July 2012

July 20, 2012, 11:00 AM -2:00 PM,  Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation

MEETING CALLED BY      Roy Mitchell, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program

TYPE OF MEETING        Mississippi Food Policy Council Meeting

FACILITATOR           Roy Mitchell

NOTE TAKER            Nathan Rosenberg

ATTENDEES

  • Deja Abdul-Haqq, My Brothers’ Keeper
  • Bonnie Allen, Mississippi Center for Justice
  • Tywan Arrington, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives
  • Judy Belue, Delta Fresh Foods Initiative
  • Ryan Betz, Delta Health Alliance/Delta Fresh Foods
  • Ruby Brady, Holmes Community College
  • Emily Broad Leib, Harvard Law School
  • Jammie Collins, My Brothers’ Keeper
  • McKenzie Crabtree, Mississippi State University
  • Daniel Doyle, Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi
  • Graham Downey, FoodCorps & Partnership for a Healthier Mississippi
  • Ali Fratesi, Beaverdam Farms
  • Elvie Guthrie-Lewis, Mississippi Department of Health
  • Jackie Hawkins, Delta Health Collaborative
  • Charles Houston, North Delta Produce Growers
  • Shelly Johnstone, City of Hernando
  • Alicia Landry, University of Southern Mississippi
  • Shamir Lee, My Brother’s Keeper, Inc.
  • Mark Leggett, Mississippi Poultry Association
  • Peggy Linton, Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi
  • Roy Mitchell, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • Kim Morgan, Mississippi State University
  • Abi Philips, FoodCorps & Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity
  • Dustin Pinion, Beaverdam Farms
  • Alfio Rausa, Mississippi State Department of Health
  • Aaron Rodgers, Mississippi State University
  • Nathan Rosenberg, Mississippi State University & Harvard Law School
  • Tyler Russell, Delta Directions Intern
  • Alex Sligar, FoodCorps & Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity
  • Debbie Smith, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • Brooke Smith, WhyHunger
  • Mike Sullivan, Mississippi Farm Bureau
  • Nancy Woodruff, Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi & Winston County Self-Help Cooperative
  • Warren Yoder, Public Policy Center of Mississippi

AGENDA TOPICS

INTRODUCTIONS    Roy Mitchell

DISCUSSION       Individuals introduced themselves and explained their organizational affiliations.

ANNUAL REPORT: ORGANIZATIONAL OVERVIEW     Roy Mitchell

The Mississippi Food Policy Council’s July 20th meeting was its first annual meeting. The meeting was an opportunity to review the previous year’s activities, as well discuss the Council’s priorities for the upcoming year. The Council will finalize its policy agenda for 2013 at its fall 2012 meeting.

The Council also published an annual report in conjunction with the meeting, which can be found at the following address: https://mississippifoodpolicycouncil.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/mfpcs-july-2012-annual-report-final.pdf

The meeting began with a review of the previous year’s activities. Council Chair, Roy Mitchell, began with an organizational overview, stating that the MFPC consciously created a realistic policy agenda this year. The Council’s leadership tried to identify focused, achievable goals that would establish it as a well-organized, effective organization.

One of the first activities of the year was to establish a board of directors. In the spring of 2011, the Council organized an election to create its first board of directors. Only due-paying members of the Council were eligible to run for the board or vote in the election. During its June meeting, the ten candidates gave presentations explaining their interest in serving on the board, their background in food-related issues, and their involvement with the Council. After the meeting, a ballot was created with information about each board candidate and sent to members to vote on.

The eight-member board quickly organized after the votes were tallied. The board decided that each board member would join a subcommittee, so that the board could keep in close contact with the subcommittees. The board also voted to meet monthly, in person or on the phone, and to work together to coordinate Council meetings.

Subsequent to establishing a board, the Council developed a logo and a website. At the June 2011 meeting, several logo options were presented to the Council at the meeting and attendees voted on for their preferred logo. Later that summer, two volunteers worked with the Council to develop its website. The website contains news, events, meeting minutes, publications, and other information about the organization. It can found at the following address: https://mississippifoodpolicycouncil.wordpress.com/

The Council also secured grant funding for the first time this year. In order to increase the Council’s capacity, and to ensure its long-term sustainability, the board has made a concerted effort to receive funding to support the organization’s work. The Council has successfully applied for two grants, which are detailed in turn below.

Project Change

Grantor: My Brother’s Keeper

Time line: March 1, 2012 – August 31, 2012

Amount: $8,500

My Brother’s Keeper, Inc., a Jackson based organization, received a Community Transformation Grant from the Centers for Disease Control. In turn, My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) is using its grant money to provide sub-grants to organizations supporting healthy living. The Council was awarded a grant to conduct policy scans on two different initiatives: farmers markets and efforts to increase offering of healthy foods at retail outlets including grocery stores and convenience stores. Nate Rosenberg, a joint fellow at Mississippi State University and Harvard Law School, will conduct the policy scans on behalf of the Council with the assistance of Emily Broad Leib and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. Nate will receive the majority of the funds to support his salary. Ten percent of the funds will be used by the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program for grant management, and some of the funds will be used to pay for Emily Broad Leib’s travel to Mississippi.

Healthy Farms, Healthy People Statewide Meeting Grant

Grantor: National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI)

Time line: May 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012

Amount: $7,500

The Council was awarded this grant to convene and facilitate a statewide meeting that focuses on the intersection between agriculture and human health. Much of the meeting will focus on farm-to-school and farm-to-institution programs due to their potential to positively impact health and educational outcomes and strengthen regional food systems. The meeting will serve as a much-needed opportunity for farmers, schools, nonprofit organizations and government officials to share ideas, discuss best practices and build relationships.

The Council plans to hold a daylong meeting with approximately 150-200 in attendance. There will be a plenary session to educate participants about the basics of food policy and farm-to-institution, but the Council will also hold more specialized workshops targeted to educating different audiences – growers, schools, community members and state agencies. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, October 4, 2012. The funds for this grant will be used to pay for the meeting facility, meeting materials, speaker fees, meeting promotion, and transportation stipends.

ANNUAL REPORT: SUBCOMMITTEE REPORTS     Roy Mitchell

Following Roy’s organizational overview, the chairs of each subcommittee discussed their groups’ goals and accomplishments.

Legislative Liaison Subcommittee

 

Mark Leggett reviewed the Legislative Liaison’s accomplishments for the year. He began by thanking Emily Broad Leib, Nathan Rosenberg, Roy Mitchell, Debbie Smith, Samantha Cawthorn, and Representative Toby Barker for their work. The Legislative Liaison Subcommittee was created in response to House Bill (HB) 1170, which was passed and signed into law during the 2011 legislative session. HB 1170 created a six-month task force comprised of 15 members that studied access to healthy foods in low-income communities throughout Mississippi. In order to convey the Mississippi Food Policy Council’s policy priorities to the task force and to assist the task force in its research, the Council established a Legislative Task Force Liaison Subcommittee.

As the task force was being developed, the subcommittee drafted a letter to its organizers explaining the Council’s role and offering to help the task force fulfill its mission. Roy Mitchell, Chair of the Mississippi Food Policy Council Board, represented the subcommittee on the task force. Through the subcommittee’s efforts, the task force adopted many the Council’s legislative recommendations for the 2012 legislative session.

After the task force disbanded in December, the Council decided to keep the subcommittee active and rename it the Legislative Liaison Subcommittee. The subcommittee was tasked with developing legislative proposals for approval by the Council Board and working with the Legislature to make them a reality. During the 2012 legislative session, the subcommittee focused on four pieces of legislation. One of them, House Bill (HB) 828, which would have created an interagency farm to school council, died in committee. The three remaining pieces of legislation, however, were pass by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Bryant. HB 535 clarified that county and municipal governments can contribute funds to farmers market. HB 540 permits local school boards to allow the public to use school property during non-school hours for recreation and sports. Finally, House Concurrent Resolution 112 established the first full school week of October as “Mississippi Farm to School Week.”

In the 2013 legislative session, the subcommittee will track legislation that relates to food issues, particularly those concerning food access and local food systems. It will also continue to push for legislation to create a farm to school task force of state agencies, farmers, businesses and non-profits, as well as other legislative initiatives that further the Council’s objectives.

In-Home Food Processing Subcommittee

Emily Broad Leib presented for the chair of the subcommittee, Dita McCarthy, who could not make the meeting. With the recent growth in farmers markets and the demand for local, fresh foods there has been a push to allow individuals to produce and sell foods made in their own homes. Research conducted by the Food Policy Initiative of the Harvard Law School Health Law and Policy Clinic in 2010 on behalf of the Mississippi Food Policy Council found that 31 states allowed in-home production and sale of certain low-risk or non-potentially hazardous foods like baked goods, jams, jellies, and dried herbs.

The In-Home Food Processing Subcommittee was created in order to advocate for new regulations or legislation that would permit home processors to sell their non-potentially hazardous foods to the public. After meeting with members of the subcommittee, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce and the Mississippi Department of Health took administrative action allowing Mississippians to be able to process low-risk foods at home if they take certain food safety courses.

Following the first round of courses in July, 2011, the MFPC received feedback from several persons attending the courses who complained that the course material was hard to understand and that they perceived certain labeling requirements as being unreasonably burdensome. As a result, a number of attendees were discouraged and decided not to pursue the certification. In response, the Council sent a letter to the Mississippi Departments of Health and Agriculture and Commerce expressing concerns with the in-home food processing classes and information that was being provided by the state. The letter also included several suggestions for improvement. The State was very responsive to the Council’s suggestions for improvement of the In-Home Processing course presentations and materials and implemented several of the key suggestions immediately. The Council is working with stakeholders from around the state to ensure that the new home-processing license program continues to be implemented in a way that allows this beneficial economic activity for small food producers.

As of July 20th, 258 people had attended the general food safety training and 122 people had taken the acidified foods training course. Of the 122 people that took the acidified foods training course, only about 30 had their kitchens inspected, which is legally required to sell home processed foods. The subcommittee would like to do more research in the upcoming year to identify why more of the course attendees did not fulfill all the necessary steps to sell in-home processed goods, despite having completed the course, which is the most difficult requirement.

In the upcoming year, the subcommittee intends to continue to track state-wide participation in the In-Home Processing Program.  The subcommittee also plans to study the efficacy of promulgating a “best practices” guide for processed food vendors in certified farmers markets. Some non-profit organizations in other states, such as Louisiana, have developed voluntary “best practices” in order to avoid additional regulation by state agencies tasked with protecting the public. The subcommittee will consider such a program and make recommendations to the Council based on its analysis.

Farmers Market Subcommittee

 

Chair of the Farmers Market Subcommittee, Judy Belue, spoke on behalf of the group. The Farmers Markets Subcommittee works to promote and support the growth of farmers markets around the state through training, education, and policy development. In early 2011, the subcommittee focused on facilitating and promoting the use of SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) at farmers markets. 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 promote legislation to ensure that city and county governments are authorized to make donations to local farmers markets. The Council worked with Representative Toby Parker to introduce House Bill # 535, which amended the Mississippi State Code to clarify that county and municipal authorities may fund farmers markets. The bill was signed into law by Govern Phil Bryant on April 24, 2012.

In 2012, the subcommittee compiled information on more than 70 markets throughout the state and actively participated in the design of a six-page survey for market managers, which was distributed through the postal service and email. The survey is designed to help identify legal and policy concerns of market managers in order to provide targeted assistance to them.

The subcommittee enjoys a strong working relationship with nationally know market consultant Darlene Wolnik, who provides advice and input based on more than a decade of experience with the Market Umbrella operation in New Orleans. Wolnik made a presentation to the Council in May and will continue to provide guidance when additional survey data is received and compiled.

The subcommittee is pleased to have engaged additional market managers as members of the Council over the past year. In the upcoming year, it will endeavor to increase the participation of market managers in the Council and it will foster and support regional farmers market councils and alliances. In doing so it will facilitate networking, sharing best practices and broaden the reach of farmers markets in Mississippi. The Farmers Market Subcommittee welcomes members who have an interest in furthering the impact and success of markets throughout the state.

Farm to School Subcommittee

 

Nathan Rosenberg, Farm to School Subcomittee Chair, discussed the group’s progress and goals for the upcoming year. Farm to school programs take many different forms, but the primary goal is to connect local producers with schools so that the schools can have access to fresh, local food and can also help to support local growers and the local economy. The Farm to School Subcommittee seeks to promote and expand Farm to School throughout the state and to provide resources to farmers, food service directors, educators and other Mississippians interested in the program.

During the summer of 2011, the subcommittee conducted a survey of food service directors in order to identify food service directors’ interest in, and opportunities and barriers to, implementing farm to school programs. In the fall, subcommittee members worked with Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and stakeholders across the state to identify actions that the Mississippi Legislature can take in order to make state policies that are more conducive to Farm to School. The legislative recommendations resulting from their research can be found at the following address: https://mississippifoodpolicycouncil.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/fts-legis-recs-final-12-5.pdf

During the 2012 session of the Mississippi Legislature, the Council worked with Representative Toby Barker to draft and introduce a farm to school-related bill and resolution, both of which came out of the Council’s fall 2011 legislative recommendations. House Bill # 828 would have created an inter-agency Farm to School Council with representatives from government agencies, schools, farms, and other stakeholders. It was designed to work on efforts such as assisting farmers and schools in starting commercial relationships, applying for financial grants, and providing food safety and regulatory information to schools in order to facilitate local purchasing. HB 828 died in committee, however the subcommittee will work to reintroduce similar legislation next legislative session. Signed by the governor on May 3rd, House Concurrent Resolution 112 established “Mississippi Farm to School Week.” The resolution encourages schools to incorporate at least one locally-grown food into schools meals. It also clarifies that farm to school initiatives are legal in Mississippi, demonstrates that the Legislature values using local farm produce in schools, and encourages schools to start initiatives.

The Council is currently working with the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic to produce a step-by-step purchasing guide for schools interested in purchasing locally grown food to serve in school meals. The guide, which will be published this summer, will include information on how to develop a commercial relationship with a farmer, how to write food ordering forms that give preference to locally grown foods, and how to ensure that food being served in schools has been grown and handled safely. Designed to clarify the complicated process of purchasing food from local farmers, it will provide food service directors and school administrators with the knowledge they need to develop robust farm to school programs.

 

The subcommittee also wishes to report on the progress that its two the Farm to School subcommittee’s institutional members, the Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity (MRHE) and the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative (DFFI), have made with their farm to school programs. In 2011, MRHE was chosen as a Host Site for FoodCorps. Its FoodCorps program has developed over 80 school and community gardens, and conducted more than 200 hands-on nutrition education sessions. DFFI organized a coalition of groups to create two part-time positions focused on farm to school: a Delta Farm to School Coordinator and a Delta Grower Liaison. Both the coordinator and liaison provide programs with technical assistance and help create opportunities for sharing resources, funding, and innovative approaches to farm to school programs. The liaison’s focus on growers serves to facilitate relationships between farmers and food service directors, which had previously held back farm to school efforts in the area. As result of their new farm to school program, several schools in the Delta plan to begin farm to school initiatives during the 2012 – 2013 academic year.

The subcommittee’s goals for the upcoming year are two-fold: (1) provide networking opportunities and greater access to resources to new and growing farm to school initiatives across the state and to (2) seek grant funding for farm to school initiatives that target schools in Mississippi where a high percentage of students are eligible to receive free or reduced meals. As farm to school continues to gain attention from schools, farmers, and public health officials in Mississippi, the subcommittee looks forward to another productive year.

Food Access Subcommittee

Roy also mentioned that the board established a new subcommittee in June 2012 that will focus on issues related to food access due to interest from members. The subcommittee will begin its activities in the fall of 2012.

POLICY PRIORITIES FOR THE UPCOMING YEAR    Subcommittee Heads

During lunch, each attendee chose a subcommittee to sit with and the various subcommittees discussed possible policy goals for the year. Below are the policy priorities that each group identified as being the most compelling.

Farmers Market Subcommittee

 

The Farmers Market Subcommittee believes that food safety laws and regulations as interpreted by Mississippi’s regulatory agencies are unduly burdensome for small farmers, particularly ones that wish to sell their products directly to consumers at farmers markets. They wish to advocate for more reasonable regulations, perhaps by discussing these issues with Mary Currier, State Health Officer, and Cindy Hyde-Smith, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce. The Subcommittee also would like to do a better job of bringing SNAP recipients to farmers markets.

Legislative Liaison Subcommittee

 

The Legislative Liaison Subcommittee would like to look into the possibility of changing the laws and regulations affect direct sales of meat. Although Mississippi is limited by what it can do by federal law, the Subcommittee hopes to ease regulatory burden placed on meat and poultry producers.

Farm to School Subcommittee

 

The Farm to School Subcommittee has four areas that they want to prioritize this year. First, they hope to expand outreach to private distributors to facilitate more farm to school sales. Second, they want to increase communication with food service staff about food safety and other issues to ensure that they are supportive of farm to school. Third, many schools believe that farmers need GAP/GHP is necessary and the committee would like to dispel this misperception. Finally, the Subcommittee would like to pass additional legislation supporting farm to school to build on its initial success in the spring.

Food Access Subcommittee

 

The Food Access Subcommittee clarified that they want to focus on access to healthy foods, not just calories. They discussed several issues and ongoing initiatives in Mississippi, including liability. The Subcommittee will continue this discussion after the meeting in order to identify the most promising priorities for the upcoming year.

In-Home Food Processing Subcommittee

 

Ali Fratesi noted that the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce is telling farmers different things regarding the poultry exemption, which the Subcommittee hopes to look into. The Subcommittee is also interested in regulations regarding meat and poultry processing, strengthening in-home processing, and insurance for farmers.

Other Issues

Roy opened the floor for issues that were not addressed by any of the subcommittees.

Nancy Woodruff suggested that the Council advocate for using local food systems as a tool of economic development. She stated that folks working in economic development at the state and local level are not hearing enough about the economic, as well as health, benefits of building local food systems. Given Mississippi’s concerns with health and tight budgets, and the material that has developed on the national level around local food, she believes that this is the perfect time to advocate for using local food systems as an economic development tool. Judy Belue concurred and stated that she believes that argument is relevant to much of their work. Shelly Johnstone and Peggy Linton also agreed. Emily Broad Leib agreed that economic arguments are important and explained that the Council tries to make economic impact arguments in its advocacy efforts.

In a subsequent email, Nancy wrote to the MFPC board to advocate for a separate committee, either standing or ad hoc, be given the task of carrying the economic development message to policymakers. She also stated that the committee could help bring the issue into general public awareness and capture relevant data, among other tasks.

Ryan Betz wanted to discuss in-home processing and farmers markets. He stated that the Cleveland market had some vendors that dropped out of the program because they felt the home inspection and record-keeping requirements were too burdensome. There was a brief discussion of the fairness of the in-home processing regulations. Not everyone understood the in-home processing laws, so Emily gave a brief overview and offered to answer questions after the meeting formally closes.

Next Steps

 

Emily Broad Leib and Nate Rosenberg will organize all the issues raised by the subcommittees. Several of the subcommittees had overlapping issues, so the subcommittee notes will be combined to create a comprehensible and manageable list of issues. She asked people to send her any more information or questions to her at ebroad@law.harvard.edu or to Nate at nrosenberg@law.harvard.edu.

UPDATE ON MFPC BOARD BUSINESS     Roy Mitchell

Roy thanked Tyler Russell for helping to put together the annual report. He then asked for members input on organizing the Council’s November 14h conference. Finally, he reminded members and potential new members to pay their annual dues. He anticipates that the next meeting will be in September or October and that the meeting will focus on the upcoming legislative session.

Ali Fratesi asked if the Farm to School purchasing guide, which is designed to help schools purchase agricultural products from local farmers, will be added to the Council’s publications guide. Emily Broad Leib said that the guide will be available on MFPC’s website before Mississippi Farm to School on October 1st.

UPCOMING EVENTS AND PROGRAMS      All

The 2012 Gulf South Blueberry Growers Field Day

  • Thursday, October 11 at the Giles Farm, (985 Denham-Buckatuna Creek Road, Waynesboro, MS)
  • The Giles Farm, owned by Tom and John Giles, is a well-managed blueberry farm that has incorporated good management techniques and innovative ways to establish and produce blueberries. It is an excellent example of how close attention to detail can result in vigorous plants, high yields and the ability to pick and pack large volumes of high quality fruit. This farm is a progression of innovations developed and added each year to improve the efficiency of the operation. You will be able to tour the farm and processing facility and see the methods that have been incorporated to produce high quality blueberries.
  • A number of exhibitors will be on hand to show and discuss Blueberry harvesting equipment, grading equipment, wind machines for frost protection, tractors and farm equipment. Suppliers dealing with irrigation equipment, packing material, plants, pesticides and people who know the ins and outs of acquiring labor will be on hand.
  • If you have any questions about the Field Day or would like a membership application, contact Dr. John Braswell at gulfsouthblueberry@gmail.com

ASUEP Community Resource Development Conference 2012

 

  • Thursday, October 25 – Friday, October 26, 2012 – Jackson, MS
  • Topics include but are not limited to faith-based administration, business, leadership and economic development, grant writing, estate planning, and social technology.
    *Exhibit space for businesses and agencies are FREE but space is limited.
    For more information, please contact us by phone 601-372-1424 or via email kmclin@alcorn.edu.

Mississippi Fruit & Vegetable Growers Conference & Trade Show in conjunction with the Mississippi Agritourism Association

 

  • November 28-29, 2012 at the Hilton Hotel on County Line Road in Jackson, Mississippi
  • The annual conference will feature educational programs based on a variety of topics that are important to current and potential fruit growers, vegetable growers and agritourism businesses.
  • The conference gives current and potential growers an opportunity to learn valuable tools taught by experts and experienced growers, to network with other growers and talk with exhibitors at the trade show (see their website for a continually updated list of registered exhibitors). There are many exciting seminars tailored to fit each grower’s needs and diverse interests. If you have any questions you may contact: Candi Adams at 662-534-1916 or email: cadams@ext.msstate.edu or info@msfruitandveg.com

***The next MFPC meeting will be in September or October.

Please let us know about any upcoming events that may be of interest to MFPC members and we will help get the word out.

For information about upcoming events, grants, and more, visit the website of the Mississippi Food Policy Council at www.mississippifoodpolicycouncil.com.

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