May 2014

May 2, 2014, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM,  Mississippi State University CAVS Center, Canton, MS 

MEETING CALLED BY      Roy Mitchell, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
TYPE OF MEETING        Mississippi Food Policy Council Meeting
FACILITATOR           Roy Mitchell
NOTE TAKER            Ona Balkus

  • Chris Aloia, William Winter Institute
  • Cindy Ayers, MS Fruit and Vegetable Board
  • Ona Balkus, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic
  • Judy Belue, Delta Fresh Foods
  • Keith Benson, Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture Production
  • Liz Broussard, FoodCorps
  • S. Nicole Cathey, Think Fresh
  • Marianna Chauvin, CommonHealth ACTION
  • Christine Coker, Mississippi State University
  • Maya Crooks, MS Association of Cooperatives
  • Lacy Dodd, Ole Miss Department of Nutrition
  • Bill Evans, Mississippi State University
  • Jim Ewing, National Center for Appropriate Technology
  • Tiffani Grant, Mississippi Department of Health
  • DeMarc Hickson, My Brother’s Keeper
  • Jody Holland, Ole Miss
  • Charles Houston, North Delta Produce Growers
  • Gail Kavanaugh, Vicksburg-Warren School District
  • Kristie Lipford, Think Fresh
  • Tony Mason, North Delta Produce Growers
  • Tammy Meyer, MS Farm Bureau
  • Roy Mitchell, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • Langston Moore, Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi
  • Lenora Phillips, MS Dept. of Education, Child Nutrition
  • Stacey Rawlings, Community Foundation of Northwest MS
  • Debbie Smith, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • Connie Thomas, MSU Social Science Research Center
  • LaDaryl Watkins, My Brother’s Keeper
  • Darnella Winston, MS Association of Cooperatives
  • Nancy Woodruff, Representing herself

AGENDA TOPICS INTRODUCTIONS    Roy Mitchell DISCUSSION       Individuals introduced themselves and explained their organizational affiliations. UPDATE ON HB1328       Toby Barker, Mississippi House of Representatives DISCUSSION The Governor signed HB 1328 on 4/23/14.  The Small Business and Grocer Investment Act is intended to provide a dedicated source of funding for healthy food retailers who operate in underserved communities, both rural and urban, in order to increase access to healthy foods and improve health.  The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) will implement this bill by providing incentives to grocery stores, which will also promote economic development. This bill was introduced originally in 2013, but did not pass out of Committee. The main opposition to this bill is from folks that believe this is outside the role of government and is interfering with private business. But actually, Representative Barker believes that this law empowers the private sector to expand access to healthy foods while also earning a profit. Representative Barker said they had to make some compromises to pass this bill. First, there is no state funding available to fund the incentives for grocery stores. We will be looking into federal dollars that we can use to implement this program, as well as resources from private organizations. Second, there is a two year sunset provision on this law, meaning that it will have to be re-passed by the legislature on July 1, 2016. While these were hard compromises to make and we lost some supporters in the process, we had to take the field goal instead of the touch down if we wanted to move forward at all. He said that’s a lesson to learn in advocacy and politics, that sometimes you need to meet people where they are, move slower than you’d like to, but still move forward. Representative Barker said he and the taskforce are proud of this bill, as it is the first Healthy Food Financing Initiative bill that has been passed on the southeastern states. While the Pennsylvania bill had $10 million in state allocations, and the New Orleans bill was able to use money raised after Hurricane Katrina, we will have to move forward and find funding for this law. The full text of HB1328 is available here: Questions and Discussion: For those who were against this bill, what arguments did you make to try to convince them that this was an appropriate role for government? Representative Barker said that he focused on the cost of diet-related disease in Mississippi. While he believes there is a limited role for government, he still believes there is a role, and when the government and tax payers are paying really high costs for ER visits, we should be taking practical steps to prevent those costs. He also said that it really resonated with him that this could be the first generation where children might have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. What are the next steps for implementing this law? MDA is going to provide technical assistance to these businesses even if there is no money. We are looking for funding—possibly in the Farm Bill funding, or through private sources. As a citizen, you all can build relationships with your state senators and representative and let them know that you support this law. You can also get in touch with local businesses, like corner stores or grocery stores, and let them know about this incentive for opening stores in underserved areas and/or selling more fresh produce. What are you doing about education? People need to know how to eat healthy before they take advantage of these stores. There was discussion amongst the meeting attendees about the possibility of incorporating more nutrition education into schools, and making it a subject that is tested on standardized tests. Gail Kavanaugh from Vicksburg County School District said that she is using an online nutrition education software called Baptists Health Teacher which helps to incorporate nutrition education into the curriculum. Other bills of interest: Another bill that passed this legislative session was HB914, which revised the power of cooperative marketing associations in a number of ways, including allowing for the sale or purchase of agricultural products from non-members up to a certain amount. The full text of HB914 is available here: FARM AND FOOD ECONOMY POLICY BRIEF         Jody Holland, Ole Miss DISCUSSION Jody presented the working draft of the “Economic Development through Local Food Systems: Policy Brief” which is based on research published in the Ken Meter and Crossroads Research Center report published in December. The policy brief also includes research and policy recommendations developed by the Local Food Systems as Economic Development subcommittee. There was discussion of suggested edits and improvements to the policy brief. People should send additional comments to Jody at Jody said that the goal was to have a final version of the policy brief by mid-June, and that they have acquired funding to publish the report and have it put into more professional formatting. Questions and Discussion: What other information should be included in the brief that is not currently included? The representative from Partnership for a Healthier Mississippi suggested that the policy brief mention that grocery stores are a promising new market given the initiatives established in HB1328. A few meeting attendees discussed the importance of translating some of the information into data about how many jobs would be created. Jody said he has the capacity to do that type of analysis and include that in the report. What formatting considerations should be taken into account for this document to be useful? There should definitely be a 1-page with sound bites/interesting data from the report to share with legislators and advocates. There should also be bulleted talking points that people can take with them to meetings. For the legislative materials, there should be less text and more photos. We should also create one that is accessible for community members to use and also learn from as an advocacy tool. UPCOMING BOARD ELECTIONS Judy Belue, Delta Fresh Foods DISCUSSION There are six positions on the Mississippi Food Policy Council Board that will be up for election in July 2014. To become a board member, you have to have attended at least two of the last four MFPC general membership meetings (attending the July 14th meeting counts). The responsibilities for board members include monthly phone calls, in addition to attending the quarterly general membership meetings. Each board member also serves as a liaison to one of the MFPC subcommittees. Benefits of being on the board include having a larger say in the long-term strategy of the MFPC, deciding on future projects, subcommittees, and policies, and contributing to the content of the MFPC general membership meetings. Board elections will take place after the July 2014 general membership meeting. Only MFPC members in good standing can vote for the board. Please make sure to join as a member if you are not already by emailing Debbie Smith at: To express interest and learn more about becoming a member of the MFPC board, please email Judy Belue at: There will be an email in mid-June that calls for interested applicants to let Debbie Smith know that they are planning on running for a Board position. USDA SUMMER FOOD SERVICE PROGRAM OPPORTUNITIES        Lenora Phillips, Director, CACFP/SFSP DISCUSSION       Ms. Phillips came to speak at the MFPC meeting to promote the Summer Food Service Program run by the Mississippi Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition. During the summer months, only 6% of the children registered for free/reduced school lunch participate in the summer meals program. It is important to expand this number as many children are going hungry and eating unhealthy foods during the summer months. While there are 950 sites serving children meals during the school year in Mississippi, there are only 500 serving children over the summer months. The program is looking for new organizations, schools, and individuals to become a sponsor of the summer meals program. A sponsor prepares and serves meals for children and gets reimbursed for those meals up to a certain maximum. A sponsor must go through training to learn about the nutrition requirements, logistics, and reimbursement procedures. During the summer, the sponsor is in charge of hiring staff, keeping track of spending, and filing for reimbursement at the end of each month. Reimbursements are generally processed in one week. Sponsors can be any type of business, non-profit, school or individual with a site to host the program. In many rural areas, there is a big challenge in getting children to one common spot. The sponsor should be creative about picking a spot that is accessible for children, and offering both food and other programming that will attract children to come get a healthy meal. **The last training will be on May 15th so make sure that you contact Ms. Phillips before that date if you are interested in becoming a sponsor. The best way to contact her is over email: Questions: Nancy Woodruff: Could the meals be served family style? Yes, as with any government food purchasing program, you do need to go through at least an informal bidding process to show you are getting the best price. For small purchases, this could just mean going to the grocery store to compare prices. The meals can be served family style so long as you can show them you are meeting the nutritional requirements for each serving size. You also have to make sure you cook enough that each child gets the full serving size they are allotted. What about food safety? The Office goes to visit sites prior to opening and throughout the summer to make sure their practices are up to code. There must be means to store food, and only cold foods can be transported to different sites. There are different requirements for infants. There are no GAP/GHP requirements for farms that want to sell their food to summer meal program sponsors. How do you calculate reimbursement? Reimbursement is based on number of meals x rate x days that you serve them. The rate is about $3.50/meal and is available for breakfast, lunch, a snack, and/or supper. Make sure that you are not preparing food for adults (such as teachers) and expecting to be reimbursed, because you cannot get reimbursements for those meals. Sunny Young: But you can charge the adults, and even make some income from selling these meals. In Oxford, they charged adults $3/meal and ended up making some money. They also procured much of the food from local farms and made sure it was done legally according to procurement laws. Nancy Woodruff: Have any of the programs engaged the children in food preparation as an educational activity? No program has done this, but yes it is possible as long as you follow safety/hygiene standards and the preparation is age-appropriate. If the children are over 16 (or18?), they could also be paid to prepare the meals. Keith Benson: If a farmer is interested in selling to a summer meals program, what types of crops should he/she grow? Gail Kavanaugh/Sunny Young suggested that fruit is the best because it’s easy to prepare: watermelons, blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, etc. Also vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuce, green beans, and peas would also be great. Purchasing more food from local farms in the summer months makes sense both because so many products are in season, and also because the sponsor will likely need a smaller volume of products that could be easier for a smaller farm to grow/deliver. If a farmer is interested in seeing which sites currently host summer meals programs, you can visit the website at: Gail Kavanaugh suggested that if you are interested in becoming a sponsor, take to people that have done it before (such as herself) and learn about what worked and what didn’t. You can reach Ms. Kavanaugh at: SUBCOMITTEE REPORTS               Subcommittee Chairs DISCUSSION Food Access Subcommittee (Christine Coker reporting): Our committee is interested in the grocery store initiatives in underserved communities, and how we can help support the Mississippi Development Authority in implementing HB1328 and convincing local businesses to start selling more healthy foods. If you are interested in participating in our subcommittee, we have lots of discussions over email. You can email Christine to get more involved at: Food Safety Subcommittee (Nancy Woodruff reporting): The subcommittee discussed that MDAC is soon going to be publishing a food safety checklist that will be more useful to small farmers. This checklist, similar to the widely-used Iowa checklist, will help farmers and food service directors ensure that food is being grown safely when it is being sold to consumers and institutions. The subcommittee will look for the publication of this document and will work on spreading awareness about it once it is published. The subcommittee also discussed the need for a centralized list of resources that are available in Mississippi for farmers, including food safety and GAP/GHP trainings. Nicole Bell from Alcorn suggested putting together a centralized place to coordinate these resources. There is also an on-going discussion about regulations on refrigeration that currently serve as an undue burden on small farmers that want to transport meat, poultry and eggs to markets. If you are interested in getting more involved in the subcommittee’s work, please email Nancy Woodruff at: Farm to Institution Subcommittee (Judy Belue reporting): This subcommittee discussed some possible panels and conversations that they want to include in the 2014 Farm to Cafeteria Conference, which will be held in early November. They want to include practical sessions, including information on extending the growing season and information for nutrition directors and food distributors. They also want to highlight local successes, and new EBT equipment that is available for farmers markets that also accepts credit/debit cards. These machines are free for the first year, and then there is a small fee in subsequent years. Judy also reported that they have applied for USDA funding to support the conference this year. This will be the 3rd Annual Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Mississippi, which last year brought in 175 participants. The planning committee hopes to expand it further this year. Local Food Systems as Economic Development Subcommittee (Jody Holland reporting): The committee asks that you send any additional comments/suggestions about the policy brief by May 15th. You can send them to Jody at: The goal is to have the final policy brief published by June 15th. Then the subcommittee will work on spreading the word about the brief. They encourage MFPC members to share the brief at community meetings, rotary clubs, etc. They are also going to put a Power point together. Ona Balkus from the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic discussed the progress of the Clinic’s research on agricultural lending programs for small farmers. The Clinic has been working on this research for the past year, after the MFPC identified the lack of lending programs for small farmers in Mississippi as a significant barrier to a stronger local food system. Ms. Balkus and Roy Mitchell, the Chair of the MFPC, presented this research to the Mississippi Development Authority on Thursday, May 1. The Clinic’s final report will be published this summer, and will include policy recommendations for Mississippi to adapt certain agricultural lending program models that have been successful in other states. The Clinic can give an update on this report at the July MFPC meeting. INTERAGENCY FARM TO SCHOOL COUNCIL UPDATE        Gail Kavanaugh, Vicksburg County Schools, Interagency Council Member; Sunny Young, Good Food for Oxford Schools DISCUSSION     The Interagency Council (IC) has met about five times and has developed a set of objectives. These include: (1) To cultivate and locate farmers to sell Mississippi products within the DoD Farm to School program; (2) To cultivate and local farmers to sell to individual school systems outside of the DoD program; (3) To cultivate food nutrition directors to purchase Mississippi products from MS farmers and create a connection between farmers and schools; and (4) To cultivate a state cooperation at the legislature. So far the Interagency Council has accomplished several things: It has held five regional workshops around the state (with 1 still coming up), hosted by MDE, MDAC, and Extension Services. Farms and schools have been invited to these workshops and introduced to Marketmaker, where farms can post what they are growing and schools can post what they are interested in purchasing. They have also received information and training resources on GAP/GHP certification. Another notable achievement is that the MDE has increased the federal money spent on the DoD Fresh program, which sells Mississippi-grown products to public schools. While public schools spent $350,000 on DoD Fresh items from MS farms last year, this year they spent $1.05 million, a 350% increase! The Interagency Council has also distributed two surveys, one to farmers and one to school food service directors, with the goal of gauging interest and current barriers to engaging in more farm-to-school activities. Only 46 farmers have responded so far and they are trying to get more responses before closing the survey. Farmers can also now have the entire GAP/GHP certification process paid for. MDAC will cover up to 75% of the cost, and Partnership for a Healthier Mississippi will cover the remaining 25%. The Interagency Council’s strategic timeline is as follows: – By May 9, the IC members and the MFPC will submit lists of stakeholders that should be at Farm to School stakeholder meeting (if you are interested in being a stakeholder, please email Gail Kavanaugh at – Between mid-May through mid-June, there will be an online survey available to solicit public comment on the IC’s objectives and made further suggestions for what should be the goals of the IC (MFPC will send email/post on website about how to submit comments) – Mid-July: Stakeholders meeting to discuss what should be included in the IC’s report to the legislature – IC will have work sessions in late-September/early October – Early November: IC will present draft report to public and ask for further comment – Early December: IC will deliver report to legislature Please keep in mind that all IC meetings are open to the public and are hosted at MDAC. Sunny Young also wanted to encourage attendees to spread the word and consider applying for the specialty crop grant money that MDAC will be making available very soon. This funding can be used not only for farming, but also recipe development, workshops and other educational programs. The deadline for applying for the grant funding is May 15th. Questions and Discussion: Keith Benson: Are there more schools that are going to start being willing to buy food from farmers that do not have the GAP/GHP certification? Ms. Kavanaugh said that she requires it only because it makes more sense for her school district to purchase through a distributor. The distributor can make the deliveries, and can also substitute other produce if anything unforeseen happens to the local farm. Sunny Young encourages more school districts to consider hiring a farm-to-school coordinator, like her position in Oxford. That position was started through the USDA Farm to School planning and implementation grants, which once again this year, Oxford was the only county in MS to apply for those funds. USDA wants to give money to MS school districts, so many more should apply. This coordinator position makes it possible to work with smaller farmers because Ms. Young goes out to the farm to review the Iowa Checklist with them, and also coordinates the deliveries of the food. UPCOMING EVENTS       All On May 22, Nicole Bell is leading harmonized food safety training for both GAP/GHP certifications. On June 12, Christine Coker invites all to join for the Field Day at the Belmont Horticultural Unit. The next Mississippi Food Policy Council general meeting will take place on Friday, July 18th.