July 2014

July 18, 2014, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM,  Mississippi State University CAVS Center, Canton, MS 

FACILITATOR   Judy Belue, MFPC Board Member

NOTE TAKER    Graham Downey, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic

ATTENDEES        

  • Deja Abdul-Haqq, My Brother’s Keeper
  • Ron Aldridge, National Federation of Independent Business
  • Ona Balkus, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic
  • Sarah Barham, MSU Extension
  • Nicole   Bell, Alcorn State Extension
  • Bob Belue, Consultant
  • Judy Belue, Delta Fresh Foods
  • Emily Broad Leib, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic
  • Justin Brooks, MS Farm Bureau
  • Liz Broussard, Food Corps
  • Claire Brown, Food Corps
  • Christine Coker, MSU Extension
  • Graham Downey, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic
  • Daniel Doyle, MS Sustainable Agriculture Network
  • Tiffani Grant, MS Health Department
  • DeMarc Hickson, My Brother’s Keeper
  • Jody Holland, Ole Miss
  • Dietrich Johnson, North Delta Produce Growers
  • Alicia Landry, Southern Miss
  • Shamir Lee, My Brother’s Keeper
  • Mark Leggett, MS Poultry Association
  • Tammy Meyer, MS Farm Bureau Federation
  • Doris Miller, Representing Self
  • Langston Moore, Partnership for a Healthy MS
  • Caroline Newkirk, MS Health Department
  • Mariel Parman, Food Corps
  • Desta Reff, Delta Directions
  • Lauren  Rhoades, Food Corps
  • Aaron Robinson, USDA
  • Constance Shelby, Partnership for a Healthy MS
  • Debbie Smith, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • Connie  Thomas, MSU Extension
  • LaDaryl Wakins, My Brother’s Keeper
  • Tonitrice Wicks, MS Health Department
  • Nancy Woodruff, Representing Self
  • Sunny Young, EduFood Consulting

AGENDA TOPICS

SUB-COMMITTEE REPORTS         Judy Belue, Delta Fresh Foods

DISCUSSION 

The MFPC Annual Report is published. Each subcommittee reported on their activities for the past year. These include:

Farm-to-Institution Subcommittee (Judy Belue):

The Committee hosted a successful Farm to Cafeteria conference last December, and is currently planning this year’s annual conference. The Council has submitted a grant proposal to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for funding for the conference, and included information in the proposal about the last two successful conferences.

The committee has also submitted comments to the Mississippi Farm-to-School Interagency Council during their call for public comment. These comments included recommendations for policy priorities that the Interagency Council should include in their report to the Legislature, which they plan to submit in December. Individual members of the MFPC were also encourage to submit comments to the Interagency Council.

Markets Subcommittee (Judy Belue):

Market managers have not attended subcommittee meetings, probably because they are volunteers. The committee plans to increase outreach and continue to provide a space for market managers.

The main problem for markets, based on the council’s observations, is that supply cannot keep up with demand. There are not enough vendors offering enough products. Some producers report being asked to participate in four to five markets, which they cannot possibly serve. This committee will start meeting with the Food Access subcommittee.

Food Safety Subcommittee (Nancy Woodruff):

The primary focus on this committee has been making comments on FDA’s proposed regulations to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). These were submitted during the open comment period with many signatures. FDA will release a new version of the proposed regulations in the near future, so the subcommittee will reconvene and talk about future steps once these regulations are released and our partners have analyzed them.

Food safety is a huge issue for small farmers, producers and vendors. However, this is a small committee, so it could use more members. The subcommittee is also interested in starting a project to research how other states are addressing food safety, and namely if they are considering the quality of the food as one component of food safety.

Legislative Advocacy Subcommittee (Mark Leggett):

The Small Business and Grocer Investment Act (HB 1328) passed, but without funding. Those involved in advocating for the bill are now looking for funding to provide grants and loans to healthy food retailers. Currently the Department of Revenue ranks counties in three tiers using statistics like the unemployment rate. Only tier 2 (moderately developed) and tier 3 (least developed) counties will be eligible to receive the grants and loans under the Act. The law is very broadly written, so this funding can go to non-profits, or towards new construction, expansion, infrastructure, equipment and training.

Funding may come from federal monies, but this may require approval from the governor or legislature. They are also looking into private funding opportunities.

Food Security and Access Subcommittee (Christine Coker):

This subcommittee was recently reformed, and has had two successful meetings. They are completing a food and nutrition environment survey in South Mississippi. They are particularly interested in comparisons between rural and urban environments as well as the price of healthy foods.

This committee would like to help evaluate HB 1328, and would welcome additional committee members.

Local Food Systems Subcommittee (Jody Holland):

In May, Ken Meter and his team finished the final report: Overview of the Mississippi Farm and Food Economy, available at http://www.crcworks.org/msfood.pdf.

This subcommittee is working to complete a strong policy brief in the next two weeks based on both the report findings and the policy priorities of the Council. This will be used to raise awareness and advocated for supporting local food systems to strengthen economic development. The subcommittee welcomes comments on the draft policy brief (distributed at the meeting) from meeting attendees, and will seek Board approval of the final draft. The subcommittee is also currently working with a graphic designer to make the document easily readable and compelling.

It’s important to note that this report was done on a short timeline so there is more to study, and each market could use an in-depth report.

UPDATE ON MEETING WITH FARM TO SCHOOL INTERAGENCY COUNCIL               

Judy Belue, Delta Fresh Foods and

Mark Leggett, Mississippi Poultry Association

DISCUSSION       In 2013, the MFPC recommended and the State Legislature passed a bill that created an Interagency Farm to School Council to consider how the state can best support farm to school programs in the state.

The Interagency Council starting meeting in January 2014, and is shooting for a December deadline to submit its report to the legislature that recommends future actions to support farm to school programs in the state. The Council has established four objectives:

1)            To cultivate and locate farmers to sell Mississippi products within the Department of Defense (DoD) Farm to School Program;

2)            To cultivate and locate farmers to sell to individual school systems outside of the DoD Program;

3)            To cultivate food nutrition directors to purchase Mississippi products from Mississippi farmers and create a connection between farmers and schools;

4)            To cultivate a state cooperation at the legislature.

To gain more information from stakeholders involved in farm to school programs in the state, the Council invited a group of stakeholder to attend its July meeting to discuss what should be included in the Council’s report. Nearly 40 people attended the July 16th meeting, including distributors, school nutrition directors, and members of the MFPC. The group generated a lot of good ideas, and collaborating across these different groups was helpful. Many of the stakeholders supported measures that would help growers scale up their production to sell in local markets.

There was also a great deal of concern about foodborne illness liability. Some stakeholders highlighted the need to develop alternative food safety certifications. MDAC is close to finalizing their small farm safety checklist, based on an Iowa checklist.

FOOD DAY, OCTOBER 24TH         

Desta Reff, MSU/Harvard Delta Fellow and Tonitrice Wicks, MS Health Department

DISCUSSION       Food Day is a national day meant to celebrate healthy and sustainable food. Food Day does not have a program or requirements. This is an opportunity meant to draw attention to how local food is important to Mississippians. The Food Policy Council would like to partner with Food Day organizers and promote events under the umbrella of the MFPCl. Please give Desta information about your event so that both the Council and Food Day can promote it. Register events at http://www.foodday.org. Email Desta at: desta.reff@ssrc.msstate.edu. Note that events do not need to be called “Food Day.” Any event that furthers the mission of Food Day can be registered.

Some examples of Food Day events last year include: Oxford schools created a passport for students. If they got their passport stamped at the farmer’s market they received a small prize (a crazy straw). Jackson had a restaurant week, collaborating with “Eat Jackson.” Each restaurant highlighted a local ingredient, which was usually catfish. This year we are encouraging a broader range of local ingredients. My Brother’s Keeper provided healthy snacks at schools.

CSPI is sponsoring a webinar where you can learn more about how to host a Food Day event in Mississippi. Partnership will be creating a Facebook page that you can follow.

Question: What are the intended outcomes?

The goal is to raise general awareness, and help pull in national partners. Hopefully this will compliment the Farm to Cafeteria conference, and Farm to School Week. The events are meant to build the food movement in Mississippi and help people connect.

Suggestion: Share results with policy makers.

Last year some mayors did make proclamations of support. However, the legislature and governor did not. It would be great to increase awareness among legislators and have them participate in more of the Food Day events. CSPI will be taking the lead on trying to get the Governor to sign a proclamation.

Suggestion: Measure outcomes.

This is a good opportunity to collect data. Organizers will encourage more event coordinators to have sign-in sheets.

Question: What are the logistics of putting on a Farm-to-Table week?

The restaurant association should be helpful. And note that this should be free/low-cost to the organizers. We do not need funding to have the MFPC challenge restaurants to source more local foods for a week.

You can reach Tonitrice Wicks, the Mississippi Food Day coordinator, at Tonitrice.Wicks@msdh.ms.gov.

FINANCIAL REPORT         Judy Belue, Delta Fresh Foods

DISCUSSION      

Some notes on the recent budget: The council allocated $3,500 to itself for the conference. Additionally, the council spent $1,735 on membership lunches. This comes to between $9 and $10 per person per meeting. Membership fees are meant to cover this expense. The MFPC Board is considering requiring membership for lunch, or charge a fee for the meals.

LUNCH: BOARD ELECTIONS         

DISCUSSION:     Lunch was provided entirely with local ingredients by Uncorked Catering, which sourced from Jackson’s High Street Farmers Market the night before.

Eligible board candidates must have attended two of the last four general membership meetings, including the current meeting. This includes October 2013 as well as February, May and July 2014 meetings. Only members may vote. They will receive ballots by email from Desta Reff. Voting will be confidential and anonymous.

The membership heard comments from six candidates and one representative for a candidate not in attendance.

In attendance:

Nicole Bell

Christine Coker

Daniel Doyle

DeMarc Hickson

Alicia Landry

Sunny Young

In abstentia:

Charles Houston (represented by Dietrich Johnson, North Delta Produce Growers)

SUBCOMMITTEE ADVOCACY PRIORITIES               Emily Broad Leib, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and

Subcommittee Chairs

DISCUSSION:     Subcommittees broke out into smaller sessions to discuss potential next steps including advocacy priorities. The takeaways from those smaller meetings were as follows:

Food Access:

The subcommittee suggests working on finding funding for the Small Business and Grocer Investment Act (HB 1328). Additionally, members would like to perform a needs assessment on hunger issues for seniors.

Food Safety:

The subcommittee will continue to track FSMA. Also, the group will attempt to find resources to help farmers understand food safety issues. When the MDAC food safety checklist is released the subcommittee will review it. The subcommittee hopes to work with the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic to determine what other states are doing on food safety, including what components are included in food safety certifications for small farms.

Local Food Systems as Economic Development:

This group plans to finish the policy brief and discussed changing some language as well as condensing recommendations to four (from six).

The brief should be connected to more literature on these issues, and drill down on each advocacy point to promote clear legislative action. The subcommittee will soon make a strategy for the fall.

Farm to Institution:

The subcommittee recommended encouraging MDAC to establish an alternative safe food certification more suitable for small to medium sized food producers than GHP/GAP.

In addition, the committee is interested in setting up a work group to explore how questions related to more nutritious food could be included in standardized tests in schools.

UPCOMING EVENTS AND CLOSING        

Nicole Bell said that Alcorn will host a food safety conference May 19, 2015. She said the conference will always be held on the 3rd Tuesday in May.

Sunny Young said that Good Food for Oxford Schools will host a tour of school gardens and other farm to school work  for members of Congress sometime in August.

Judy Belue announced the MFPC 3rd annual Farm to Cafeteria Conference, which will be held jointly with the MSAN Food Summit and GGIMS workshop on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, November 7-9 at the MS Agriculture Museum. More details to follow.

Other:

Nancy Woodruff told the council about kivazip.org. She said that Kiva gives out micro loans to farmers and that they don’t run credit checks.

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