April 2010

April 23 2010, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY CAVS CENTER, CANTON, MS

 

MEETING CALLED BY       Roy Mitchell, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, Emily Broad, Delta Directions Consortium

TYPE OF MEETING           Preliminary Mississippi Food Policy Council Meeting

FACILITATORS                   Roy Mitchell and Emily Broad

NOTE TAKER                       Rosalie Bouck

ATTENDEES

  • Roy Mitchell, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • Grace Butler, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • Emily Broad, Delta Directions Consortium
  • Chris Campany, Mississippi State University
  • Alyson Karges, Starkville Community Market
  • Charles Houston, North Delta Produce Growers Association
  • Jesse Strassburg, Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and WHY Hunger
  • Rosalie Bouck, Delta Directions Consortium
  • Anne Travis, Bower Foundation
  • Susan Mayfield-Johnson, Center for Sustainable Health Outreach University of Southern Mississippi
  • Robert Bell, Tougaloo College, Healthy Start Program
  • Dita McCarthy, Ocean Springs Fresh Market
  • Diane Claughton, Ocean Springs Fresh Market
  • Samantha Cawthorn, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation
  • Ricky Cole, Consultant
  • Judy Belue, Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi “Get A Life!” Program
  • Timothy Smith, Chess Agricultural Investments
  • Connie Thomas, Director of Mississippi Health Policy Research Center at Mississippi State University

AGENDA TOPICS

INTRODUCTIONS             Roy Mitchell and Emily Broad

DISCUSSION       Individuals introduced themselves, told about their work experience and organizational affiliations related to food policy, and gave a brief description of their past experience with or interest in Food Policy Councils.

WHAT IS A FOOD POLICY COUNCIL?        Emily Broad

DISCUSSION       Food Policy Councils (FPCs) provide a unique forum for diverse stakeholders to come together and address common concerns regarding food policy including food systems, food security, farm policy, food regulations, health, and nutrition. FPCs bring together various stakeholders to discuss and address these issues and act on common goals, thus influencing policy change.

FPCs are springing up around the country because no government agency deals specifically with food policy, though several different agencies deal with different aspects of food policy.  FPCs work at the state, local, or regional level to shape policy, promote public education and communication, evaluate current policies, and launch and support programs. Please see the handout from the event (attached) for more information about FPCs and examples of what other FPCs have done.

CONCLUSIONS  Mississippi has unique resources, challenges, and barriers to be considered. Need to consider whether or not we want to try to be housed by government.  Decision to discuss this possibility more in the future.

THRESHHOLD ISSUE:  DO WE WANT TO FORM A FOOD POLICY COUNCIL?              Roy Mitchell

QUESTION POSED            Do we want to start a Food Policy Council?  Are there other groups already doing similar things?

DISCUSSION       The Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG) shares similar values and has been meeting off and on but has not formed an official food policy council. Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association may be working on similar objectives, and may be a good addition to this FPC.  Other particular producer associations also meet occasionally, but do not seem to have a broader policy agenda.  It was noted that Farm Bureau also plays a similar role in bringing together various producer organizations, but does not address broader food issues. Delta Fresh Foods was a group that recently held a conference in the Delta and is working to become a formal organization that may serve as a regional food policy council for the Delta. Other small movements on Southern and Eastern side of state may be on same track, though no specific groups were mentioned. There may be potential to start local FPCs, but still a need for a state level FPC.

CONCLUSIONS  Those present came to a general agreement that there is a need for stronger organizational tools to bring farmers together, including creating a support networks for younger growers. While we recognized a need for tools for farmers, there was not a general agreement that provision of these tools be an objective of the group.

Participants expressed a desire to see more agriculturists/farmers involved in the group.  Individuals expressed interest in inviting these other organizations: MS Fruit and Vegetable Association, Cooperative Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service.  There was a desire to see more farmers involved in the group; however, not necessarily at this stage of formation.

OVERARCHING GOALS  Roy Mitchell

QUESTION POSED            What are your overarching goals for the FPC? What vision do you have of the FPC? What roles should it play?

DISCUSSION       Participants were broken into small groups to discuss overarching vision and goals for a Mississippi FPC.

Presentations from working groups:

Group 1 Goals:

– Advocacy (small farmers, consumers, entrepreneurs, minority and limited resource consumers and producers, increased food security for rural and urban  to state and govt. levels)

– Home for support system network (transitioning, diversifying and beginning farmers)

– Try to tie together farm regions (hill, delta, prairie, coastal plain)

– Begin as informal network, transition to staffed entity

– Independent of Government

Group 2 Goals:

– Focused, consensus-based goals at all times

– Bring together diverse interests (non-partisan, caution with terms)

– Take incremental steps to ensure success

– Farm to school programs (growth of)

– Connecting buyers to producers (more effective distribution)

– Defining terms (i.e. farmers market, use plain language)

– Publicity and transparency of FPC

– Farm Bill

– Get a cow

Group 3 Goals:

– Expand availability, access, and affordability of more nutritious foods

– Significantly increase local food production across the state (amount and variety)

– Create awareness of food policy to consumers

– MS FPC a major player in legislation and policy discussions

Group 4 Goals:

– Education (farmers and citizens)

– Increase Access

– Facilitate production and processing

– Address unemployment

CONCLUSIONS  Several common themes were identified through this exercise. We know that the group shares the general goals of advocacy, education and networking.

WHAT HAVE WE DECIDED TODAY?

WHAT WILL WE DO AT THE NEXT MEETING?        Emily Broad

QUESTION POSED            What do we want to accomplish (broadly)? What are the next steps?

DISCUSSION       Everyone present committed to be on board with the MS FPC as a core group/steering committee member, and all were open to inviting approximately 10-15 other individuals to the next meeting.

We discussed generally some stakeholder groups or organizations that we might want to include in future MS FPC meetings. This list included: health/nutrition experts; MS research & development councils; producer groups such as catfish producers, poultry producers, blueberry growers, etc; MS Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association; MS Dept of Agriculture; MS Dept of Health; MS Dept of Education (particularly the Office of Healthy Schools). We determined that participants would submit names of potential individuals to Roy and Emily for inclusion at the next meeting or at meetings going forward.

There are some overarching or “threshold” questions that need to be answered at our next meeting. These questions include:

•             Do we want to be a state-sanctioned FPC?

•             How do we build a broader coalition?

•             What will our structure be?

•             What are the problems we want to focus on right now? (particular issues that are of concern now and that can potentially be solved in the near future)

•             What state agencies do we want involved, if any?

•             How do we want to go about affecting policy (bottom up? top down?)

•             How many more people do we want as part of the core group or steering committee?

•             Do we want representatives of various groups of specialty growers to participate or not?

We spent some time brainstorming as a group, and identified some ideas to keep in mind as our group moves forward, including

•             Develop health education in schools

•             Pick a few policies and focusing on them

•             Utilize other organizations or nonprofits who have shared visions and provide them with resources to work on actual programs (rather than the FPC becoming a direct service provider itself)

•             Develop specific language for policy writers, focusing on obesity issues (funds potentially will be available for this topic)

•             Be cautious not to get too focused on small issues and lose the bigger picture.

CONCLUSIONS  There was a general consensus that we need to identify areas where representation is lacking and then brainstorm about who could best fill those gaps. To this end, we proposed subcommittees that we would hope to form. The proposed subcommittees were:

•             Nutrition, health, and access

•             Production

•             Distribution and marketing

•             Processing and food safety

Other subcommittees may be added at the next meeting; this list is not final.  Across all subcommittee activities, we will keep an active focus on the following issues: education, diversity, labor issues, and poverty/fixed-income subsistence issues.

We resolved to continue meetings in-person on a monthly basis for now until the group gets off the ground.

MOVING FORWARD       Roy Mitchell and Emily Broad

NEXT MEETING DATE     Resolution to have next meeting in approximately one month from this date, mid-day, probably a Friday.  Date is yet to be determined. The location will most likely be the same.

NEXT AGENDA ITEMS     Below are some items for the next meeting agenda:

1. Ask someone with prior FPC experience (i.e. work with an FPC in another state such as Arkansas) to present at the next meeting.

2. Determine answers to some of the threshold questions mentioned above.

3. What name makes sense for the group? Do we want to be a “Food Policy Council”? “Food Policy Coalition”? “Food Advisory Council”? Others?

4. What issue(s) do we plan to address in the first few months of the FPC?

5. What structure would we like to employ for our FPC?

6. We agreed to limit the membership of the FPC for now, but how do we want to determine our limits?

Participants should make suggestions or edits to agenda and send them to Roy and Emily to help finalize the agenda for the next meeting. Roy and Emily will continue to help with planning and hosting of FPC meetings for the near future.

INVITEES TO NEXT MEETING       Participants will send names of potential invitees for the next meeting to Emily and Roy, including the potential invitee’s:

•             Name

•             Organization

•             Contact information

•             Type of issue area they would fill (i.e., potential subcommittee affiliation)

 

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