The Florida Food Policy Council (FLFPC) is collectively tackling the gaps in Florida’s food system by bringing in diverse stakeholders and addressing policy and the needs of Florida residents. A grassroots organization founded in 2016 and now a registered 501(c)3, the FLFPC acts as a policy resource for food system stakeholders and a facilitator of collaborative and educational events. The FLFPC receives the help of volunteers from across the state and has members who offer a wide range of expertise in food systems topics.
Food policy councils, like FLFPC, can act as tools to help drive a mission into action, via policy change. Rachel Shapiro, chair of the FLFPC board of directors, explains to Food Tank, “We provide a statewide network and platform on which food system stakeholders can communicate and collaborate…and we are building a database of food-related laws throughout the state…in order to provide a sound foundation for any recommendations.”
To ensure an inclusive and productive food policy council, the FLFPC is starting from scratch by creating a food policy database and acknowledging that change takes time. “The approach we have taken as a group is to taste the flavor of the land and form relationships and connections before getting started on any initiatives…This facilitates the next steps of policy research and change,” Shapiro tells Food Tank.
Beyond bringing in statewide experts to form the council, the FLFPC is working to act as a tool and platform for local Florida food advocates and citizens who are interested in having a voice at the table. The FLFPC has established a website with information on upcoming food conferences and events, a blog with the latest policy news, a list of additional food policy councils in Florida cities, and a portal for registered members of the council. Individuals, organizations, and students all have the opportunity to register for a membership. Additionally, the FLFPC engages members and the public in topics like animal welfare and farm to school programs at events, such as their monthly Florida Food Forums.
Since their first annual meeting in June of 2017, the FLFPC is organizing changemakers across the state and the Board of Directors is working to establish regionalized meetings. As a previous board member and one of the founding members of the FLFPC, John Buschman tells Food Tank that the annual meeting of 2018 was one of the most exciting events and attracted participants from opposite corners of the state. “The content was very engaging, particularly Anthony Olivieri’s workshop that involved members in a computerized hands-on, mapping out of food access by the regions they are themselves most knowledgeable and familiar,” Buschman explains to Food Tank.
Drawing from his research in community food insecurity, Buschman emphasizes the importance of “keeping Florida’s food-insecure population of 2.8 million, and the redirection of usable overproduction to that population, in consideration in all discussions regarding the future of our food system.” The considerable rates of food insecurity across Florida and paradoxical food consumption levels provide an opportunity for introducing these topics to the table. “The information has to flow in both directions. Producers, intermediaries, and consumers must understand their roles, develop better relationships, and work together to find the best solutions,” Buschman tells Food Tank.
Florida’s landscape and social demographic poses its own inherent challenges, however. “Florida is large in landmass as well as geographical size and has a variety of food-related needs. These needs are not uniform throughout the state…it’s vital to be sensitive to the needs of each region,” Shapiro tells Food Tank, noting that funding presents an additional challenge for the FLFPC. “Consistent funding is a line item for any nonprofit and FLFPC has turned to the skills and assets of our members and Board of Directors to provide sources of income for the organization.”
According to Shapiro, paying attention to our passions and keeping in mind potential solutions will keep the wheels of change spinning. “Most of us get fired up about a problem or injustice that we see and think that the way to get involved is to complain about it. It’s far more effective to get to work on a solution and present that solution to decision-makers as a viable alternative to what is currently in place. By joining the FLFPC, one becomes part of a statewide network of changemakers working together to facilitate sustainable policy change and there is power in numbers.”