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Food Security Council created in Michigan

The Council is tasked with identifying and analyzing the origins of and solutions for food insecurity in Michigan.
(KALB)
Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 6:12 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Governor Gretchen Whitmer Friday signed Executive Order 2020-167 creating the Food Security Council within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The Council is tasked with identifying and analyzing the origins of and solutions for food insecurity in Michigan and with helping Governor Whitmer work to ensure all Michiganders, no matter their socioeconomic status, can put food on the table for themselves and their families.

“No one should have to worry about how they are going to put food on the table the next day,” said Governor Whitmer. “Food insecurity is a very real and prevalent issue for many Michiganders, and COVID-19 has only made the problem worse. That is why, today, I am creating the Food Security Council to bring together leaders from both sides of the aisle to find solutions on behalf of Michigan families. I am committed to making sure every family and person has access to the quality, nutritious food they need.”

Food insecurity is a pressing and persistent problem in Michigan and, despite the tireless work of numerous individuals and groups, many Michigan residents continue to live without reliable, daily access to an adequate amount of affordable, nutritious food. This problem has only been exacerbated by COVID-19, which has deeply disrupted the well-being of this state’s residents and the stability of its economy. As a result, more Michiganders have found themselves dependent on assistance programs and emergency food resources in their communities to meet their daily needs. Food security impacts the educational outcomes of our children, the costs of our health care, the development and stability of our workforce, and the rates of crime in our communities. The health of Michigan’s economy, residents, and communities will benefit from a body focused on formulating a cohesive, collaborative, and actionable plan for achieving food security for all of Michigan’s residents, both during this pandemic and thereafter.

“COVID-19 has magnified the effects and challenges of food insecurity and increased the number of Michigan residents who struggle with the toxic stress of being food insecure. This is a non-partisan challenge, and while multi-layered, it is solvable for the second most diverse agricultural state in the U.S.,” said Phil Knight, chair of the Food Security Council. “Creating food security is the first step towards self-sufficiency, and while it starts in the field, it is sustained in the workplace. Our hungry neighbors are worthy of our investment in them as we seek to fulfill the directives given to the council. I am honored to work with this incredibly smart and insightful group of leaders who will bring wisdom, perspective, and passion to the work of creating a food secure state. I am thankful for Governor Whitmer’s leadership that enables her to see better, beyond, and before in the creation of this council to address food insecurity across Michigan.”

This is the latest step in Governor Whitmer’s ongoing efforts to improve food security in Michigan. Previously, she extended benefits for additional food assistance for approximately 350,000 families. Nearly 1.5 million people in Michigan receive federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through the state’s Food Assistance Program. Additionally, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed to eliminate Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) from SNAP, Governor Whitmer led a coalition of 17 governors to oppose the proposal which would kick thousands of families off food assistance. In April, Michigan became the first state to gain federal approval for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program. The program, which reached nearly 900,000 students, provided nutritious food to children who were affected by school closings due to COVID-19.

The Council will consist of the superintendent of public instruction and the directors of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture and Rural Development, and Labor and Economic Opportunity, or their designees. In addition, the Governor is appointing the following 16 members representing various sectors affected by and/or working towards a solution for food insecurity in Michigan, such as the health care, agriculture, education, business, and nonprofit sectors: 

Amy Baker, of Pentwater, is the quality management director at Peterson Farms. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Labor Relations from Michigan State University. 

Patrice Brown, of Detroit, is a food access manager for Eastern Market. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan.

Alex Canepa, of Ann Arbor, is the state policy manager for the Fair Food Network. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Trinity College of Dublin and a Master of Arts in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology from the University of Oxford. 

Kimberly Schriever Edsenga, of Grand Rapids, is the senior counsel for Meijer, Inc. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan.

Juan A. Escareño, Jr., of Detroit, is the director of government and community relations for the Midwest Independent Retailers Association. He previously served as executive vice president and recording secretary for the UFCW Local 876. 

Phillip B. Knight, Ph.D., of Fenton, is the executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan and the radio host of “Food for Thought” on WJR 760 AM. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Wesley College, a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Liberty University, and a Ph.D. from Trinity University. The Governor has designated Dr. Knight to serve as Chair of the Council. 

Diana E. Marin, of Ann Arbor, is the supervising attorney for farmworkers and immigrant workers rights at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies and a Juris Doctor degree from Fordham University.

Dawn S. Medley, of Lathrup Village, is the associate vice president of enrollment management and the chief enrollment officer at Wayne State University. She holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of Missouri, a Master of Science in Administration from Southeast Missouri State University, and an Education Specialist in Higher Education Leadership from Linwood University. 

Kenneth P. Nobis, of Saint Johns, is the co-owner and operator of Nobis Dairy Farms, a senior advisor and former president of the Michigan Milk Producers Association, and a current member of the Michigan Dairy Marketing Program Committee. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Biology from Western Michigan University.

Delicia J. Pruitt, M.D., of Bay City, is the medical director of the Saginaw County Health Department. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Michigan and a Doctor of Medicine from the Wayne State University School of Medicine.

Todd J. Regis, of Flat Rock, is the vice president and director of legislative and community affairs for UFCW Local 951 and the director of their foundation. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Western Michigan University. 

Tammy A. Rosa, of Gladstone, is a nutrition program quality assurance specialist and caregiver programs manager for the Upper Peninsula Area Agency on Aging. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Administrative Dietetics and Nutrition from Central Michigan University. 

Michelle M. Schulte, of Suttons Bay, is a program director for the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Teaching from Ferris State University and a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from Lake Superior State University. 

Laurie Solotorow, of Birmingham, is the director of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles Program. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Michigan State University. 

Wade Syers, of Muskegon, is a food safety educator for Michigan State University Extension. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Grand Valley State University and a Master of Science in Food Safety from Michigan State University. 

Pam Yager, of Okemos, is the social mission manager for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan. 

The Council will also consist of four non-voting members of the Michigan Legislature: Senator Kevin Daley nominated by the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Winnie Brinks nominated by the Senate Minority Leader, Representative Pauline Wendzel nominated by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Representative Angela Witwer nominated by the House Minority Leader.

The Food Policy Council will identify and analyze the nature, scope, and causes of food insecurity in Michigan. The Council will identify and assess evidence-based policies to decrease food insecurity both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, analyze the return on investment to policies that decrease food insecurity, and review and make recommendations regarding how resources and efforts can be best coordinated, implemented, and effectively supplemented. The Council must prepare and submit a final report to the Governor in two stages, with the first stage due in 3 months and focused on short-term findings and recommendations related to food insecurity and COVID-19. The Council must issue its full, final report within 18 months, and will dissolve 90 days after doing so. 

These appointments are not subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. 

To view Executive Order 2020-167, click here.

Copyright 2020 WLUC. All rights reserved.

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