Farm to Institution Subcommittee
The Council Board voted in April 2013 to rename the “Farm to School Subcommittee” the “Farm to Institution Subcommittee” due to the Subcommittee’s interest in expanding the amount of local food procured in a range of large institutions including hospitals, prisons, and universities. Previously, the Subcommittee had focused on connecting K-12 schools to local farmers and did not consider programs that included other institutions within its purview. Farm to Institution programs take many different forms, but the primary goal is to connect local producers with institutions so that the institutions can have access to fresh, local food while at the same time helping to support local growers and the local economy. The Farm to Institution Subcommittee seeks to promote and expand Farm to Institution programs throughout the state and to provide resources to farmers, food service directors, educators, and other Mississippians interested in the program.
Farmers Markets Subcommittee
The Farmers Markets Subcommittee works to promote and support the growth of farmers markets around the state through training, education, and policy development. The first activity of the subcommittee (throughout 2011) focused on facilitating and promoting the use of SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) at farmers markets. In most states, wireless Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) machines are given to farmers market managers, allowing SNAP recipients to purchase any eligible products at farmers markets. The Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS), however, initially said that only individual farmers and vendors would eligible to use wireless EBT machines and that market managers could not operate a machine for their whole market. After meeting with representatives of the subcommittee, MDHS changed its position and agreed to allow market managers to use the machines. MDHS first began to distribute wireless EBT machines to farmers and farmers markets in May of 2011. As of June 2011, sixty-seven EBT machines had been given out to farmers and seventeen had been given to farmers markets. The Food Policy Council is working with farmers and farmers market managers to make sure the machines get out across the state as efficiently as possible to help provide access to healthy foods for Mississippi consumers of all income levels. The subcommittee also worked to draft and pass legislation to ensure that city and county governments are authorized to make donations to local farmers markets and has been working to survey farmers markets about their legal and policy concerns in order to provide targeted assistance to them.
Food Safety Subcommittee
The Food Safety Subcommittee grew out of the In-Home Food Processing Subcommittee, which was created in order to advocate for new regulations or legislation that would permit home processors in Mississippi to sell their non-potentially hazardous foods to the public. MFPC and its partners successfully achieved this goal during the 2013 legislative session. Signed into law on April 1, Senate Bill 2553 exempts producers of non-potentially hazardous foods from permitting requirements, provided that annual sales do not exceed $20,000. This new cottage food exemption creates a viable option for in-home production of jellies, jams and other low-risk foods. This law builds upon the Council’s previous success in getting MDAC and MSDH to partner on a pilot program, launched in spring 2011, that allowed some sales of low-risk, home-processed foods.
As a result of the success of Senate Bill 2553, a goal for which the Council has been advocating for several years, the Subcommittee decided to expand beyond in-home processing and to work more generally on ensuring that Mississippi’s food safety laws and regulations are scale-appropriate and do not unnecessarily burden local food systems. In April 2013, the Board renamed the “In-Home Processing Committee” the “Food Safety Committee.” In the upcoming year, the Subcommittee will compare Mississippi’s laws and regulations affecting the direct marketing of all foods, but especially potentially hazardous foods, to those in other states. The Subcommittee will make recommendations for possible policy changes to the Council based on its analysis.
Food Security Subcommittee
Due to interest from members, the Board established a new subcommittee that will focus on issues of food security and food access. The Subcommittee will make policy recommendations and implement initiatives designed to increase access to healthy foods in underserved communities. It will also work to connect local food systems to programs aimed at increasing food security, such as food banks and food benefits.
Local Food Systems as Economic Development Subcommittee
The Local Food Systems (LFS) as Economic Development Subcommittee was created to increase awareness among policymakers and others of the benefits of rebuilding local food systems in Mississippi, such as new businesses, local jobs, improved human health and economically resilient communities. The Subcommittee is developing presentations for promoting the value of LFS and identifying legislative needs and potential partners.