Food for All Podcast

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This is the third podcast of the Food Justice Lab conversation series! This podcast is revisiting the Food for All Campaign that was launched in November of 2018 with our partners at the Food and Farm Coalition, the WV Center for Budget and Policy, American Friends Service Committee, Our Children our Future, Mountaineer and Facing Hunger Food Banks. We discuss policy proposals to improve healthy food access in West Virginia.

Food For All- Full Podcast .mp3

[00:00:01] Hello everyone welcome to the fourth iteration of our food justice lab Conversation series. We’re here today to revisit the Food for All campaign that was launched in November of last year. Food for All is a campaign that imagines healthy food access for every West Virginian and kind of thinks through strategies of how we might get there and policy and policy change is a key strategy, a key lever within our overall food system to bring healthy food access to folks. But unfortunately, the West Virginia legislature does not have any direct food assistance or food access programs in place. All of the the food funding that we receive in this state comes from the federal government. And so what we’re trying to do as a group is to encourage our state legislators to take actions that actually shape our own food futures. This is the beginning of a roadmap to healthy food access for all, and the partners on this call today are from a diverse group across the state of West Virginia. We have representatives from our states to food banks. We have the director of the Food and Farm Coalition. We have the American Friends Service Committee and Lyda and Rick. Jennifer and Liz from OCOF pushing summer feeding programs, and Seth Distefano from the Center for Budget and Policy. And so this diversity I think is in fact a strength in this budding campaign in that there are a lot of people in our state beginning to demand healthy food access for all. And as the legislative session just opened yesterday we’re hoping that some of these policies that are presented today will have opportunities to make it into both the public discourse but also potentially into law this session. On that note I’m going to turn it over to the two Foodbank directors to present the policy proposal that they are envisioning in this session and how it relates to their overall work. So Chad and Cindy you’re on.

[00:02:58] Thank you Josh. Cindy would you like to be off.

[00:03:01] No. Chad go ahead and I’ll follow up behind you.

[00:03:06] So we’re trying to look at things holistically within our work as far as the programs that we do and the programs that we’ve done for the past several decades. In regards to TEFAP, which is the Emergency Food Assistance Program and now CSFB the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the gaps within that program. As far as you know what food banks can and can endure from the public private in of all of our work. Historically TEFAP has been you know underfunded as far as the storage and distribution costs go. And you know we West Virginia in particular we’ve we feel the brunt of a lot of the cost of that. So we’re trying to move the needle in the right direction as we move you know as we move into new programs with CSFP being coming part of it. Obviously there’s gaps I believe we had discussed earlier this morning of in between 30 and 50 percent of the actual costs of the program the funding being there. So we’re looking to work with the West Virginia legislature and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture to increase the funding and to possibly down the road create some some new funding streams to keep those programs operable for the foodbank. So right now I can just kind of give everybody an update on one of the things that is going on. The West Virginia Department of Agriculture has and will be including a increase in the TEFAP supplemental funds that both food banks receive and they’re looking to make that increase. Currently the shared amount between three entities including both food banks is one hundred and twenty six thousand dollars in supplemental funds. They’re looking to increase that to three hundred thousand dollars on an annual basis which is a positive first step. I don’t see that as the the in step for where we need to be but it is a positive first step in the right direction towards suring up these programs to make sure that they’re there they’re working for the food banks.

[00:05:42] Thanks Chad just for some context that those that might not be as familiar with the volumes or the amount of food that you’re talking about moving here. How much food have you received from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture over the past year say in 2018, or both food banks.

[00:06:03] Yes I mean on a normal year we’re looking at between four and a half to five million pounds of food. That’s the traditional entitlement depending on how things are going. You know for four and a half to five million pounds it’s been fairly consistent over the course of the 2019 fiscal year with some other food trade mitigation foods coming in. That number is going to increase dramatically probably double to threefold. So 2019 maybe a year like any other or it may also set a new standard. We’re not quite sure yet. But as those changes happen there is the increased discrepancy and you know what the costs are what the reimbursement is. So you know the numbers is very very large right now with four and a half five million pound but that’s all quite a bit of food and we’re looking to see that increase.

[00:07:12] Yes. So you’re being asked to move all of this food and how are you currently. You know delivering it where are you raising the money for those administrative costs.

[00:07:31] Well obviously I mean any difference and what we’re able to receive reimbursement for is short shouldered on the Food Bank which is shouldered on the community and in our donors. It’s either that or the biggest fear I guess is you know having to redirect funding that we would really like to spend on our special programs and both food banks operate a wide array of programs that target specific populations but redirecting some of our general operating cash on that direction just to continue running the federal program because it’s you know we get a wide array of food so I mean we’re talking about perishable foods such as oranges and pears and grapes. Milk has become a big commodity and you know those foods have to be moved quickly and there’s a very big refrigeration component with that so the storage is a big issue. So the timeline shrinks from where you get shelf stable foods where it may be 60 to 90 days to where your perishable foods are seven to 10 days so that they increase staff as increased fuel the increase trucks cross the board and the gap has to be made up somewhere. And the reality is there’s hungry people out in West Virginia and we know that. So you know we want to make it work but they’re the realest reality of it is. You know sometimes and depending on where things go the numbers have to work out. We have to be fiscally responsible and responsible to our donors. So it’s a challenge and it will continue to be a challenge.

[00:09:31] Thanks Chad. Cindy do you have anything to add to that from the facing hunger experience.

[00:09:36] Well I think I can speak for both of us. Just to reiterate that so many of our member agencies and our partners in the communities who are charged with you know the assistance of distribution of this food do not have the capacity many times to store that food. So you know that weight of distribution and making sure that the food gets out to the community really falls heavily on the food banks because many of our members operate and that’s just in time kind of model that they don’t have storage for perishable items and you know all of this with the basis of being reimbursement based means that we’re expanding those and those dollars well in advance of when we receive the reimbursement. And as Chad you know did a great job to reference it never covers those gaps and in times of the year where we have decreased donations after the holidays you know we’re really kind of cash poor and you know we’re having to pull on reserves or you know create other situations that are not desirable for us and operations. So it’s it’s kind of a vicious circle that you know we go through it because we want to be good partners and feed those in need across the state.

[00:11:09] Thank you so for those listening to this podcast they would like to know what can they do to try to help in this. You know what it is a financial crisis for the food banks what can just a regular person listening do to try to move this issue forward beyond writing a check to the food bank maybe.

[00:11:37] Why think education first and foremost I think this is a great opportunity for people to get information that maybe they didn’t have previously that you know to understand that these funds are just not given without having to expend quite a bit in advance to cover costs of operating as well as you know to support us in these initiatives with the Department of Agriculture. Yeah we all have assets that are important to us. But as we’re developing these partnerships with the Food and Farm Coalition and all of our friends here on this call you know the more that we can do then the more heavy lifting. And this in this capacity then the better off the rest of us are. So getting these kinds of products out supports all of the great work everyone else does.

[00:12:42] All right. I agree with that. An education component. And now really learning about the scope of the work that’s being done. That’s something that we want to impress upon the legislature because many folks just still don’t understand those deep connections that we have with you know all 55 counties in the state that we’re working with local community programs and many of them benefit from these programs either the TEFAP or the CSFB or sometimes both. That every community every county in the state benefits from it. And we need that support. And from their delegates their state senators our legislature took to support these programs because of that impact you know hundreds of thousands of people were impacted by this program. And you know that’s pretty big whenever you know we’re touching that many lives.

[00:13:49] Well thank you Chad and Cindy and we’ll we’ll certainly follow up and try to distribute materials about this issue and push this over the next few months. As our delegates are at work so I’m going to now invite Spencer Moss from the Food and Farm Coalition to present some of their work around healthy food access.

[00:14:16] Thanks josh. So coming out of food for all. One of the big bills of the Food and Farm Coalition is supporting this year along with help from lots of folks including the food justice lab. We drafted a bill called the Healthy Food crowd to block grants. And essentially what we’re asking for is two hundred thousand dollars a year for five years from the state legislature to conduct a program. And we would also seek private investment to continue to grow and develop the program and the basics of it would be that the the funds from the legislature would provide block grants to West Virginia farmers and the amount of three to ten thousand dollars to produce fruits and vegetables from these fruits and vegetables will be sold into healthy food access programs like pharmacy that they are in. AC why Lincoln CSA kid pop up market and a myriad of other creative healthy food access program which continue to grow in number and investment every year in West Virginia. The food produced would be put into an inventory system essentially which helps to develop the infrastructure around aggregation and distribution here in the state. And then the healthy food access programs would actually purchase the products from the inventory system which would capitalize the model in the program over five years. So that’s that’s the basis of what we’re asking for is not overly complicated and it’s seeming to get some really good support both on the ground and at the capital. So currently we do have some sponsors in the Senate so including the chair of the Senate committee Senator Dave Sypolt from Preston County and a handful of other senators in the Senate the bill the food and farm coalition together with the food justice lab drafted a version of the bill we’ve shopped it around the capital it’s currently in quote unquote bill drafting at the Capitol so we would look for that to be released in the next couple of days or be enrolled in the next couple of days and then they have all the senators have also asked us to make sure we get our version going. A companion bill in the house so I had the meeting with a delegate back in November and he was quite excited about the bill and he was subbing it around the house for it. It’s our understanding that the new speaker of the House is looking for some pilot programs around agriculture that he really would like to invest in and so we would really like for this project to be one of those investments. And so we’re also working to house have a companion bill start in the house. So that’s where we’re at with the deal right now. It’s looking pretty rosy if we can get it through finance.

[00:17:11] That sounds like really good news. Can you I mean I think this bill resonates because there’s such economic development component to it. On the farmers side. But can you explain how you see it relating to improving food access for say vulnerable low income communities.

[00:17:35] Yes certainly. I think to actually first speak to the economic development part for farmers. That is certainly the the end of things that the legislature is most interested in but they do like the kill two birds with one stone. So it is fantastic that it is also helping to tackle food access problem. I think one of the things that we encountered this year through the kids pop up market which is a program that the West Virginia University Extension snap education folks have been doing for a couple of years is they raised just seventy thousand dollars this year and they tapped out the market in local fresh produce. And there’s a lot of issues around that including you know getting up with the farmers early in the season to do production planning which this bill would address. You Know I think the extension folks admitted you know they would call farmers you know three and five days out or the day before and say hey we need this product and the farmers just didn’t have it available because they hadn’t planned for it. So I think it helps on that end it’s going to help our farmers plan to produce product that goes into these programs. It is also going to help the farmers have a guaranteed market which is good for them but we’re guaranteeing that all of this product goes into two Access Programs which you know before I don’t blame farmers for trying to get the highest price that they can for their product. They’re trying to make a living so we can bridge that gap for them. I think this does create a bigger pool of products for access programs. Does that do you think that answers your question Josh.

[00:19:18] Yeah absolutely. Thanks Spencer. And what can folks that are interested in seeing this move forward over the next couple of months. What would be some of the strategies to adopt to see this policy through.

[00:19:33] Yeah so one of the things that we’re doing is certainly working on a media campaign. Because legislators like to see things that are popular among their constituents. So if anybody has participated if you’re a farmer and you’ve participated in one of these programs we’d love to talk to you about it and maybe profile you if you’re a family who participated in one of these programs. The same thing we’d love to profile you. And beyond that if this is a bill that you’re interested in. Guarantee this bill is going to be referenced to both the Finance Committee is in the House and the Senate and also at committee. And so if you’ve got a delegate or a senator who is in either of these committees contact him and let him know that this bill is coming down and you’d love to see it on their committee agenda and you’d love to see it passed. Beyond that they’ll probably be some tweaks in committee to the bill and the Food and Farm Coalition and all of our partners are gonna keep an eye on it and try to keep the bill and equitable as possible moving forward. And will the food farm push and we’ll update our constituency on the regular about this bill and others that are moving through the legislature so signing up to follow the policy. The wvfoodandfarm.org Is a good way to follow what’s going on.

[00:20:48] All right. Thank you Spencer. I’m going to move to our partners American Friends Service Committee. Rick and Lyda who I think transition to a phone. Are you there?

[00:21:07] Yes. So what is your policy proposal for this legislative session that you’re trying to push forward in terms of improving food access.

[00:21:17] Our policy proposal is to have West Virginia and the lifetime ban on SNAP for people with felony drug conviction. Just for some context the federal government passed this ban as part of welfare reform in 96 and all those 50 states have since modified or repealed the ban entirely. West Virginia’s is one of three states where there in company with Mississippi and South Carolina among the states who have not opted out of the ban or modified it so we’re pushing a piece of legislation that would opt out.

[00:22:03] And one reason why we think this may have traction is you know with the opioid crisis more and more people have been affected by it. More people are concerned with reentry and recovery. And this is just clearly a contradictory policy it’s just a roadblock on the way to recovery. And we know that in 2016 about twenty one hundred people applied for SNAP benefits in West Virginia and were denied for this reason. We don’t know how many people just didn’t apply at all or how many people applied at other here. So it’s a huge problem for a huge number of people.

[00:22:38] And it also is a big it had a big impact on food banks. I mean this is an additional burden on food banks additional burden on recovery homes that actually rely on their residents to receive SNAP. So it means that there’s a lot less kind of funding federal funding coming in to enter recovery homes to support people in recovery as they’re gotten out of prison and are trying to get back on their feet. So we think we are we are hopeful that we’re going to get traction with it this year.

[00:23:15] This Is the only category of people with felony convictions who are denied it. I mean any other you know they’re not ineligible for SNAP benefits and just there’s not even a workable policy by its own goals. And there are many crimes that are probably drug related but are not classified as felony drug offenses. So it’s just a bad policy and it’s one which is overdue to change it.

[00:23:40] And one of the cool outcomes from the food for all conference Matthew Thompson with WVU extension. He works with people who are in recovery for a Union Mission and recovery point. And he has gotten a lot of survey responses from people who are subject to the ban. And just as as we would expect just a lot of feedback that saying that the ban actually. How it how it impacts them directly as far as I know it sends them back to doing what they were doing before prison are what led them to prison in the first place. And it really puts them at real risk of recidivism and or relapse. So where we are with it is that we had a kind of a coup last week in getting the House Judiciary Chair John Shot to be the lead sponsor on the bill in the house. And so we are now looking for people to contact their delegates and get them to ideally sponsor the bill. But even if they’re not willing to sponsor it it’ll be important that they’re hearing about it from from people in particular people yet who are in the in the working sort of on the ground with food banks and in recovery.

[00:25:15] Well thanks for those details from my understanding this policy is all the more absurd in that it’s limiting the amount of SNAP funds coming into the state of West Virginia and it it would not cost West Virginia taxpayers a dime to provide this food to convicted drug felons.

[00:25:43] Exactly.

[00:25:46] So we’re we’re talking about a slight rule change that in my quick calculation those 2000 people that were denied. That’s about 300000 dollars a month of SNAP benefits that could be coming into the state to our corner stores to our retailers. That for some reason our legislators do not want that money to come into the state. Is that so?

[00:26:13] Yeah. Yeah. No you’re exactly right. I mean that that is. Yeah. That they’re these are dollars that aren’t circulating in our local economy. That could be. But as far as legislators are concerned I think a lot of them don’t realize that we’re even doing this.

[00:26:30] Or that there’s an option to change it. Twenty one hundred people that’s just one year’s effort that many every year and there’s probably a larger number who didn’t even bother applying. So this would really affect probably tens of thousands of people.

[00:26:47] Yes. So how do you see over the next two months this kind of rolling out what you need from this campaign or folks listening to this podcast. How could they help your work in getting this rule changed.

[00:27:02] Well again as I understand it would be great if people would ask their delegates to sign on as co-sponsors of the bill. There’s no bill number yet As I understand it we also need to get supporters in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader to bar is a doctor a doctor who’s been tense and sympathetic. Time’s up is so. It’s just critical to get bipartisan support in both houses on this. And the more noise that can be made through social media and sharing links and op ed that we can supply materials on this we just need to raise the visibility and noise level on this one.

[00:27:42] All right. Well we’ll definitely work work on that over the over the coming months Thank you Rick and Lida up for those details I’m going to now invite. Liz Brunello to talk about the work with the summer feeding programs and just what the issues are there what you all are trying to do to move the state forward to improve food access.

[00:28:14] Yeah hi. So I have been working with Jenny Anderson and Rick Wilson and some others on a bill that would essentially expand summer feeding programs throughout the state by our best estimate on numbers we’ve received from the office of child nutrition and other people. There’s about probably 20 counties or so that aren’t doing summer feeding programs or are but aren’t doing kind of formalized programs that maybe community partners and organizations are doing kind of programs in the summertime that do feed kids but we don’t know exactly. So we think that about 10 percent of kids that could be served are being served right now through summer feeding. So there’s a really big need for us to be working on expanding these programs and what the legislation would would do would be to support counties in developing plans for not just summer feeding but for out of school feeding. So making plans for say you know those out of school days that might come up unexpectedly say from a work stoppage or for inclement weather in addition to to summer feeding and some of the key points of this legislation will be to look at ways that we can make sure that reporting and training is not doesn’t. Is it too onerous on counties that we make it is as easy and simple as possible for four counties to be developing these plans and summer feeding programs and yeah. And we’re looked at other state model legislation. There are some other places that allow counties to kind of opt out with waivers and that was one thing that we all everyone involved agreed was not a great option. We want to support counties to do what they can and not put too many expectations because every county is different and what their capacity is to feed kids out of school. But what we want to make sure that every county is doing something. So essentially I think where we’re at with legislation Jenny Anderson has been working with delegate Chad Lovejoy and I believe the the bill language is about ready. It was we’ve been putting it back and forth to make sure that it’s the best that it can be. I believe we are still looking at a companion bill in the Senate. And if Jenny were on she could definitely speak more about that. She’s taken on that legislation piece. So yeah I think that’s mainly it.

[00:31:16] Thank you. My understanding of summer feeding programs is that they’re often kind of these public private partnerships with often non-profits operating a summer feeding program and receiving money reimbursed from the Department of Education for those meals. Is that something that you’re encouraging in these counties or how do you envision that the counties that don’t have summer feeding programs yet what are just some strategies for say a county commission that just doesn’t know about this issue. Could you just a little bit more about how summer feeding programs operate where the funding comes from that sort of thing.

[00:32:04] Yeah absolutely. You know you’re exactly right on where that funding comes from. And it is it is often a collaboration between community partners and school systems. And we we’ve seen from doing some surveying and and listening that there are a ton of extremely creative strategies being used throughout West Virginia. By school systems at some that right don’t have the capacity to maybe host a summer feeding program in their facilities but work with partners who can nonprofits some libraries know all sorts of places within their community that can host it. And they just work together to make sure that the community knows about these programs as much as possible and that yeah that that word gets out. So we’re definitely going to be kind of highlighting those best practices those counties that are using a lot of really creative ways some mobile feeding programs that in some counties they’re using with a lot of success. We know that you know transportation and accessibility is going to pretty consistently be the biggest obstacle in our state for people so we’re gonna be highlighting those in a report that we’ll use to kind of push this legislation forward.

[00:33:34] Thank you. And if I understand correctly this is also federal money that’s available that is often left on the table that we’re not actually fully utilizing as a state.

[00:33:47] Yes that’s my understanding too.

[00:33:51] So again I ask you the same question I asked everyone else how do you envision just people listening to this podcast getting involved both in this legislative session but also it sounds like if this passes there’s a lot of work to do beyond that to actually roll this out.

[00:34:11] Definitely. I think during the legislative session asking people to kind of share their stories around summer feeding and feeding outside of school and to help us share that report once it’s ready and then talk to their legislators to really show a lot of support over social media and showing up to the Capitol to for a policy like this. And yeah beyond this if we do get this passed beyond session it will require a lot of work from from everyone to kind of be really encouraging to to their school systems and to the people that can kind of enhance these programs and start them and maybe to highlight some of the places where things could be happening but but aren’t.

[00:35:09] Well thank you so much Liz. I’m going to move on to our last guest. Seth is at the capital right now. And food is one of the many things that he’s advocating for in this session. So Seth do you want to update folks about what you’re working on from a food perspective.

[00:35:33] Yeah great to be here. Thanks for having me on. So you’re coming out of food for all or at least going into food for all. There was this question about you know what or what are the other things or the other factors that that you know make or friends and neighbors go hungry and specifically around the economic side of things. And there was a lot of discussion about you know low wages and people just not making a lot of money. And the fact that two thirds of households SNAP households in West Virginia have an individual who is working and how do we get it back to right and so we’ve heard today a lot of awesome policies that address food insecurity from different sides yet some are feeding be it through reentry be it through the agriculture and supporting farmers and getting their products to the people. And one of the things we had talked about was getting at low wage employers who pay so little that people are almost pushed into food assistance. And we had talked about kind of zeroed in on especially those larger employers and assigning a fee to them for every employee who makes less than 15 dollars an hour. Basically what’s referred to as a low wage employer tax. So I’m going into food for all. We had a very very productive working group. And to be honest with you it generated a lot more questions than it did answers which I think is is good and has kind of really opened up the conversation at least on our end about even more policies that increase family security. So you know I do look to get a low wage employer fee very similar to what the state of Connecticut had introduced a couple of years ago introduced here in the legislature. But to be honest with you Josh the momentum around kind of what the family economic security issues is kind of shifting into different places around like paid family leave. You know getting serious about pushing conversations about raising the minimum wage especially after the election this year in November saw a couple of pretty conservative states vote to raise their minimum wage. Right so a lot of these particular family security issues that seem to have strong bipartisan support are getting a lot of attention. And so you know it’s not exactly where we started with food for all but I am I am happy to see it evolve and kind of grow into some some other policies that can increase the economic security and in doing so increase the food security of West Virginia’s.

[00:38:13] Yeah I understand that this. This particular piece of legislation is a long shot but I think that its value lies in forcing people to talk about whom is ultimately benefiting from public assistance. Often the discourse is focused on the poor and needing to get the poor back to work the poor not working hard enough and with this bill you’re kind of focusing on the employers. Often employers that are very large fortune 500 type corporations that are actually benefiting from snap in a way that it subsidizes their own low wages. So I think the value in your persuasive guess is maybe in in you know forcing our delegates to grapple with that issue what do we do about that issue as a state with a long history of low wages and food insecurity.

[00:39:18] So yeah let’s let’s not let’s not beat around the bush here. These large employers some of these large employers have it written into their business plan to to pay so little as to take advantage of Medicaid and SNAP to subsidize their profit margins. Marilyn I’ve had friends and I had friends and family that worked for some of these people and managers at these places coach people on how to sign up for food stamps or how to go get Medicaid as opposed to you know asking or paying living wages. So I think that you know just by virtue of getting the bill introduced there is value to shine a light on that especially in contrast to what leadership and the governor are trying to do which is hand a lot of these corporations a big giant tax break which is kind of one of the centerpieces of the state of the state last night.

[00:40:14] Yeah and I think this could also be part of a concerted more national movement to put pressure and highlight these things so I’m glad that you’re introducing it even though again it is a long shot. I think over the past year just keeping up with food access issues this seems to be coming up more and more as an issue to press and you know the state of West Virginia receives about a half billion dollars in SNAP dollars from the federal government. That’s five hundred million dollars a year. And we know that a lot of that is going to the very same businesses that don’t pay high enough wages. So there seems to be a problem maybe even unjust enrichment on the basis of these federal programs.

[00:41:15] You know I think it’s kind of. You’re preaching to the choir buddy. I guess as much as I can say you know it to me you know it comes back to you know keeping it focused on the fact that you know what people on SNAP are working hard you know there are eighty one thousand West Virginians. Eighty one thousand people enrolled in the SNAP program who have jobs sometimes two or three at a time to get by who are working. And the reason that they have to rely on SNAP to put food on the table is they’re just simply not making enough. And so if if all we were to accomplish. Through getting this bill introduced this year was to point that out and to kind of fear that in the minds of policymakers in West Virginia then I think that would be a great success for us.

[00:42:11] All right Thanks Seth. I think we now have Amy Jo on the call. Amy Jo are you there.

[00:42:22] Hi Josh I’m here.

[00:42:24] Okay. Great. Could you tell us about some of the momentum behind our children our future and maybe what you’ve been working on in terms of food access but also how food access is connected to a broad swath of issues that you’re organizing for over the next couple months.

[00:42:51] Sure. Right now the legislative session there’s a lot of focus now on the policies that are not in front of legislation that are being discussed here on the call. So I think mainly about my goal is as an organizer as I’m going out and having conversations with affected people to help get those people to the capital and to share their stories. We’re putting a huge emphasis right now. I say always but we’re trying to replace that just data and statistics as well as human faces you know and I think I just had a conversation a few minutes ago with a young man who said you can walk into some of these small West Virginia rural communities and you could put your arm out and everyone you touch is afflicted by some form of poverty. You know it’s food insecurity is the biggest one and where get me to revamp so our federal campaign as well to protect the safety net. SNAP is the biggest thing that I organize around personally because there is such a need for it. Also new jobs for political education I think in the state of West Virginia on calls like this. But I think that we also need to place some energy into having conversations like this with people who are relying on the SNAP benefit so they can have a better understanding of exactly what it is that we as organizers and as organizations that are trying that you know a food injustice and food inequity. So the people who are living on SNAP and rely on that have a better understanding as to what exactly it is that they’re relying on if that makes any sense. You know like how the system works. How does that system work. Why it set up the way that it is. And that’s the gap. You know just like this not being a regulator working on so many people aren’t even aware that that is still a thing in the state of West Virginia. So I think the political education needs to be a real big part of what we do from this point on going forward.

[00:45:03] That’s a great point about political education Amy Jo thanks for bringing that up. Food Policy and responses to food insecurity. Can often just be left to legislators advocacy groups or other so-called experts right. But as you pointed out those living out the day to day realities of navigating a complex and often convoluted food assistance safety net whether these snap or TEFAP or wig or school meal programs are often a combination of the above. Don’t always understand the relationship between this nutritional assistance and their own place in the wider economy. So. To that end Yeah political education is certainly key to anti hunger advocacy in West Virginia and beyond. I love the work that you all are doing with our children our future. Among impacted organizers and I hope that this food for all campaign might be another channel that can involve folks relying on these programs to claim and even enhance their right to healthy food access. I want to be sure and respect everyone’s time on the call. I think this was a helpful summary of the discussions that were started at the food for all summit in November. And I look forward to seeing how all of this plays out over the coming weeks at the legislature. So do stay posted for updates on these bills we’ll be tracking them closely.

[00:46:32] And if you’re listening and want to get involved in one or more of these issues please don’t hesitate to get in touch with these organizations directly or with me at the food justice lab. Again we had Chad and Cindy directors of mountain air and facing hunger food banks talking about the need for administrative and logistical funding that would just assist their organizations in distributing growing amounts of federal commodities surplus. Spencer Moss from the Food and Farm Coalition discuss the healthy food crop block grant to improve access to West Virginia grown produce. Rick and Lida from American Friends Service Committee explained why West Virginia needs to end the drug felony snap ban. Jennifer and Liz from our children are our future presented on the expansion of summer feeding programs in the state. And finally Seth Stefano presented about why low wage employer tax that would impose a fee on companies that rely on SNAP to pay their employees less. Could shift the discourse around whom is actually benefiting from federal handouts. So thank you all for joining. I look forward to continuing this conversation in the coming weeks and years as we continue to build momentum behind the Food for All Campaign.

First Food for All Summit

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On November 13th, over a hundred anti-hunger advocates from across West Virginia met at The Event Center at Brushy Fork for the first Food for All Summit. 

We introduced Food Justice and Food Sovereignty concepts to this audience and discussed the critical role that policy plays in shaping the moral contract between food producers and consumers. This policy contract is complex, shaped as it is by federal, state and business interests that do not always place vulnerable and food insecure households at the top of their legislative agendas. The summit discussed a broad anti-hunger policy agenda for West Virginia in 2019 driven by our research partners at the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, Our Children our Future, The WV Center for Budget and Policy, American Friends Service Committee, and the directors of Mountaineer and Facing Hunger food banks. 
Stay posted as the following bills are introduced and move through the WV legislature this year:

  • End the SNAP ban for convicted drug felons 
  • Improve access to summer feeding programs 
  • Grow the capacity for West Virginia farmers to produce for healthy food access programs 
  • Fine large businesses that subsidize low wages through federal benefits 
  • Increase the administrative funding for food banks to distribute surplus commodities resulting from the Trump administration’s trade mitigation farmer bailout. 

Check Out Our Partnership with the WVU Media Innovation Center and Morgan State University:

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In 2016 the Food Justice Lab partnered with the WVU Media Innovation Center to report on the state of food access in West Virginia and Baltimore.

Journalism students from West Virginia University and Morgan State bridged racial and urban/rural divides to dig into complex food system issues together. This website is the result of those collaborative efforts. We’re excited to continue working with the media school over the coming years to help the public understand and wrestle with food justice issues in our state and beyond. 

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