Governor’s Food Security Council

Tuesday September 15, 2020
1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Via Microsoft Teams Meeting

Meeting minutes approved.

Members Present via Microsoft Teams:  Dr. Phillip Knight (chair), Lewis Roubal (vice-chair), Alex Canepa, Kim Edsenga, Juan Escareno, Diana Marin, Kenneth Nobis, Dr. Delicia Pruitt, Todd Regis, Tammy Rosa, Dawn Medley, Laurie Solotorow, Wade Syers, Diane Golzynski, Jamie Zmito-Somers, and Stephanie Murihead (on behalf of Kim Trent)

Non-voting Members Present: Senator Winnie Brinks, Jake Rushlow (on behalf of Representative Pauline Wendzel), and Chelsea Fraley (on behalf of Representative Angela Witwer)

Members Absent: Michelle Schulte

Non-voting Members Absent: Senator Kevin Daley

Members via Teleconference: Amy Baker, Patrice Brown and Pam Yager

Public Comment: No public comment presented at this meeting.

  • Welcome and Introduction – Dr. Phillip Knight, Chairman of Food Security Council
    • Meeting called to order at 1:04 p.m.
  • Approval of 9-1-20 minutes and 9-15-20 agenda Philip Knight
    • Motion by Phillip Knight to approve 9-1-20 FSC meeting minutes and the 9-15-20 agenda. Motioned by Todd Regis and supported by Lewis Roubal. Motion unanimously carried.


  • Presentation and FSC Q&A – Gary McDowell, Director, MDARD
    • Director McDowell presented COVID-19’s impact on the Michigan food supply and how MDARD faced these challenges.
    • Director McDowell stated that although the food supply was and has remained plentiful, challenges occurred when consumers began over-buying staple products out of fear of these products running out. A positive effect of perceived supply chain disruption is that it caused more people to purchase locally grown and produced food from their local farmers and farmers markets.
    • Director McDowell elaborated on MDARD’s working closely with USDA to promote the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, CFAP, to Michigan companies and commodity groups.
    • Director McDowell shared that MDARD administered a $1 million grant to the Fair Food Network for the Double Up Food Bucks program to specifically address the increase in demand amid the pandemic.


  • Q&A
    • Phillip Knight asked Director McDowell to elaborate on the food supply chain as well as the shortage of processing
      • Milk prices were dropping dramatically – so the shift of changing packaging was extremely difficult. The producers were able to cut down on production enough and a lot of milk went to the food banks, which is a highly requested item. Not near as much had to be dumped as many feared.
      • Although there were some slowdowns, a lot of processors were able to move forward with extra precaution and PPE.
      • Overbuying was a huge issue – MDARD, grocery stores and chains worked very hard on the message of ‘only buy what you need’.
      • People realized how valuable our food systems are and the importance of protecting and appreciating these systems.
      • MDARD strictly followed their mission to protect our food supply was safe, wholesome and nutritious.


  • Presentation and FSC Q&A – Liz Gensler, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems
    • Liz Gensler explained the issues being raised by the councils; many of the issues aren’t new, but were exacerbated by the pandemic:
      • Small farmers struggle to gain access to the CARES Act funding.
      • Supply chains are overwrought with outbreaks and the pandemic ‘fear purchasing’.
      • Shift in school meals and delivery and increased need due to school closures.
      • Dramatic increase in food assistance.
    • The Michigan Local Food Council Network, MLFCN, evaluator conducted interviews with local councils to determine the scope of COVID-19 and its effects on the local food councils. They shared that the flexibility and effective pivots extremely beneficial throughout the pandemic:
      • School food waivers – much more flexibility was provided so more children were able to be fed.
      • SNAP – Double Up Food Bucks, Pandemic EBT, and expanded benefits
      • WIC product flexibility – allowing parents to purchase more staple goods with their WIC benefits.
      • Pause in water / electricity shut-offs as well as evictions
    • Liz Gensler discussed the role of the Detroit Food Policy Council, DFPC, amid the pandemic:
      • The DFPC, worked tirelessly to gather PPE and posted materials to keep their staff safe.
      • The DFPC shared that their workers are valued much more as they chose to risk their safety as well as their family’s to continue to help others.
    • These quick fixes and pivots indicate that improvements are possible within our food systems to build resilience for future challenges.
    • Liz Gensler discussed the challenges that councils face:
      • How do they become fully representative of their communities?
      • Little to no staff and / or budget – the councils rely heavily on volunteers. They are working actively to secure more funding.
    • The councils are eager to help create an equitable and accessible food systems
  • Q&A
    • Patrice Brown shared her concern regarding the funding disparities with smaller / urban farmers (CARES act)
    • CFAP Funding – why is funding more accessible to larger farms than smaller farm?
      • MI Food and Farming Systems – Liz Gensler referred her to them and how to best access the correct funding
    • Detroit Food Policy Council
      • SNAP during COVID was allowed to be used Amazon and Whole Foods, but many people that are utilizing these funds aren’t shopping online, more along the lines of CAA’s.
      • Ideally use for Farmers Markets and smaller food businesses
      • Conversation for FSC and a voice to be had
    • Presentation and FSC Q&A – Diana Marin, Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
      • “Essential” and Food Insecure
      • Diana Marin focused on 5 sectors of the food supply chain and its workers:
        • Production
        • Processing
        • Distribution
        • Retail
        • Service
      • Diana Marin discussed the Food Chain Workers Alliance report (she will circulate study to FSC).
      • MI – ‘guest workers’ (H2A) or visa workers are guaranteed an hourly wage.
      • Food workers were already struggling to meet basic needs prior to COVID – then the pandemic hit and they were deemed critical.
      • Still seeing outbreaks of different workers in the food supply chain.
      • The gaps in the systems that are meant as safety nets – not to hurt those who need them most.
      • Diana Marin discussed the pressure points in the food systems that keep the minimum wage lower than SSS.



  • Discussion – FSC Members
    • Phillip Knight shared the Self-Sufficiency Standard, SSS, [website shared above].
    • Lewis Roubal asked the council members about repackaging and the larger quantity of products – are we able to pivot back?
      • Todd Regis shared that the state is struggling to get aluminum – this is why you can’t find small cans of soup. Plants are still struggling to find materials – the shortage has caused a backup for up to the next 6 + months.
    • Jamie Somers-Zmitko elaborated on how it’s not always easy to pivot to new packaging and new equipment due to processing and manufacturing being shut down in other areas of the world.
      • There is no timeline because there are so many disruptions in the distribution.
    • Todd Regis informed the council that smaller packaging (plastic) is impossible to find – sometimes Styrofoam doesn’t meet the packaging standards.
    • Patrice Brown is eager to address the disparity of wages for food service workers
      • How are wages determined on farms and productions?
        • Diane Marin reference the labor and statistics site
        • H2A workers
      • Liz Gensler discussed the gap in funding for small farms – she wants the FSC to wrap our minds around and address disparities around this (small / black / women farmers). They don’t often have the knowledge / access about loans. This must change.
      • Governor Whitmer is focusing on health equity and racial disparities and the FSC may have some collaborative opportunity with the Governor’s Racial Disparities Task Force.
    • Dawn Medley discussed via chat that she would love to hear from urban farmers and urban farming as major areas of exploration.
    • Kim Edsenga discussed via chat that she challenges whether responses to COVID-19 food supply were done quickly enough. She gave the example of WIC waivers and said that those waivers didn’t occur for some time and yet benefit recipients were negatively impacted by the run on certain food products in the interim. Wade Syers and Liz Gensler agreed via chat.


  • New Business
    • COVID-19 and Food Insecurity Survey
    • Phillip Knight asks every member to complete survey and circulate to their network with a deadline of September 29th. Dr. Dawn Opel (from Dr. Knight’s staff) will then aggregate and circulate the report to the FSC.


  • Next Meeting
    • Tuesday, September 29 at 1:00 p.m. via MS Teams.
    • Topic: Who is food insecure?
      • Luke Schafer, Director, Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan
      • Alyssa Beavers, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Nutrition and Food Science, Wayne State University
      • Craig Gundersen, ACES Distinguished Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois


  • Meeting was adjourned at 2:49 p.m.
  • Next Meeting
    • Tuesday, September 15 at 1:00 p.m. via MS Teams.


  • Meeting was adjourned at 2:10 p.m.