 11:00AM: Robin Safley: Executive Director, Feeding Florida
    • - Keynotes: Mikhail Scott, FL Department of Agriculture
    • 11:00AM - 12:00PM: Fervor Works: Empathic Accuracy for Winning Collaborations Workshop
    • 12:00PM - 12:50PM: Lunch/Networking
    • - Chef Rich: Nutrition Cooking Demonstration
    • 1:00PM - 2:30PM: Empathic Accuracy for Winning Collaborations Workshop Continued
    • 2:30PM – 3:30PM: Funding Panel :
    • - Grants
    • - Micro-Financing
    • - Crowdfunding
    • 3:30PM - 3:45PM: Panel Q&A
    • 3:45PM - 4:00PM: Wrap up/ Next Steps
    • 4:00PM- 5:00PM: Reception/Open Networking

    Guidewell is asking for registration no later than February 3rd. 

    Feel additional questions, reach out to  Ricardo.Garrcia@guidewellinnovation.com or Erin.Munchick@guidewellinnovation.com.

  • 17 Jan 2020 8:00 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    FLFPC member James Jiler is currently writing a book called "Food In Security." 

    The book aims to address issues and solutions to food insecurity as told by people actively working in this field—from planners, to urban and rural small farmers, to market professionals and grass roots educators.
    Increasingly, urban residents are relying on local food production to meet dietary needs and avoid a diet of factory farmed and processed calories.

    James feels that people on the front line in 2020 are a vanguard and have much to offer policy planners, community activists, concerned residents and educators around the country. 

    By learning about the work being carried out to address food security, James hopes to use the book as a platform everyone can learn from. 

    If you are engaged in food security issues or would like to recommend a person or program that is, please contact James at jamesjiler3@gmail.com 

  • 1 Jan 2020 9:00 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    With the beginning of a new year, and a new decade, the Florida Food Policy Council is looking forward to the future. It was only three years prior, in 2017, that a group of hopeful individuals came together with the idea of working towards creating a fair and healthy food system for all Floridians.

    Once a dream, the FLFPC has become an active organization that works with partners across the state and nation to address gaps and educate citizens. Going into 2020, we are excited for what’s to come.

    In 2019, we began hosting the Florida Food Forum, an online public forum that gives guest presenters a platform to introduce important issues and facilitate dialogue. The forum brought out a wealth of information on: Models for Food Products, Food Sovereignty, Nutrition and Policy, Food Processing for Small Producers, Cottage Industry, Animal Welfare, Farm to School, Food Waste and Food Banks, and Food Policy for Wellness. Past forums are accessible online here.

    In 2020, we are happy to announce the continuation of the forum on a monthly basis, featuring new topics to allow further conversation and educational opportunities. 

    Throughout 2019, we also had the opportunity to travel around the state participating in symposiums and workshops, collaborating on how to make a greater impact in communities around Florida. As we met with leaders around the state, we learned about various innovative approaches being used to improve the food system.

    In particular, much of our efforts this year focused around food insecurity and food sovereignty. For the first time we began a policy scan project with Feeding Florida that allowed us to gain awareness of policies that affect access to food. We also participated in the GuideWell Block by Block Insecurity Challenge and Tampa Bay Urban Food Sovereignty Summit. 

    Into the new year, we are excited to continue our work targeting public and institutional policies that affect the food system while working with partners around the state on new and impactful projects.

    It is with the support and encouragement of our members and community that we have been able to grow. We want to thank you for joining us on our journey so far and look forward to making a larger impact in 2020!

  • 7 Dec 2019 9:21 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    FLFPC was recently involved in the first Food Policy Summit for Lee and Collier Counties. The summit was hosted by the Blue Zones Project. 

    The event was reported in the Naples Daily News in the article "Blue Zones Project is helping create better food policy in SW FL." 

    The article reads, "While eating, chances are most of us do not give a second thought as to the many processes that took place before that food reaches us. While Blue Zones Project has a strong focus on what people should eat in order to live healthier, happier lives, how that food is made available is equally important. That is where a Food Policy Council comes into play. Food Policy Councils convene citizens and government officials to provide a comprehensive examination of a state or local food system. 

    Over the course of the last few years, Blue Zones Project has hosted several food policy workshops to determine what the public would like to see in regard to our food system in Southwest Florida. One suggestion that continues to surface is the creation of a Food Policy Council for Lee and Collier Counties. The Blue Zones Project formed Food Policy Committees in both Collier and South Lee County to work on policies chosen by the public, including the creation of a regional Food Policy Council. With the help of committee members from University of Florida IFAS Extension (UF IFAS), Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), several hunger relief organizations, the Department of Health and now the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, the mere idea of a Food Policy Council is beginning to take shape.

    On Nov. 18, the Blue Zones Project hosted Lee and Collier's first Food Policy Summit in Bonita Springs. Speakers included: Margaret Wuerstle, the Executive Director of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, Jessica Mendes Ryals, Sustainable Food Systems Agent with UF IFAS Extension Collier County, Dr. Tom Felke, Department Chair for the Department of Social Work at FGCU, Rachel Shapiro, Chair of the Florida Food Policy Council, and Dr. Maggi Adamek, National Food Policy Consultant for Blue Zones Project.

    The topic of food insecurity was brought up at the Nov. 18 Summit by Dr. Tom Felke who has been working with several hunger relief agencies to map out the issue in Southwest Florida, and find ways to make it easier for those that rely on food pantries to locate them. "The Summit provided an excellent opportunity for attendees to see the value of having a regional Food Policy Council in addressing several social issues, including food insecurity," said Tom Felke.

    Dr. Felke's next step will be to conduct a food system assessment that will highlight the gaps and needs of our current food system. The hope is to launch a Food Policy Council in May of 2020 to address any gaps and help strengthen our food system in Southwest Florida now and in the future."

    This article was written by Jessica Ayerscrane, Community Policy Specialist, Blue Zones Project - SWFL.

  • 3 Dec 2019 8:00 AM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Bright orange plastic bottles of uniform pills wrapped in a white printed label epitomizes the marvels of modern medicine, yet are a modern disconnect from nature’s bounty. However, that may be changing.

    Produce is finally joining pills as a prescription option. While not yet widespread in Florida, fruit and vegetable prescriptions are now the doctors orders in certain markets.

    One such example, Wholesome Wave, is making it possible for at-risk consumers to exchange healthcare provider-generated "prescriptions" for local fresh fruit and vegetables at participating farmers' markets and stores through the Fruit & Vegetable Prescription Program.

    Courtesy of WholesomeWave.org

    According to Wholesome Wave’s website, “Since 2010, we’ve partnered with doctors to provide patients with innovative fruit and vegetable prescriptions. Participating providers enroll patients into the program for 4-5 months at a time. Doctors and nutritionists provide up to $1/day per household member in produce prescriptions, which can be redeemed for fresh produce at participating markets and grocery stores.”

    Since its 2010 inception in New England,WholesomeRx has grown across the country, specifically benefiting those living in medically underserved areas and food deserts, accounting for 32 million Americans. This priority population can gain immense support with a $1/day voucher toward produce.

    In Florida, food deserts and hunger impact over 3 million people, despite Florida’s abundance of agricultural commodities. Using food as medicine in these areas could decrease that number exponentially. WholesomeRx is already available in the Tampa Bay Area, a region with 19% of the population impacted by food insecurity."

    The goal of the program in Tampa was, “to reach more than 2000 seniors 60 years and older with a $15 reloadable gift card to purchase healthy fruits and vegetables.” In early April,  the program a milestone of “successfully registering all 2000+ participants—distributing more than $30,000 worth of ‘produce purchasing power’” was reached and by the end of the program, they will have “delivered nearly $250,000!” Participants also received advice and literature from professionals, compounding the success of the program. It has not yet expanded beyond Tampa and Tallahassee in Florida, but the potential is evident.

    Courtesy of WholesomeWave.org

    Ten years later, the benefits of produce Rx programs, such as Wholesome Wave's, extend far beyond lower obesity and chronic disease rates. Local economies are also boosted as vouchers stay local, creating a whole new avenue where farmers to sell and incentivizes both farmers and consumers to grow and eat healthy produce, according to CDC studies and various research findings. Other programs like this can start popping up if given the proper support.

    In order to create and sustain produce Rx programs, close health disparities, lift farmers, and overall enhance the connection between health and food, we have a responsibility to support these initiatives for Florida and beyond as advocates of a just food and healthcare system. And to be successful, we have to encourage buy-in from our partners in food and health in order to participate and sustain fruit and vegetable prescription programs. With this, Florida’s bounty can become even more beautiful.

    Rachel Ram is a health educator, policy advocate, adventurer, and overall foodie. Rachel earned her Bachelor of Science in Health Education, Community Health and Preventive Medicine from the University of Florida in 2017. A lifetime resident of south Florida, she now resides in Brooklyn NY working for the American Lung Association. She began her work with the Florida Food Policy Council in 2016 and continues to raise awareness on food policy issues. Besides engaging in food policy, Rachel enjoys traveling, hiking, yoga, cooking and reading.

    Disclaimer: The views of the writers 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.

  • 29 Nov 2019 12:00 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Tom is a connector, innovator and self-proclaimed meat mercenary. He has a background in consumer products and foodservice marketing with large food processors. Tom earned a BS in Animal Science from UF in 1996 and an MBA from Thunderbird in Arizona in 2001. Tom spent about 12 years working for large food companies (Tyson Foods, Nestle Purina and Schreiber Foods) with roles in (operations, sales and marketing).  Tom returned to Florida in 2009 to represent small, authentic food brands into mainstream channels. In 2010, Tom co-founded a Florida grass-fed beef producer and a few years later, co-owned a very small USDA inspected processor in NW Florida. This led Tom into the small farm, local foods movement that is alive and underway here in Florida. Tom joined the Florida Food Policy Council to help promote and develop local food systems into the mainstream.  

    Tom has been an outstanding member of the FLFPC for some time! He led the Florida Food Forum on "Food Processing for Small Producers" in June, 2019. The full talk can be watched here. Tom also made time to sit down for an interview. Watch the interview here.

  • 8 Nov 2019 1:42 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    Chris 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. Through his experience on his family’s farm, Chris gained an appreciation for the complex relationship between modern commercial agricultural production and the natural resources upon which agriculture depends. He saw first-hand how disconnects that often exist between the agriculture industry and environmentalists or others concerned about the health of the environment and the sustainability of our food production often fosters misunderstanding that inhibits trust and cooperation that can prevent meaningful improvement in our food systems. As a result, Chris decided to pursue a law degree and focus on environmental law.  

    Chris was accepted and attended the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where, in 2015, he earned his J.D. with a certificate in environmental and land-use law. While in law school, Chris interned at Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic where he was introduced to the broader complexities of modern food systems and developed an interest in food law and policy. During his time working at the Clinic, Chris had the opportunity to work on developing policies aimed at reducing food waste by clarifying food labeling, nationally. He also worked with a non-profit based in La Paz, Bolivia to help develop and recommend food polices aimed at increasing access to nutritious food within La Paz. 

    Today, Chris lives in West Palm Beach and works for the law firm, 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.  

  • 3 Nov 2019 5:50 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

    October was a whirlwind for the Florida Food Policy Council. We visited cities all over the state to connect with our members and become familiar with new leaders working in various sectors related to food.

    On October 17th, FLFPC Chair Rachel Shapiro represented us as a judge at the GuideWell Block by Block Insecurity Challenge in Orlando. There she met with leaders around the state who are working tirelessly to develop innovative approaches to solving food security. Some of the greatest benefits that came out of the event were the conversations, collaborations, and the realization that working together as a group would enable organizations to make a greater impact in communities by multiplying what they were already doing individually.

    The Tampa Bay Urban Food Sovereignty Summit at the University of South Florida was our next stop on October 22nd.  FLFPC Policy Committee Chair and USF Department of Religious Studies Associate Chair Dell deChant hosted the event. His enthusiasm captured the interest and attention of over 150 attendees. Also speaking at the event was FLFPC Development Committee Chair and Urban and Regional Planning specialist Anthony Olivieri, who presented on “Food Sovereignty via Land Use Policy Activation.” His inspiring speech brought a new perspective on the issue of food sovereignty through the lens of policy for many of the attendees. FLFPC Administrative Assistant Kyndra Love was also in attendance, sharing information and connecting with food advocates at the FLFPC table. Overall, the event was a huge success in providing awareness of food issues and bringing together community members to further the conversation on this important topic.

    In Miami, on October 23rd, the FLFPC attended the Sustainability and Digitalization Leaders Conference. This event brought together innovators and leaders from around the world working with technology to improve the food system. Attending the event, Chair Rachel Shapiro and South Florida Regional Liaison Tom Pellizzetti learned about new ways technology can be used to reshape the food system and discussed how related policies and legislation can better support access to a sustainable, equitable future.

    Over three days, from October 24 to 26th, we moved to North Florida for our Regional Gatherings. Held in three cities: Panama Beach City, Tallahassee, and Saint Augustine, Chair Rachel Shapiro and Board Member Christopher Johns led the gatherings which included discussions on understanding, researching, evaluating, and advocating for public food policy. The events enabled us to better understand the issues and concerns of our members, and inspired us to create new goals in educating and informing Floridians going forward.  

    As we met with the many passionate people involved in improving the food system around the state, we were left with a stronger sense of purpose. As we move into the new year, we are excited to continue connecting stakeholders and facilitating dialog, and especially educating Floridians on how to become food citizens.

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