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Policy work needed to improve our state’s food system

Policy work needed to improve our states food system

The Florida Food Policy Council is back

Rachel Shapiro

Rachel Shapiro

Across the state of Florida there are many individuals and organizations working to improve their local food systems. However, there has not been a sustained effort that could pull together all of this work and people to deliver more efficient results. This is the reason behind the work of a group of committed individuals who are bringing back the Florida Food Policy Council.

Rachel Shapiro, the Executive Director of Heal the Planet and founder of Integrous Health Solutions, is one of these individuals. A wellness professional and chef for over 15 years, Rachel’s work has been centered around the intersection of food and health. She is participating in the Food Policy Panel Session at the upcoming Regional Small Farms Conference in Fort Myers, April 1 & 2, 2016.

Veggies grown at Little Pond Farm, Bushnell, FL

Veggies grown at Little Pond Farm, Bushnell, FL

When asked about the importance of policy work, she remembered how she used to think about it. “I felt disillusioned by the system so I wanted to ignore it… However I realized that I can either change the system or sit on the sidelines and complain,” she said.

Rachel is now convinced that policy work should be a priority if we really want to see a transformed food system. “We live in a regulated, regimented society, there are rules for everything…” she said. “Some of these rules and policies, be they at the state, county or local level, severely inhibit an individual’s or organization’s ability to grow food locally and sustainable.” For example, increasing access to locally grown food for schools and institutions as a matter of policy, Rachel said.

The Florida Food Policy Council’s main objective is to “aggregate the enthusiasm, skills, efforts and concerns in regard to food systems across the state, bring all that effort together, and use that momentum to move the cause of strong, local and sustainable food systems forward”. “It is a place where we can all be heard,” Rachel said.

Down to Earth Farm in Jacksonville

Down to Earth Farm in Jacksonville

The Food Policy Council will be representative of all the regions of the state and all walks of life – farmers, distributors, consumers, chefs, policy makers, and other stakeholders. This breadth of diversity is needed, since everybody will bring their gifts to the joint work. “Farmers are great at growing food, they are not necessarily great at lobbying.” On the other hand, “growing food is not my gift, my gift is talking with people and organizing” Rachel said. The final outcome of this collaborative effort is that all of us will be more successful.


Do you want to be involved in this effort?

Florida Food Policy Council Kick Off Event following the Regional Small Farms Conference

On April 3rd , following the Regional Small Farms Conference in Fort Myers, the Council is having their inaugural meeting and executive board elections. Mark Winne, renowned expert on food policy councils, will guide the group in a workshop-in-action to accomplish the following:

– Establishing the type of organizational structure the Council will adopt.

– Elect an Executive Committee which will lead the Councils’ work.

– Create and agree on a mission and vision

When: April 3rd from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm

Where: Holiday Inn Fort Myers Airport @ Town Center

See the Council’s website for more information here.


The Regional Small Farms Conference will be held in April 1st and 2nd in Fort Myers.

Information and registration for pre-conference activities here: www.smallfarmspreconf.eventbrite.com

Information and registration for the main conference event here: www.smallfarmsconf.eventbrite.com

Early Bird deadline for the Conference is March 21.

For more information, contact Jose Perez at joseperezoro@ufl.edu or 352- 294-1692