March 2011

March 11, 2010, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, MSU CAVS CENTER 153 MISSISSIPPI PARKWAY CANTON, MS 39046

 

MEETING CALLED BY       Emily Broad, Harvard Law School

TYPE OF MEETING           Mississippi Food Policy Council Meeting

FACILITATORS                   Emily Broad, Jacquelyn Agho

NOTE TAKERS                    Nathan Rosenberg

ATTENDEES

  • Jacquelyn Agho, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • Chiquita Briley, MSU Extension/Dept FSNHP
  • Emily Broad, Harvard Law School
  • Alexis Chernak, Delta Directions Consortium
  • Diane Claughton, Real Food Gulf Coast
  • Christine Coker, MSU- Coastal R&E, MAFES
  • Rickey Cole, Consultant (Cole Farms)
  • Arthur Cosby, MSU Social Science Research Center
  • Charles Houston, North Delta Produce Growers Association
  • Sherilyn Jones, Indianola Main Street/Indianola Farmers Market
  • Rhonda Lampkin Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi
  • Mary Beth Lasseter, Southern Foodways Alliance
  • Mark Leggett, Mississippi Poultry Association
  • Peggy Linton, Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi
  • Ruby Ringold Brady, Holmes Community College
  • Nathan Rosenberg, Harvard Law School
  • Dita McCarthy, Real Food Gulf Coast
  • Donna Speed, Mississippi State Health Department
  • Connie Baird-Thomas, MSU Social Science Research Center
  • Rebecca Turner, Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi

AGENDA TOPICS

INTRODUCTIONS             Emily Broad

DISCUSSION       Individuals introduced themselves and explained their organizational affiliations.

RECAP OF LAST MEETING             Emily Broad

DISCUSSION       At the last meeting, we discussed a draft set of bylaws produced by the Governance Working Group. We then heard presentations on research regarding various topics that the Council had put on our research agenda at our August meeting. The first presentation focused on meat and poultry production, while the second presentation covered barriers to the third-party sale of produce and the Food Safety Modernization Act. We then listened to a presentation on in-home processing of non-potentially hazardous foods, and access to EBT machines to use SNAP/food stamps at farmers’ markets. (Note that all the handouts are on file with Emily Broad – send an email if you want to receive any of them.) We then voted as a group to work on in-home processing and EBT at farmers markets, and created subcommittees to work on each issue. Finally, funding for the Food Policy Council was discussed and a Funding Working Group was created.

REPORTING BACK: SNAP/EBT AT FARMERS MARKETS SUBCOMMITTEE   Alexis Chernak

QUESTION POSED            Will farmers markets and vendors at farmers markets be able to use wireless EBT machines? Will there be any restrictions on their use? How many machines will be available?

DISCUSSION       Background: DHS had wireless EBT machines available to give out to individual farmers and vendors around the state, but initially said machines would not be available to farmers market managers for use at the market as a whole. Last year a few farmers were given EBT machines at farmers markets in Jackson through a pilot program. The Food Policy Council would like all farmers markets and vendors at farmers markets to be able to use EBT machines. At the last meeting, we set up a subcommittee to work with DHS to address this issue. The subcommittee was made up of Ricky Cole, Beneta Burt, Rhonda Lampkin, Roy Mitchell, Jesse Strassburg.

The SNAP/EBT at Farmers Markets Subcommittee met with representatives from the Department of Human Services (DHS) a couple of weeks ago. DHS agreed that farmers markets should be able to use EBT machines. Machines will be available to farmers markets and all individual vendors at farmers markets, including vendors that sell processed food. An unlimited number of machines will be distributed throughout the state over the next five years. It was pointed out that that machines can be used wherever there is cellular phone reception and do not need to be limited to use at farmers markets.

One issue is that there may be potential liability for farmers market managers who get a machine that can be used for all the vendors at the market. This could include tax responsibility and also liability for fraud or misuse of the food stamps. Emily noted that she has a law student looking into this issue to find out what the rules are, and she will report back to the group as soon as there is more information on that topic.

CONCLUSION    The Council was very excited about the movement on this issue due to our hard work, and we are hoping to find ways to help markets move forward with EBT use.

REPORTING BACK: IN-HOME FOOD PROCESSING SUBCOMMITTEE           Emily Broad

QUESTION POSED            What progress has the In-Home Food Processing Subcommittee made? Will state agencies allow in-home processing through administrative action? What action, if any, should the Food Policy Council take while it waits for administrative action?

DISCUSSION       Background: The Harvard team finalized state-by-state research about the topic of in-home food processing and learned that 31 states allow some low-risk foods to be prepared in a home kitchen. At the last meeting, we created a sub-committee to work on this issue, and the committee consists of: Alexis Chernak, Teri McCarter, Karen Mayer and Judy Belue.  The committee initially hoped to try to pass legislation on this topic. However, Ricky Boggan from the State Department of Health (MSDH) suggested that MSDH could enable in-home processing through administrative action instead. The committee agreed not to pursue legislative action while it waited to see if in-home processing could be legalized through administrative action, and continued to push through discussions with MSDH and the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC). MSDH, MDAC, and folks from the food safety department at MSU have been meeting to discuss this topic and expect to be able to promulgate new rules allowing in-home processing of non-hazardous foods in the next few months. We hope to hear back from them about these rules sometime in April.

Discussion: It was asked if the new rules would be shared with the Food Policy Council before they are released to the public. The Food Policy Council’s contact in the MSDH told Emily that the rules would probably not be shared with the Food Policy Council before their public release because the agencies want to complete the process in a timely manner, but that we can always respond to the rules once we see them. MSDH and MDAC have been very good about working with us on this important topic.

CONCLUSIONS  The Council was very excited about the progress on this front, and that we have had such good movement on both topics that we chose at the last meeting. The Council will analyze the new rules when they are released and suggest further changes if necessary, and will also work to get the message out to farmers, producers, and markets once the rules change to allow some in-home production.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: CURRENT LEGISLATION RELEVANT TO THE MFPC Jacquelyn Agho and Emily Broad

QUESTION POSED            Have any bills of interest to the Food Policy Council been introduced in the Mississippi State Legislature? If so, what is their status? Should the Food Policy Council take action in response to any bills?

DISCUSSION       Background: At least four bills pertaining to food access and nutrition have been introduced in the Mississippi State Legislature.

Discussion: Senate Bill (SB) 2926 would have required the Department of Human Services to install EBT machines at farmers markets in six different counties, however it died in committee. SB 2685, which also died in committee, would have authorized DHS to partner with entities to give grants and loans to make healthy foods more accessible to underserved communities. Senator Bennie L. Turner, whose district is in east Mississippi, sponsored both bills.

The third bill discussed, House Bill (HB), 1170 is still alive. HB 1170 was introduced by Representative Toby Barker from Hattiesburg and would set up a study committee to look at access to healthy foods in low-income communities throughout Mississippi. It would create a six-month task force comprised of 13 members. Emily met with Representative Barker to see how the Council could assist in the work of this task force if the bill is passed. Representative Barker has a great interest in food deserts and in childhood obesity, and hopes to work with the Council on this topic or other similar topics going forward. The bill has passed the House and Senate and is going to conference.

Rhonda mentioned that HB 924 is similar to HB 1170. HB 924 would establish the “Council on Combating Obesity in Mississippi.” If passed into law, it would create an ongoing task force with 29 members. HB 924 has passed both the House and Senate and is going to conference. Rhonda noted that the food desert study committee proposed by HB 1170 could be folded into the Council on Combating Obesity in Mississippi, so we will have to see which bill becomes law. Either way, the Food Policy Council should try to play a role in the task force or study committee that comes into being.

CONCLUSIONS  We agreed to form a working group to track this legislation and find a way for us to assist with task force or study committee that is created. Rhonda Lampkin, Mark Leggett, and Jacqueline Agho agreed to serve on this Legislative Task Force Liaison Group, and to serve as a liaison to any obesity task force created by the legislature.

DISCUSSION: POTENTIAL FUNDING SOURCES     Jacquelyn Agho and Emily Broad

QUESTION POSED:          How can we continue the Food Policy Council into the future? What kind of funding would we need? What are the possible sources of this funding?

DISCUSSION:     Background: At the last meeting, we created a Funding Working Group, consisting of Roy Mitchell, Jacquelyn Agho, Dita McCarthy, and Mark Leggett. We decided to fold the Funding Working Group and the Governance Working Group into one group, and we met by phone before the most Council meeting.

MHAP applied for applied for a small grant from the Southern Partners Fund, which focuses on issues affecting rural communities. We applied for the maximum amount, $25,000, to allow us to continue with our current Food Policy Council activities. We expect to hear back in late April.

The group discussed other funding opportunities that the Funding Working Group can research.

•             Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Mississippi

•             Farmers Market Promotion Program through USDA

•             The Wallace Center, Winrock International

•             USDA AFRI (Agriculture and Food Research Initiative) program, which offers up to $50,000 to support conferences.

•             Kellogg Foundation

•             USDA FNS also has grant opportunities

CONCLUSIONS  The Funding Working Group will meet to discuss these potential funding sources. Council members are encouraged to email Roy, Jacquelyn, or Emily with any other funding ideas.

REPORTING BACK: FARM TO SCHOOL     Nathan Rosenberg

QUESTION POSED            What is Farm to School and how can it help increase access to healthy foods as well as market access for small farmers? What are the barriers to Farm to School in Mississippi? How can its growth be encouraged?

DISCUSSION       Nathan Rosenberg, who is one of Emily’s Harvard Law students, has been researching farm to school in Mississippi in response to the Food Policy Council’s request to learn more about this topic at our meeting last August. Nathan presented his research on barriers to Farm to School in Mississippi and discussed ways to overcome those barriers. He distributed a handout to the group summarizing his research.

Farm to School refers to any program that connects K-12 schools with local farmers. Farm to School efforts usually focus on bringing products from local farmers into school cafeterias and many programs also include educational components. There are various economic, health, and educational benefits of Farm to School. The recently passed Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010 makes Farm to School even more attractive to communities because it offers new grants for Farm to School programs and provides increased funding for schools that serve more fruits and vegetables.

Several barriers to Farm to School were discussed. Many schools are not equipped to buy or process local products and school food service directors may not know that they are allowed to purchase food directly from farmers. Meanwhile, small and mid-sized farmers may not have the equipment necessary to process their products or transport them to schools.

Nathan concluded by discussing what actions can be taken to expand Farm to School, including:

•             Working to establish a mini-grant program to support Farm to School in Mississippi.

•             Organizing a meeting between key farmers, state procurement officials, and representatives from the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce to discuss barriers to Farm to School and strategies for overcoming them.

•             Helping to create a statewide coordinator to connect farmers to school food service directors and assist local efforts.

•             Providing farmers with a list of what produce schools would want to buy

Mark noted that this is also good timing to push for Farm to School, since it is an election year and there are four different individuals running for Commissioner of Agriculture. The Food Policy Council can work to get this on their agenda; we can also get legislators interested in the topic.

Also, there is a program called Food Corps that is coming to Mississippi. FPC member Beneta Burt is the grantee for the state, and she is working to place 10 Food Corps members around Jackson and the Delta to help schools start school gardens or work on farm to school.

CONCLUSION    We are very interested in this topic, and since the timing is right, we hope to focus on making farm to school a reality in Mississippi in the near future.

 

DISCUSSION: BYLAWS AND MEMBERSHIP            Emily Broad

QUESTION POSED:          How should we structure the Food Policy Council? What bylaws and committee structure will best enable the Food Policy Council to achieve its goals in an efficient and orderly manner? How will the Food Policy Council elect its board of directors?

DISCUSSION:     By-Laws: The Governance Working Group has changed the bylaws since the last meeting in response to changes that were raised at that meeting (adding the mission statement to the by-laws and adding “farmers markets” as a stakeholder group). In making those changes, we also noticed a few other changes that the Governance Group thought were necessary for successful by-laws. Dita presented on these changes to the Council:

•             the changing of “organizational members” to “representatives of stakeholder groups;”

•             the addition of a line noting that a board of directors can be made up of at least 5 stakeholder representatives and members-at-large in order to be operational (NOTE: The Governance Working Group took out the requirement that each stakeholder group be represented because they wanted to allow the Board to continue operating when a representative from one of the stakeholder groups could not be immediately elected to the Board. The Food Policy Council will still attempt to include representatives from each stakeholder group on the Board.)

•             the addition of the field of “natural resource management” be added as a stakeholder group that we would like represented on the board;

•             a provision specifying the process for amending the by-laws by a two-thirds vote of the Board or of the membership-at-large

After presenting these changes to the by-laws, Ricky Cole moved to adopt the by-laws and Diane Claughton seconded the motion. The bylaws were adopted by unanimous vote.

Membership: Dita presented a draft membership form to the Council. The membership form was discussed and approved by the Governance Working Group. Membership fees will be due annually, and members are the only ones who can run for office or vote in elections. For now, membership fees will be $35 for individuals, $50 for organizations, and $20 for students. We discussed that these fees were quite low, especially for organizations, so in the future we may choose to raise them. For now, we hope to have a full membership drive in the next few months so that we can hold nominations at our next meeting and then elections via email after the next meeting. Once the Board is elected, their first project can be editing the Membership form and fees. We also discussed editing the Membership form to make it more about advocacy and less about programming, in accordance with our early discussions about the role of the Food Policy Council. Emily will make those edits and send around the Membership form.

The group voted and adopted the membership form unanimously. People can send their membership form and dues to MHAP, and MHAP will create a certified list of members for purposes of the upcoming election.

Nominations and elections: The group decided that nominations for board membership will be solicited through email. Those running to be on the Board will give a brief speech at the next meeting and elections will take place by email. Only Members can run for office and vote.

CONCLUSION    The by-laws and membership form were passed unanimously, and Emily, Roy, and Jacquelyn will work to distribute them. Nominations will be solicited by email and the candidates will give a short speech at the next meeting. Elections for the Board will occur via email after our next meeting. Folks are encouraged to send in their membership form/dues now or bring them in person to the next meeting. We should also think about ways to get the word out about membership to others around the state.

DISCUSSION: WHAT SHOULD BE OUR ACTION AGENDA FOR THE NEXT FEW MONTHS?    Emily Broad

QUESTION POSED:          Which issues should be our focus for advocacy going forward?

DISCUSSION:     Background: Emily sought a consensus on one or two issues the group wanted to prioritize for action in the next few months.

Nine potential issues were mentioned:

1.            SNAP/EBT at markets: A program to match EBT expenditures at farmers markets was developed by a nonprofit called Wholesome Wave and has been imitated by several states. We could start by matching farmers’ market nutrition vouchers or we could match both farmers’ market and nutrition vouchers and SNAP expenditures. A group member pointed out that the Farmers Market Promotion Program has ten million dollars to disperse this year and ten percent of that will go toward EBT programs. We could have folks from Market Umbrella in New Orleans come talk to us about this at our next meeting. We might also have the same Farmers Market EBT subcommittee work on this topic moving forward.

2.            Farm to School: It was suggested that we survey interest among farmers and school food service directors and create a pilot program. We could 1) do an assessment of the need, 2) work through a case study/pilot and 3) bring stakeholders to the table around this issue. Emily recommended that the Council create a Farm to School committee. Ricky suggested that we conduct an assessment and run a pilot this year and propose legislation next year.

3.            Creation of more processing plants for meat/poultry production: One possible solution to the shortage of meat and poultry processing plants in Mississippi would be to develop mobile meat processing units. It was suggested that the Cattlemen’s Association might be willing to contribute funds to a mobile processing plant. Someone also mentioned that Alcorn State might purchase a processing plant in Meridian.

4.            Food Assessment: We have discussed this at some of our meetings in the past, and it was suggested by Mark Winne from Community Food Security Coalition as a great starting point for a Food Policy Council. This idea was tabled due to the resources it would require.

5.            Risk management/insurance options for small farmers: Emily has a student doing research on this issue, and it is something can discuss at our next meeting once we have more information.

6.            Labor issues for growers:  There is a huge labor need in produce growing; perhaps we could look into this.

7.            Developing a website for the Food Policy Council:  This would be a great way to inform the public about our topics and put up all the reports and handouts that we have produced to educate ourselves. Emily and Dita agreed to start looking into this.

8.            Legislative Task Force Liaison Group: As noted above, we will definitely focus on finding ways to interact with the legislative task force that is passed.

9.            Commissioner of Agriculture Election: We should find ways to get involved in the upcoming Commissioner of Ag election. Mark suggested perhaps hosting a forum for the candidates and/or preparing a handout for them about the top 4-5 food policy issues in Mississippi to help get our agenda out to them.

CONCLUSION    The following action items were agreed upon:

A Farm to School Committee was created to identify ways for the FPC to take action on Farm to School. The committee includes: Christine Coker, Alexis Chernak, Ruby Ringold Brady, Peggy Linton, Chiquita Briley, Charles Houston and Beneta Burt. Alexis Chernak and Nathan Rosenberg will co-chair the committee.

The existing Farmers Market EBT committee will look at ways to bring voucher incentive programs to Mississippi to help encourage use of EBT at farmers markets. This committee is made up of Ricky Cole, Beneta Burt, Rhonda Lampkin, Roy Mitchell, Jesse Strassburg.

The existing In-home Food Processing subcommittee will wait to hear what happens with proposed rules from MSDH and MDAC and will give feedback once the rules are released. That group consists of Alexis Chernak, Teri McCarter, Karen Mayer and Judy Belue.

As mentioned above, the Legislative Task Force Liaison Group will follow the current legislation and will meet to discuss how the Food Policy Council can get involved. That group includes: Rhonda Lampkin, Mark Leggett, and Jacquelyn Agho.

Emily and Dita will look into next steps on setting up a basic Food Policy Council website.

Finally, the newly combine Governance and Funding Working Group will meet to discuss funding opportunities. That group consists of Roy Mitchell, Jacquelyn Agho, Dita McCarthy, Rickey Cole, Jesse Strassburg, Mark Leggett.

REVIEW AND NEXT STEPS             Emily Broad

DISCUSSION:     Emily asked if there where any suggestions for visitors to the Food Policy Council. Diane and Dita recommended that someone from Market Umbrella in New Orleans could come talk about their programs. Alexis added that it would be interesting to hear from other people working in the region.

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

•             Alcorn Small Farmers Conference in March in Hattiesburg (Dita McCarthy)

•             MS Health Conference “Empowering Mississippi” in Jackson in May, including a panel about food (Alexis Chernak)

•             Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders’ Conference in June in Minneapolis (Peggy Linton)

•             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

•             Gulf Coast Childhood Obesity Conference in November (Dita said to ask Debbie Colby about it)

There is also a Food Policy Council Training conference call on Monday, March 14 that Christine agreed to listen in and report back to our Council on any ideas or findings.

In the future, let Jacquelyn, Roy, or Emily know about upcoming events so that we can help get the word out to the rest of the Council.

Our next meeting will be held sometime in May or June, and at that meeting we will hear from candidates for the Board.