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Florida Food Policy Council Takes Root

The members of the newly reorganized Florida Food Policy Council met on Sunday, April 3rd at the Holiday Inn Fort Myers Airport.   Featured facilitator, Mark Winne, is Senior Advisor for the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins and a leading authority on food policy councils.

In opening the event, Rachel Shapiro, a leading Steering Committee member and event moderator, shared the goals of the day which were to develop an understanding of food policy councils, identify share values and vision, and create working groups and a timeline.

Afterwards, Winne took the members through various exercises that helped to shape the conversation while members learned what it takes to create food policy councils and how they can support good policy making at the state level.  He stressed the importance of inclusion of representation to include hospitals and health interests, which are often forgotten in food system discussions.

Winne offered members examples of how some councils find success, either with a single issue to champion or a broader focus.  Deciding whether to focus on policy promotion versus project advocacy, for example, can create tension in terms of the kinds of work that the council adopts.  Winne suggested that the keys to success for any food policy council are strong working relationships with policy makers, government representatives and stakeholders through what he called ‘administrative advocacy.’

The group discussed at length the type of management style they wish to adopt and voted on a flat structure with executive leadership and facilitation seats for local councils with committee leads also serving as board members.

Attendees represented a wide range of stakeholders with representatives from three universities, several farmers and farmers market managers, a county planner, two county health departments, Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Association of Food Banks, and several local food policy councils.

Winne later said about the event, “Based on the large turnout and the participants’ enthusiasm, I would say Florida is well on its way to forming a great food policy council.”

Ongoing work will be done by groups formed to take the next steps in solidifying the council.

The Organizational and Development Group will review corporate documents, including the bylaws, and continue to focus on the continuation of council formation activities and funding for the coming year.

The Policy Issues Group will look at approaches used by other council and research available data, including a possible food assessment, to build a body of shared knowledge and develop areas of consensus around Florida’s food situation.

The Communications and Outreach Group are focused on reaching out to wider audiences and keeping lines of communication open through social media and website.

A second Food Policy Council member meeting is being planned for the summer and will probably take place in the northern Florida.  Membership is $25 Please visit flfpc.org to join and email flfpsteering@gmail.com for more information.