June 2011

June 9, 2011, 11:00 AM -2:00 PM, MISSISSIPPI FARM BUREAU 6311 RIDGEWOOD ROAD JACKSON, MS 39211

MEETING CALLED BY       Emily Broad Leib, Harvard Law School, Roy  Mitchell, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program

TYPE OF MEETING           Mississippi Food Policy Council Meeting

FACILITATORS                   Emily Broad Leib, Debbie Smith

NOTE TAKERS                    Nathan Rosenberg

ATTENDEES

  • Bonnie Allen, Mississippi Center for Justice
  • Judy Belue, Delta Fresh Foods Initiative
  • Emily Broad Leib, Harvard Law School
  • Beneta Burt, Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity
  • Wendell Cathcart, Mississippi State University SSRC
  • Samantha Cawthorn, Mississippi Farm Bureau
  • Alexis Chernak, Delta Directions Consortium
  • Diane Claughton, Real Food Gulf Coast
  • Deborah Colby, Gulf Coast Health Educators
  • Rickey Cole, Consultant (Cole Farms)
  • Jennifer Cowley-Evans, Ohio State University (by phone)
  • Maya Crooks, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives
  • Mary Currier, Mississippi State Department of Health
  • Jennifer Dumevi, Alcorn State University
  • Lavada Hill, Alcorn State MS Small Farm Development Center
  • Charles Houston, North Delta Produce Growers Association
  • Shelly Johnstone, Hernando Farmers Market
  • Rhonda Lampkin Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi
  • Mark Leggett, Mississippi Poultry Association
  • Peggy Linton, Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi
  • Elizabeth McKinley, BankPlus
  • Roy Mitchell, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • Elizabeth Myles, Alcorn State University
  • Willie Nash, Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity
  • Velma Oliver, Alcorn State MS Small Farm Development Center
  • Beth Orlansky, Mississippi Center for Justice
  • Hannah Orlansky, Harvard Law School
  • Christine Philley, MS Office of Healthy Schools
  • Andy Prosser, MS Dept of Agriculture and Commerce
  • Ruby Ringold Brady, Holmes Community College
  • Stephanie Robinson, MS Dept of Education, Child Nutrition
  • Nathan Rosenberg, Harvard Law School
  • Dita McCarthy, Real Food Gulf Coast
  • Debbie Smith, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • Cecily Upton, FoodCorps
  • Tonitrice Wicks, My Brother’s Keeper
  • Darnella Winston, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives

AGENDA TOPICS

INTRODUCTIONS             Emily Broad Leib

DISCUSSION       Individuals introduced themselves and explained their organizational affiliations.

RECAP OF LAST MEETING             Emily Broad Leib

DISCUSSION       At the last meeting, we heard detailed reports from the committees and working groups of the Food Policy Council. The SNAP/EBT at Farmers Markets Subcommittee reported exciting news that through their work sending a letter to MDHS and meeting with officials from that agency they were able to get MDHS to give EBT machines to both farmers markets and individual farmers, even though they had previously said they would only give machines to farmers. Next, the In-Home Food Processing Subcommittee reported that it had had some success in discussions with MSDH and MDAC talking about in-home food processing, and the subcommittee helped spur conversations between the two agencies and the Food Safety department at MSU so that they are now working to create a set of rules to allow for in-home processing of some food items. We heard an update regarding legislation of interest to the MFPC and created a Legislative Task Force Liaison Subcommittee. We then heard a presentation about Farm to School opportunities for Mississippi from Nate Rosenberg, a Harvard Law student, and created a Farm to School Subcommittee. Finally, we voted on and approved the by-laws for the MFPC and began a membership drive. We also set a policy agenda to follow up on all the subcommittees.

PRESENTATION FROM ANDY PROSSER, MS DEPT OF AGRICULTURE AND COMMERCE      Andy Prosser

QUESTION POSED            What is the status of plans to allow for in-home food processing of some low-risk foods in Mississippi?

DISCUSSION       Beginning in 2012, Mississippians will be able to process low-risk foods at home if they take certain food safety courses. These foods will be able to be sold at Certified Mississippi Farmers Market. There will be two levels of class: for Class 1 foods (lowest risk) people can take a one-time class and then make those foods in a home kitchen; for Class 2 foods (a little riskier, like canned goods) there will be a canning/acidified foods course that individuals can take. Once they take the course, they will have someone come out and look at their home kitchen and they will get a certificate they will need to display when selling those foods at the farmers market. MSDH will determine what foods are low-risk that are included in class 1 and class 2.

These certificates will only work for certified farmers markets – they will not work for sales of homemade foods at non-certified farmers markets. At those markets, any processed or prepared foods need to be made in a certified commercial kitchen.

This program will not start until January 2012, but in the meantime Andy hopes that Mississippi State University will be able to start offering these courses around the state this summer and fall so that individuals can start getting certified. Andy will let us know when there is information for folks to get started.

Andy has also supplied us with a document including permitting and food safety information currently enforced for farmers markets.

CONCLUSION    Andy will get in touch through Emily to let us know when there is some written guidance and information about the courses that can be taken around the state. Anyone can feel free to contact him with questions as well at andy@mdac.state.ms.us.

PRESENTATION FROM JENNIFER COWLEY-EVANS, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY         Jennifer Cowley- Evans (by phone)

QUESTION POSED            What is going on with the HUD Sustainable Communities Grant on the Coast and their food systems assessment?

DISCUSSION       Jennifer is a researcher at Ohio State University and is involved in the HUD Sustainable Communities Grant on the Coast. They are looking at a range of issues in the region and through focus groups and stakeholder interviews they identified areas of focus, one of which was the food system.

They first worked to create a consortium of food entities within a hundred mile “foodshed” radius, and started a food system assessment in January. They chose to study both land-based and sea-based issues as well as food waste. The group spent winter and early spring studying the coastal economy and food shed, interacting with over 400 people in an effort to better understand the long-term needs of the coast. The group is currently looking at possible solutions and is working with the food systems subcommittee to articulate feasible goals. There will be a series of meetings with the subcommittee and stakeholders in June.

Four main issues within the food system have been identified:

(1)          Access to food, both consumer access and access for growers to the food system;

(2)          Food economy, including global food chain, food affordability, supply chain, producer income and price

(3)          Environmental health/ecosystem

(4)          Strengthening connections across the food chain in order to shorten the supply chain, increase access to healthy foods and otherwise benefit the food system.

They are now working on putting together some potential strategies that could be employed to improve the food system and address some of the gaps. They would like to find ways to work with the MFPC on some statewide priorities and policy changes, and are happy to share their strategies and potential solutions with us once they are completed.

CONCLUSIONS  Jennifer would love to come back to a future MFPC meeting and present some of the strategies they have identified on the coast to help us consider some new ideas for action for the MFPC. She would also be happy to explain their whole process of analyzing the food system.

Jennifer was also responsible for getting a student to help out with making the MFPC logo, so thanks to Jennifer for that!

PRESENTATION FROM CHRISTINE PHILLEY, OFFICE OF HEALTHY SCHOOLS AND STEPHANIE ROBINSON, DEPT OF EDUCATION OFFICE OF CHILD NUTRTION       Christine Philley,

Stephanie Robinson

QUESTION POSED            What is going on in the Department of Education and the Office of Healthy Schools regarding school gardens and getting healthy food into schools?

DISCUSSION       Christine Philley

Christine discussed two Team Nutrition grants offered by the Mississippi Department of Education Office of Healthy Schools (OHS): the Team Nutrition School Garden Grant and the Team Nutrition Physical Activity Grant. School gardens are designed to reinforce material taught in the classroom and to introduce new skills to students. Schools receive $1,000 each for container gardens through the school garden grant. Eight schools received the grant this year and the grants will be implemented in August when school is in session again. Four schools received $4,900 through the physical activity grant.

The program began this year and OHS hopes that this initial round of grants will encourage more schools to participate. Further information on the Team Nutrition grants can be found at http://www.healthyschoolsms.org/ohs_main/funding_opps.htm. In response to questions from MFPC, Christine said she could get a list of the participating schools to Emily to share with the MFPC email list.

Peggy Linton noted that there are lots of school gardens operating in North Mississippi, and she also mentioned her recent visit to the Edible Schoolyard in New Orleans. Darnella Burkett noted that she actually sells produce to the Edible Schoolyard. This might be a model for Mississippi in the future.

Stephanie Robinson

In addition to being the OHS Director of Monitoring, Stephanie Robinson is also the coordinator for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable (FFVP) grant program. FFVP is a national program that provides fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks at schools. It requires that students with the highest needs receive benefits and therefore targets schools where 50% or more of the students receive free or reduced price meals. In Mississippi, schools where more than 90% of the students receive free or reduced meals are targeted. Mississippi received over $1.6 million last year, providing fruits and vegetables to eighty schools and 32,000 students. This year, Mississippi will receive $2 million and OHS hopes to reach between 40,000 and 50,000 students through the program. Stephanie noted that applications were due that coming Monday, June 13. For more information, you can visit http://www.healthyschoolsms.org > Nutrition Services > News.

MFPC members asked where the fresh fruits and vegetables used in the program come from. Stephanie responded that most of the produce is procured through Adams Produce, which purchases produce from across the country.

In response to questions, Stephanie noted that the grant money could be used to purchase produce from local growers. She said that growers should contact local schools that are participating in the program and should work directly with them to get them to purchase local foods.

MFPC members noted that local schools often don’t know that they can purchase local food. Stephanie replied that she would try to inform food service directors at the food service state conference in July.

It was determined that the Farm to School Subcommittee would set up a time to meet with Stephanie in the near future to find ways that MFPC could help facilitate this process.

CONCLUSIONS  Christine will share a list of schools participating in the Team Nutrition grants so that we can share that with the MFPC members.

The Farm to School Subcommittee will follow up with Stephanie regarding getting local farmers involved in the FFVP program.

REPORTING BACK BY SUBCOMMITTEE   All

QUESTION POSTED         What updates are there from our subcommittees and working groups since the last meeting?

DISCUSSION:     Legislative Task Force Liaison Subcommittee (Rhonda Lampkin)

Governor Barbour vetoed House Bill 924, which would have set up a 34-member council on combating obesity in Mississippi. House Bill (HB) 1170 was passed and signed into law, however. HB 1170 creates a six-month task force comprised of 15 members that will study access to healthy foods in low-income communities throughout Mississippi. Selection of the Task Force is set by the committee members. The Legislative Task Force Liaison Subcommittee has drafted a letter to send to the task force members once they are set. The letter tells about MFPC and offers for us to help out in any way, and the draft letter is attached to the email with these minutes. The language of the law (and list of the task force members) is available at: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2011/pdf/HB/1100-1199/HB1170SG.pdf.

SNAP/EBT at Farmers Markets Subcommittee (Judy Belue)

Judy discussed a possible collaboration with the Michigan Double Up Food Bucks program. The program allows SNAP recipients to receive matching vouchers for the SNAP money that they spend at farmers markets. They can get up to $20 worth of vouchers that can be spent on produce for every $20 they spend at a farmers market (so they spend $20 of their SNAP money but have $40 to spend at the farmers market overall). She also reported that eighty-four wireless EBT machines have been given out to farmers and farmers markets around the state since the machines first became available in May. Of those, 17 went to farmers markets and the rest to growers/producers.

Judy also noted that Delta Fresh Food Initiative had hired a summer Americorps VISTA volunteer to help work with markets in the Delta to get wireless EBT machines and get them up and running.

In-Home Food Processing Subcommittee (Emily Broad Leib)

We heard the most recent updates on the progress on this front during Andy’s presentation. The good news is that there will definitely be some program in place that allows for some in-home processing of low-risk foods starting in January 2012. Classes will be relatively inexpensive and will start in 2011 around the state.

At the last meeting, MFPC members were wondering whether MDAC/MSDH would share their proposed regulations with the MFPC for comments prior to finalization, and had heard that they would not.

Mary Currier noted that in fact any new regulations would have to be made public for comment prior to approval by the Board of Health. She offered to help let the MFPC know where to look for the proposed rules. Beth Orlansky noted that Mississippi Center for Justice could also help to find the regulations when they were up online so we would know when to comment on them.

Farm to School Subcommittee (Nate Rosenberg)

Nate announced that his farm to school report had been completed and that he would be sending it the subcommittee prior to their next meeting. The Farm to School report is attached to the email and also available online for download at http://deltadirections.org/programs_initiatives/initiative.php?id=44. Nate will organize a phone meeting of the Farm to School Subcommittee soon.

Governance/Funding Subcommittee (Dita McCarthy)

There have not been any major developments since the last meeting. At the last meeting, we approved the by-laws and started soliciting membership. Dita also created an MFPC facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mississippi-Food-Policy-Council/103691799719458

MFPC Logo & Website (Emily Broad Leib)

As mentioned above, Jennifer Cowley-Evans had a student help create sample logos for the MFPC. Those present voted on the logos and a winner was chosen; those present also gave feedback about the proposed colors. The new logo is attached to this email and is viewable at the top of the minutes!

Jennifer also noted that some of her students can help to create an MFPC website. Nate offered to work with them on this project.

Other Updates (Emily Broad Leib)

Emily reported that one of her Harvard Law students wrote a report on modifying the WIC system in Mississippi. Mississippi is the only state that still uses a food distribution center method for distributing WIC benefits, rather than using retail stores. This has negative consequences for both WIC recipients and the broader community. Emily will share the report with the MFPC once it is finalized.

Another one of her student projects this year was to update the Mississippi Farmers Market Legal Guide to include the newest laws and regulations (though it will also need to be updated again once the new guidance on in-home food processing comes out). The guide is available for download here: http://deltadirections.org/programs_initiatives/initiative.php?id=32.

CONCLUSIONS  The subcommittees will continue to meet and work together over the next few months. Once the board is selected and meets board members will each be assigned to the subcommittees and will report back to the board on the activities of the subcommittees and vice versa.

GOVERNANCE: PRESENTATIONS BY CANDIDATES FOR THE BOARD            Board Candidates

QUESTION POSED            Who is running for the board? When will we do elections?

DISCUSSION       Board candidates were asked to present a statement about their interest in serving on the MFPC board, their background or work in food, and their involvement with MFPC. There are ten candidates for the board. Only paid members of MFPC can run for the board or vote for the board members. After the meeting, a ballot will be created with information about each board candidate and sent to each MFPC member (members must have sent in their form and paid their dues by the time of the June 9th meeting). The board members will be announced soon!

The following board candidates presented:

Dita McCarthy co-founded a group called Real Food Gulf Coast a couple of years ago and a farmers’ market as well. She also does a little growing herself. She began her career as a legal services attorney and now works for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She believes that food has become a civil rights issue. She is currently a member of the MFPC’s Mission Statement Subcommittee, the Governance Subcommittee, the SNAP/EBT at Farmers Markets Subcommittee, and the Membership Subcommittee.

Judy Belue is the Project Coordinator for Delta Fresh Foods Initiative (DFFI), a coalition of about 150 stakeholders. She has 20 years of experience of community organizing, including four years in the Delta. DFF’s mission is to create sustainable local food networks in the Mississippi Delta. She believes that food equity and access are major issues throughout the state. She has been part of the MFPC In-home Food Processing Subcommittee.

Rhonda Lampkin has served as the Government Relations Director at the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi (PHM) for the last 12 years. In that capacity, she has worked on a variety of different policy and community advocacy initiatives. PHM initially focused on tobacco use, but has since expended to obesity and food issues. Rhonda discussed the bills relating to food that the PHM advocated for during the last legislative session, including a bill that would have created a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages if it had passed. She also stated that PHM is working with the Chairman of the House Public Health Committee to create a statewide obesity council. Rhonda is a member of the MFPC Legislative Task Force Liaison Subcommittee.

Ricky Cole wants to live in a Mississippi where you can buy Mississippi products in Mississippi grocery stores and where the wealth of the land is reflected in the fortunes of its citizens. He believes that the MFPC can advance that vision. He also discussed his family’s experience with farming and his political experience, which included serving as the Chairman of the Democratic Party of Mississippi and the Democratic candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce. Rickey is a member of the MFPC Governance Subcommittee and the SNAP/EBT at Farmers Markets Subcommittee.

Mark Leggett is President of the Mississippi Poultry Association. He sees potential for corporate involvement in Mississippi food issues. He expressed his excitement about farm to school and his belief that corporations would be eager to contribute farm to school programs. Mark serves on the MFPC Funding Subcommittee and the Legislative Task Force Liaison Subcommittee.

Deborah Colby is the Executive Director of Gulf Coast Health Educators. She has been exposed to nutrition education and food access issues through her job as a Registered Dietician. Her work has focused on helping individuals with chronic diseases. Her organization has branched out in the last few years thanks to a United Way grant, which has allowed them to educate children and their parents. She wants to work toward changing policy in MS in order to reduce the prevalence of non-communicable diseases.

Roy Mitchell is Director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program. His professional career has been entirely in public interest policy work. For him, advocacy work requires envisioning an alternative system and then working toward achieving that vision. He believes that the MFPC does both of those things. Roy was one of the founders of the MFPC and has chaired many of the MFPC subcommittees.

Charles Houston is President of North Delta Produce Growers in Marks, Mississippi. Charles wants to work to protect small growers and producers and to advance farm to school programs. He believes that a generation has been lost to unhealthy, industrialized food and he wants to invest in the current generation of children. Charles serves on the MFPC Farm to School Subcommittee.

Beneta Burt is the Executive Director of the Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity (formerly the Jackson Roadmap to Health Equity). Beneta described MRHE’s current initiatives in Jackson Public Schools as well as their future plans. Due to MRHE’s program, food service workers are able to devote one-hour of their working day to fitness each day. MRHE also developed a fitness center for food service directors. The program was successful, but it soon became clear that food quality was an important health issue that needed to be addressed. As a result, they created a farmers market and a garden. She believes that children need to learn where real food comes from. Next year MRHE plans to develop school gardens in Jackson through a partnership with FoodCorps. Beneta is a member of the MFPC Farm to School Subcommittee.

Tonitrice Wicks spoke on Dr. DeMarc Hickson’s behalf. He is the Director of Research, Evaluation and Environmental-Policy Change for My Brother’s Keeper, a nonprofit focusing on health and well-being. She stated that Dr. Hickson has an impressive research background and extensive experience with grant writing. He is currently working on a program called Jumpstart Jackson, which includes several initiatives, including a community garden and a mobile farmers market.

Emily Broad Leib asked if the board would allow her to serve as a non-voting ex officio member. She will not run for a board seat, but hopes to remain involved and continue to help with addressing the policy and legal research needs of the MFPC.

CONCLUSION    Ballots for the board will be sent out within the next week to paying members of the MFPC. There are ten candidates for the board and eight board slots. The new board will be announced soon, and will begin to meet monthly (via phone or in person). They will coordinate the next general MFPC meeting.

REVIEW AND NEXT STEPS             Emily Broad Leib

DISCUSSION:     The group discussed upcoming events that might be of interest to Food Policy Council members. These are some upcoming events that were mentioned at this meeting and the last meeting, along with the contact name who mentioned the event:

Upcoming Events:

•             Women in Agriculture State Conference September 12-14 in Starkville, including a candidate forum for the Commissioner of Ag position (Sherilyn Jones)

•             Southern Obesity Summit in New Orleans October  2 – 5

•             Southern Regional Institute on Conquering Childhood Obesity November 3-4 (Debbie Colby said the target audience includes all organizations that advocate for or focus on children. The price will be $189.)

•             Community Food Security Coalition 15th Annual Conference will held in Oakland, CA November 5-8 (Delta Fresh Foods plans to be there and give a presentation)

•             Mississippi Fruit & Vegetable Growers Conference & Trade Show will be held in Vicksburg November 14-16

Grant Opportunities

•             Farmers Market Promotion Program – due July 1, 2011 (http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5091241&acct=fmpp)

In the future, let us know about upcoming events so that we can help get the word out to the rest of the MFPC.

The next general MFPC meeting will be held sometime in the fall.