June 11, 2010, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Mississippi State University, CAVS Center, Canton, MS.
Meeting called by Roy Mitchell, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, and Emily Broad, Delta Directions Consortium.
Type of meeting: Mississippi Food Policy Council Organization and Directions Meeting
Facilitators: Roy Mitchell and Emily Broad
Note taker: Ava Petrash
- Roy Mitchell, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
- Grace Butler, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
- Emily Broad, Delta Directions Consortium
- Ava Petrash, Delta Directions Consortium
- Charles Houston, North Delta Produce Growers Association
- Jesse Strassburg, Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and WHY Hunger
- Anne Travis, Bower Foundation
- 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 (Cole Farms)
- Judy Belue, Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi “Get A Life!” Program
- Timothy Smith, Chess Agricultural Investments
- Jerry Sheppard, Pediatric Doctor University of Mississippi Medical Center
- Loretta Blair-Palmer, Holmes Livestock and Growers Project and Nollie Jenkins Family Center
- Dorothy Grady-Scarbrough, Mississippians Engaging in Green Agriculture
- Rhonda Lampkin, The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi
- Therese Hanna, Center for Mississippi Health Policy
- Debbie Colby, Gulf Coast Health Educators
- Ricky Boggan, Mississippi State Department of Health
- Catherine Cannatella, Arkansas Food Policy Council
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 initiatives.
Recap of last meeting
Roy Mitchell and Emily Broad
Discussion We reviewed the main content of the last meeting; it was discussed that we would form a core group or steering committee for a Food Policy Council and the basic function of the group would be to address various health and food issues and promote good practices through policy creation or support. Because Mississippi lacks an interdisciplinary group to address these types of issues, a Food Policy Council could be an invaluable resource.
Presentation: the Arkansas Food Policy Council
Catherine Cannatella, Arkansas Food Policy Council Representative
Question Posed How can we learn from the Arkansas Food Policy Council and use their advice to guide the manner in which we proceed to form our council?
Discussion Catherine explained to us the origins of the Arkansas FPC. It originated to support the Farm to School program and then expanded, targeting members from the health department, farming community, and education. About three years ago, Heifer International helped sponsor their first meeting, which brought together people from around the state to determine if there was a need for an FPC in Arkansas. However, after the first meeting Heifer did not really take charge of the FPC so they had some trouble getting started.
Recently, they have changed their structure and officially formed as a 501(c)3 organization in January 2010. They have four active sub-committees: producers, consumers (includes health and nutrition), advocacy and farm to school (this was added the most recently). They have been meeting monthly.
Some current issues they are working on are:
- Definition of a farmers markets
- Origin labeling
- Approving use of in-home kitchens for some processed foods
- Tax incentives to grow foods
- Prohibition of milk dumping
- Farm to School Program
- More food processing facilities
They also host conferences about local food systems and events such as Earth Day, the Slow Food Movement, etc. These are targeted at bringing awareness around the state to issues of food and health. They also use the FPC as a way to network by sending out relevant articles and information to the people on the FPC email list.
Their mission statement is: The Arkansas Food Policy Council was developed as a nonpartisan group to emphasize the connection between health, food and farm policy that make buying healthful foods an economically feasible choice, and to keep smaller farmers on the land by working to develop healthy, regional food systems that provide a greater diversity of crops.
Their executive board is made up of: 3 elected board members (they did not necessarily represent all of the stakeholder groups, they are just individuals who were involved and committed) and the chairs of each of the subcommittees. They are also about to elect a treasurer. When they did board elections, nominations were sent out via email and then they voted at the meeting.
Dues for membership were minimal (10 dollars for students, 20 dollars for individuals, 30 dollars for organizations) but helped support advertising and meeting space rental etc. The Arkansas FPC has approximately 30 registered members, but non-members can attend the meetings if they wish, though only members can vote.
Conclusions The most important lesson learned from the Arkansas FPC is the need for formal organization and leadership roles. Because they lacked such organization at the beginning, it was extremely hard for the group to achieve goals or even start on the planning stages of a project because there was no structure within the organization. Another lesson learned was the necessity of having funding and, subsequently, a full-time staff person to handle the needs of the FPC. For example, they would like to conduct a statewide food assessment and need funding to do so. Also, finding ways to make it easier to allow members from all across the state to access the meetings is essential. They also have some issues with individuals from government agencies – if the FPC advocates for policy changes, can those individuals be there as representatives of their agencies or only as individuals?
DISCUSSION: Core Group/steering committee
Question Posed How should the core group/steering committee be organized? How many people should be included in it? Should we identify officers or an executive board for the FPC?
Discussion It was agreed that one of the most important aspects of the core group/steering committee should be to ensure that all aspects of food policy are represented by stakeholders. Currently, it seems the FPC is lacking in representation of distributors (grocery/retail and wholesale) and processing (poultry, meat and fish). Also lacking representation of food banks or similar food support network organizations, and the Department of Education Office of Healthy Schools. It was recommended that we reach out to Ben Burkett and Michael McNair to round out the distribution side.
Several members noted the importance of keeping the movement grassroots and retaining the communal core principles while also introducing a governing structure/executive board. We discussed several ways to organize the executive board, including whether the members of the executive board should come from diverse stakeholder groups or whether they should just be elected from the general FPC list.
The concept of incorporation was also introduced to give the FPC structure and funding. Bylaws can be written (can be extremely simple) and a mission statement can be drafted to establish a more structured governance policy for the FPC. However, we also noted that there is time and cost involved in incorporation, so if we want to apply for any funding in the near term instead of getting our own 501(c)(3) status, it might be beneficial to start under the umbrella of a currently existing organization while the FPC works to establish itself. Roy volunteered that MHAP might be able to serve as such an umbrella.
In order to research some of these issues and advise the group on them, a “governance working group” was formed that will convene before the next meeting and report back to the group. Dita, Jesse, and Rickey Cole volunteered to serve on this working group. They will look into 501(c)(3) status, the cost of incorporating, and current options for umbrella organizations before the next meeting. They will also advise the group about potential governance structures.
Samantha cautioned that the secretary of state may be re-inventing the non-profit structure for the state of Mississippi so that we should take that into consideration before pursuing any non-profit status.
We also discussed methods of meeting as a group in the future. We all agreed to have at least one more in person meeting, but then moving forward we would only meet in person on occasion. We talked about different methods of meeting remotely. One idea was to meet via videoconference through the county extension offices. It might also be possible to do this through the Farm Bureau offices around the state. We also wondered whether anyone had capability to set up a webinar (actually host the webinar on their server) which would also be useful.
Conclusions It was agreed that we will choose officers and they along with subcommittee leaders will serve as an executive board, but we have not fully determined how to select officers. We will return to this subject at the next meeting.
The governance working group will convene and will report back to the full group about incorporation and governance structure.
Needs for next few months: set a mission statement/working principles, elect officers, finalize subcommittees, determine a method of meeting remotely.
Discussion: Subcommittees and their Roles
Question Posed What are the subcommittees and what are their roles?
Discussion It was suggested that we might narrow the focus from the four previously proposed subcommittees of nutrition, health and access, production, distribution and marketing, and processing and food safety to three subcommittees in order to make the group more cohesive but still allow for a broad range of topics to be addressed.
Conclusions Three committees were decided upon: producers (farmers, distributors, Farm Bureau, etc.), advocacy (policy, research), and nutrition and health (originally called “consumers,” the group changed it at meeting).
Organizer/Leader: Ricky Cole
Catherine Cannatella (advising)
Organizer/Leader: Timothy Smith
Nutrition and Health:
Organizer/Leader: Debbie Colby
Small group brainstorm: issues to focus on next year
Question posed What aspects of food policy will your subcommittee focus on? Select criteria that group feels is important in selecting issues and then list 3-5 issues which the group deems important and which fits your criteria.
Group presentations The subcommittees met together and came up with their criteria and lists of issues that they hope the FPC will address.
- Time frame
- Grow local producers: encourage small famers in Mississippi and increase benefits to growing produce
- Risk management for producers: insurance and increasing support for small farmers to engage in farming practices other than large scale feed farming
- Expand market access: in order to grow local producers, there must also be a market for them to operate in; increase use of markets and access to ways to sell their produce on a local level
- Support food safety that doesn’t overburden producers: support food safety programs that are not overly harsh so that small farmers can still afford to grow
- More processing facilities (local): if there are no local processing facilities, this limits the ability of local producers to expand their products into new areas
- Community/school gardens: how to make them productive and successful by supporting local grants, etc. to encourage community-based health changes
- USDA approvals: making it easier for farmers to get tax credits, approvals for smaller farms, giving them the ability to sell at farmers markets and schools, making certification easier to get
- Nutrition in schools: legislating requirements for teaching of nutrition in schools as well as changing laws about what can and cannot be served in school cafeterias and on school grounds
- Food safety: encourage policy changes that would allow for the sale of home-processed goods at farmers markets if those goods are not potentially hazardous (this is done in other states)
- Farmer Tax Credits/Incentives: encourage farmers to produce specialty crops/food items by allowing for tax credits or insurance credits for farmers who turn over land to food production
Nutrition and Health (originally Consumers):
- Impact on health
- Childhood obesity: combating the problem in the Delta
- Access to healthy and affordable food
- Policies related to health and food: food stamp limits, subsidies, etc.
- Lack of knowledge of what is healthy: increasing education programs, both in the schools and for adults, to demonstrate how to make healthy choices and how to store and prepare food
- Chronic disease: programs to encourage healthy eating habits
- Food insecurity: changing familial and social norms to establish more food security with families and social groups
- Insurance issues: addressing the roadblocks which prevent individuals from benefitting from the health resources offered by insurance or medical facilities
CONCLUSION: The list of issues will be fleshed out and then Roy and Emily will send it out to the group so that folks can research and prepare themselves to work on prioritization at the next meeting. We hope to come out of the next meeting with a few short term priorities and long term priorities for the FPC.
DISCUSSION: RELATIONSHIP WITH GOVERNMENT
Question: What do we want the FPC’s relationship with government to be?
Discussion: We heard from Therese Hanna, Center for Mississippi Health Policy, who helps to organize a group of government agencies around issues of health. This was started a few years ago, when the MS Dept of Human Services worked with USDA to bring together all the state agencies in MS who have USDA programs. Those present included MS Dept of Human Services, MS Dept of Health, MS Dept of Agriculture and Commerce, MS Dept of Education, and MS Extension Services. They convene the group periodically to update each other on their work and they also work together to do an annual nutrition action plan. They do not do any advocacy. Therese expressed that we might be able to have folks from the FPC come to their meetings occasionally to let them know about some of the policy issues of concern to our group.
It was agreed by all present that there must be some sort of relationship with state government, including adding some other like-minded individuals to the FPC that are part of state agencies and also attending the meetings that Therese organizes to connect with these state agencies.
CONCLUSION: It seems more useful to go to the government organizations than to bring them to the FPC; important to reach out and include them but also make sure that the FPC is operating under its own issues and guidelines
DISCUSSION: WHAT TO CALL THIS GROUP
QUESTION: What should the FPC be called? Should we use a different name?
CONCLUSION: Food Policy Council as a name is helpful because for many people it is self-explanatory and it is already semi-embedded in the legal system and will be recognized. Everyone present agreed that we should stick with “Mississippi Food Policy Council.”
REVIEW AND NEXT STEPS
QUESTION: When will we hold our next meeting? What will we accomplish before our next meeting?
CONCLUSION: The “governance working group” (Dita, Jesse, Rickey Cole) will meet and discuss issues regarding incorporation, use of another 501(c)3 as an umbrella, and governing structure. Roy and Emily will send out a list of issues so that members can prioritize the ones they want to work on (this will be done at the next meeting). The subcommittee leaders will work together to draft a mission statement and then will share it with the whole group for feedback (Dita also volunteered to help with mission statement drafting).
We will meet in 2 months from now in August. This will be our last in person meeting, and we will discuss other ways to communicate so that not every meeting will be in person in the future (though we will still meet in person periodically).
Jesse volunteered to see whether a representative from the Knoxville FPC or another well-established FPC would be able to join us at the next meeting, whether in person or by phone.
People are still welcome to tell us about individuals that might be helpful as members of the FPC and we will be happy to invite them to the next meeting.