Governor’s Food Security Council

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Via Zoom

Minutes (Subject to FSC Approval)

Members Present via Zoom:  Dr. Phillip Knight (chair), Lewis Roubal (vice-chair), Patrice Brown, Alex Canepa, Kim Edsenga, Juan Escareno, Dr. Diane Golzysnki, Diana Marin, Dawn Medley, Steffany Muirhead, Ken Nobis, Dr. Delicia Pruitt, Todd Regis, Tammy Rosa, Michelle Schutle, Laurie Solotorow, Wade Syers, Pam Yager, and Jamie Zmitko-Somers

Non-voting Members Present: Chelsea Fraley (on behalf of Representative Witwer), Casey McGuire (on behalf of Senator Daley)

Members Absent:

Non-voting Members Absent: Senator Brinks and Representative Wendzel

Members via Teleconference:

Public Comment:

 

  • Welcome and Introduction – Dr. Phillip Knight, Chairman of Food Security Council
    1. Meeting called to order at 1:00 p.m. by Lew Roubal
  • Approval of 4-13-21 minutes and 5-11-21 agendaLewis Roubal, Vice-Chair of Food Security Council
    • Motion by Dr. Diane Golzynski to approve 4-13-21 FSC meeting minutes and the 5-11-21 agenda, supported by Michelle Schulte. Motion unanimously carried.

 

  • Presentation on the Policy Ford School Report: Improving Food Security in Michigan – Potential Policy Paths, and FSC Q&A – Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan Graduate Students
    • Final report à https://bit.ly/3uHzT47 Presentation à https://bit.ly/3tGOM5w
    • Allison Pujol reviewed the methodology related to conducting the initial research to understand the state of food insecurity and its impact in Michigan.
    • In conjunction with the policy workgroup, the students conducted conversations with policy experts, in turn making ten recommendations to the FSC.
    • Recommendation 1: Mandate Community Eligibility Provision
      1. Bethany Haddad explained that Community Eligibility Provision [CEP] allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and districts to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications. CEP is a federally funded program through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program [NSLP].
      2. If Michigan were to make community eligibility participation mandatory for eligible school districts, 938,409 additional students from 382 schools would have access to free school breakfast and lunch. However, only 57.7% of eligible Michigan school districts use CEP.
  • Benefits:
    1. Eliminates administrative burden for schools;
    2. Reduces stigma and burden for students and parents;
  • Co-benefits: higher attendance and high school completion rates.
  1. Next steps:
    1. Further analysis on what schools aren’t participating;
    2. Cost Benefit Analysis for the state to fund schools at various funding levels (25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%)
  • Recommendation 2: Expand SNAP Online Purchasing
    1. Sydney Thompson explained the 2014 Farm Bill mandated that the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) create an online purchasing and delivery pilot program for EBT SNAP benefits – the program launched in June 2020 through retailers ALDI, Amazon, and Walmart.
    2. The USDA has opened up the application process for retailers during COVID-19 to increase the access and availability of grocery delivery services to SNAP participants. Meijer is developing a plan to reach all of the USDA’s online purchasing platform requirements.
  • The recommendations associated with this program are as follows:
    1. Coordinate with the chair of the Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations;
    2. Help retailers secure a USDA-approved platform;
      • Securing USDA-approved platform for online purchasing is the largest barrier to additional grocery stores implementing the program.
  • Continue education and outreach efforts for SNAP participants;
    • An average of 2.2% of Michigan SNAP participants are utilizing online ordering monthly.
  1. Prioritize the Expanding SNAP Options Act of 2020;
    • The program does not allow participants to use benefits for delivery and service fees which could impact the grocery store workers who fulfill the online order as well as the third-party platform workers who earn their wages specifically through delivery fees and tips.
  • Recommendation 3: Reduce the Impact of the Benefits Cliff
    1. Bethany Haddad explained that the Benefits Cliff refers to the sudden and often unexpected decrease in public benefits that occur with a small increase in earnings. When income increases, families sometimes lose some or all economic supports.
    2. Recommendations:
      1. Reduce the gross income test for Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), aligning with the Michigan Poverty Task Force;
      2. Invest money into whole-family pilot programs;
  • Apply the recommendations from the Michigan Poverty Task Force;
  1. Support transition from TANF to work;
  • Recommendation 4: Eliminate SNAP Disqualification for Custodial Parents who Fail to Cooperate with Child Support
    1. Colin Pujol Michigan is 1 of 8 U.S. states that allows SNAP disqualifications for failure to cooperate with child support enforcement agencies.
    2. This policy may be harmful in the following ways:
      1. Disruption of informal child-rearing arrangements;
      2. Reduction of family SNAP benefits;
  • Discourage parents from enrolling in SNAP;
  1. Possibility of punishing parents for lack of knowledge about child support processes.
  • Recommendation 5: Extend SNAP Report Waivers and Certification Periods
    1. Sydney Thompson explained that the Food and Nutrition Services has approved reporting waivers and certification periods as far out as November 2021, while Michigan is currently only approved through June 2021 [Application was denied for extension thru September].
    2. Recommendation:
      1. Michigan should request SNAP certification period extensions and periodic report waivers. This will lessen the administrative burden and extend eligibility as Michigan begins to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
  • Recommendation 6: Increase Funding for Local and Regional Food Programs
    1. Allison Pujol explained that to increase community resilience and food security concurrently, Michigan should increase funding for local smaller-scale farms growing regional consumption and participating in food assistance programs, as well as local education and distribution programs.
    2. The following programs promote food security and agricultural development in the state:
      1. Produce Prescription Programs [Fresh RX];
      2. Food Hoophouses for Health
        • Farmers take out loans to further invest in farming infrastructure, such as a hoophouse. The loan would then be paid back in produce to schools and childcare programs. This assisted in combatting child food insecurity and incentivizing the growth of small farms in the state.
  • Recommendation: Michigan could benefit from further research into long-term viability of these programs.
  • Recommendation 7: Ban the Disposal of Organic Food Waste
    1. Colin Foos elucidated that several states have successfully implemented organic food waste bans which have drastically reduced food waste, cut greenhouse gas emissions, created jobs, and combatted food insecurity.
    2. Recommendation: Michigan should implement additional tax incentives for food donations to help offset costs associated with donating food. Offering a tax credit with a reasonable limit rather than a tax deduction would help smaller farms and businesses that have a lower marginal tax rate than larger businesses.
      1. Pairing a food donation tax credit with additional credit for donations of transportation can further incentivize food donation by allowing businesses to offset transportation costs.
  • Recommendation 8: Increase WIC Participation by Targeting Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Participants
    1. Bethany Haddad shared the following current Michigan WIC stats:
      1. MI has the 6th highest infant participation rate in the nation [90.8%].
      2. MI has the 14th highest adult participation rate [59.6%].
  • Michigan has the 12th highest child (1-5) participation rate [43.3%], which means that 154,347 children could be receiving benefits.
  1. Recommendation: Michigan should target CHIP participants and accrue a modest waitlist, it would ensure that more women and children are provided WIC resources in years to come.
  • Recommendation 9: Issue a Statement of Support for Michigan’s Twelve Federally-Recognized Tribes in USDA Negotiations
    1. Sydney Thompson explained Indigenous people are twice as likely to suffer from food insecurity as white Americans. Advocates for Black and Indigenous Americans argue that 5-year USDA issue Dietary Guidelines for Americans are “insensitive, unreachable, and irrelevant to the dietary needs of major racial, ethnic, and cultural groups.”
    2. SNAP participation is not associated with improvements in dietary quality, lower weight status, or for alleviating health disparities amongst white and black households.
  • The roadblocks are as follows:
    1. Federal control;
    2. Inter-tribal distribution difficulties;
  • Mismatched dietary guidelines.
  1. Academic and policy literature, such as ‘decolonized diet’ and ‘culturally sensitive food’ are vastly important to creating food sovereignty for Indigenous Americans.
  2. Recommendations:
    1. That the FSC submit a statement of support;
    2. Allocate state resources in the policy office to support negotiations with the Department of the Interior and USDA.
  • Recommendation 10: Expand Community-Based Childhood Nutrition Programs
    1. Colin Foos explained that community-based childhood nutrition programs are financially constrained across Michigan. While COVID-19 has impacted the implementation of these programs, pre-pandemic data demonstrates these options are successful.
    2. Recommendations:
      1. Universal funding for 10 Cents a Meal
        • State-funded program providing schools and early childhood education centers with match incentive funding up to 10 cents/meal to purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
        • Currently 51 of the 83 Michigan counties participate – participation needs to expand to all 83 counties creating more impact.
      2. Meet and Eat Up expansion
        • Provides breakfast and lunch options for students during summer break and other school year breaks.
        • With specific state funding for the program and advocacy to educate eligible children.
        • While state support exists for this program, an evaluation should be conducted to determine how to increase utilization.
  • Expand Better with Breakfast eligibility
    • A partnership between United Way and No Kid Hungry to assist school districts make school breakfast programs accessible to ALL students.
    • The FSC should align breakfast recommendations with the Michigan Poverty Task Force in order to determine that schools districts are eligible to expand school breakfast.
  • Next steps:
    1. Perform a cost analysis;
    2. Re-engage in community conversations;
  • Align with the Michigan Poverty Task Force recommendations

 

 

 

 

  • Discussion: Cross-Cutting Workgroup Themes [20 minutes per theme- 1 hour of meeting.]
    • Workgroup co-chairs should be prepared to share out how their workgroup might approach the following three cross-cutting workgroup themes:

 

  • Increasing food access in areas designated as food deserts or food swamp

 

  • Todd Regis shared there needs to be a better understanding of the food sourcing that is available to food deserts /swamps. There are supplies out there, we just haven’t matched it up properly yet. We need to come up with a master list [struggling a bit] of food processors along with the food to actually be processed. Need more options.
  • Patrice Brown discussed how we need to bring dignity back. Zip codes truly determine access to healthy food. She suggested a map of food deserts and swamps so we are able to see where the gaps are.
  • Tammy Rosa discussed how access is an issue – the larger space doesn’t always mean more access. Infrastructure plays such a large role in food deserts. We must have a better understanding of what is available in all areas.
  • Alex Canepa suggested that we connect suppliers and buyers that are roughly the same size – you need small and mid-size grocers with mid-size farmers.
    1. MIFMA helps farmers grow into a stage of revenue – 1st generation farmers really benefit from farmers markets.
  • Jamie Zmitko-Somers discussed how Michigan Economic Development Company [MEDC] has offered tax incentives for those who are willing to invest in food deserts. Recommends pulling MEDC into a conversation. State and Federal Dollars.
    1. Healthy Food Access Act – Senate introduced the bill (look into) https://www.novoco.com/news/senators-introduce-legislation-create-tax-credits-grocery-stores-food-deserts
  • Juan Escareno discussed food access. Transportation is a large barrier and capital is another resource. How do we fund large scale grocery store operations when margins are 1-2%? People are much less to invest.
  • Patrice Brown shared that Good Food Charter are also working for food deserts have an increase in access. Funding may be there, but it may need to be re-routed.

 

  • Solving transportation barriers to existing food access points or creating new models of distribution such as home delivery.
    • Patrice Brown discussed major challenges throughout Detroit due to funding. At one point DDOT was shuttling people to farmers market to and from their residences, but there was not enough funding to advertise and create aware, in turn DDOT stopped. She shared the following programs:
      • Residents should have additional options to shop outside of their neighborhoods. Zip codes play a large role in access to healthy and nutritious food.
      • The UofM Transportation Effort offered transportation to come shop at specific grocery stores.
      • DC Greens offered $40 to shop at farmers markets. Follow suit with programming.
    • Michelle Schulte shared that her workgroup continued to see in their presentations was last mile delivery being the largest barrier. More options for food delivery themselves (designated person to be able to pick up food for more than 1 person in their household / neighborhood). Perhaps there could be a volunteer on the buses to assist those in need with getting groceries get to their residence.
      • RideShares
      • MDOT contact – Jamie will send
    • Phil Knight shared that last mile delivery is a historic problem throughout the food bank network. Every option is on the table. We have to realize that there is still a 1st mile problem as there is a vast increase in trucking due to railroad shortages and causes shortages in truck drivers for food banks as well.
    • Lew Roubal asked Dr. Diane Golzynski if there were lessons learned school feeding programs. Diane Golzynski shared that there are no new ideas other than MDE is experiencing the same thing as food banks – learning as they went. It’s not nutrition if they never get it in their hands on it.
    • Patrice Brown explained that we must meet the people where they are, bring the food to the people.

 

  • Addressing foodworkers’ working conditions and pay; expanding opportunity for historically marginalized farmers and local, independent retailers.
    1. Diana Marin shared the Special Populations workgroup have focusing on increasing wages and time constraints. People shouldn’t have to leave work to be able to shop during specific hours. We need to make sure the benefit cliff does not happen and remain having access to healthy and nutritious food.
    2. Wade Syers shared the Food Supply workgroup has talked with farmers and grocery store owners and the margins are tiny. They can’t afford to pay workers more money; therefore, this raises the cost of food, but then people can’t afford it. It’s not as simple as we would like it to be.
      • Diana Marin explained that if we continue to not increase wages, we are going to stay in the vicious circle we are seeing. Where in the food supply change where labor is not what takes the hit.
      • Diana Marin asked if there are there areas to be streamlined. How can the government play a role in increasing wages? Or, payments?
      • Is there an expert that can speak on this?
  • Dr. Phil Knight expressed people who are working with us and for us should NOT need us!
  1. Alex Canepa explained the difference in production with field production vs. greenhouse productions. This is a high investment / high wage paradigm for food production.
  2. Ken Nobis shared from the producer end of the spectrum: the reason we (famers) survive is we mechanize / eliminate jobs, which is unfortunate. We’re price takers – it’s extremely difficult to compete within our own borders in the U.S. Everyone wants a share of the pie. Extremely complicated situation. Consolidation issues which creates far fewer farms. It’s extremely difficult to make a profit at the end of the year with good wages, 401K and health benefits – therefore, we have to eliminate jobs.
    • Ken Nobis also shared that 75% milk produced in the country was milked by immigrant labor [according to a survey from approximately 10 years ago]
  3. Juan Escareno explained that a good employer is going to pay the wages and take care of their employees. They are incentivizing their employees to work. It costs them more $ to re-train an employee.

 

  • Workgroup Progress Reports: Report out the 3 most critical issues your workgroup seeks to address, and where you have or have not identified policies to address them.
    • Food Supply/Systems—Co-Chairs: Todd Regis and Jamie Zmitko-Somers
  • Members: Amy Baker, Ken Nobis, Wade Syers and Kath Clark
  • Todd Regis shared the following:
    1. The state needs an emergency plans to adjust laws of processing and food-packing – freedoms amid the pandemic.
    2. There needs to be a list of food processors and capabilities.
  • Need to look at food deserts – map. Start identifying the capabilities by all counties or regions. Who is doing what in what areas?
  • Policies – Co-Chairs: Kim Edsenga and Lew Roubal
    • Member: Anna Almanza
      • N/A
    • Special Populations – Co-Chairs: Diana Marin and Tammy Rosa
      • Member: Dawn Medley
      • Tammy Rosa shared the following:
        1. Access is a key area of focus.
        2. Transportation: what is and could be available?
  • Infrastructure that would need to be in place with supply efforts [food deserts].
  1. Stigma surrounding those who receive assistance.
  2. Worker conditions [hours, availability of accessing grocery stories amid their set hours].
  • Racial Disparities – Co-Chairs: Alex Canepa and Patrice Brown
    • Member: Dr. Diane Golzynski
      • Alex Canepa shared the following:
        1. Unequal access to public subsidies
        2. Federal / state private grants – match up to 50% of grant à make it impossible for black and brown ppl applying
  • Process for applying to grants à English being 2nd language, or being illiterate. Grant expeditors [assistance in helping write grants]. Services of grant assistance more available and waive funding to put down when applying for grants.
  • Healthcare – Co-Chairs: Laurie Solotorow and Pam Yager
    • Members: Dr. Delicia Pruitt and Dr. Dawn Opel
    • Pam Yager and Laurie Solotorow shared the following:
      1. Pam: sustainability of access programs
      2. Looking at food access as gateway to path of addressing other issues
  • Cost benefit analysis of the value in investing one’s health. Working on putting recommendations around these pieces.
    • Part of cost benefit analysis will help prove the ROI in prescription programs. Philanthropists can’t fund these programs forever.
  • Client Perspectives – Lew Roubal and Michelle Schulte
    • Member: Anna Almanza
    • Michelle Schulte shared the following:
      1. Public awareness – involves knowledge of programs and what is available
      2. Transportation – last mile. Innovative ways of getting food to and from for people
  • Eligibility – both for individuals and who are already eligible and expanding incentives to other vendors.

 

  • New Business
    • N/A
  • Review of next steps and action items
    • Phil Knight expressed his excitement regarding the progress in the workgroups. Next large group we will be close to preliminary findings.

 

  • Meeting adjourned at 3:07 p.m.