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Food Security Council created by Whitmer: To release recommendations on hunger amid pandemic

LANSING — A Food Security Council within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has been created by an executive order signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Friday.

An Upper Peninsula resident, Tammy A. Rosa, of Gladstone, manager for the Upper Peninsula Area Agency on Aging, is one of the 16 members appointed.

The council is tasked with identifying and analyzing the origins of and solutions for food insecurity in Michigan and working 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,” Whitmer said in a press release. “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 the state and despite the work of many individuals and groups, many Michigan residents continue to live without reliable, daily access to an adequate amount of affordable, nutritious food, the release states.

“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 nonpartisan 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, in the release. “Creating food security is the first step toward 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 Gov. Whitmer’s leadership that enables her to see better, beyond and before in the creation of this council to address food insecurity across Michigan.”

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 three 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.

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 toward a solution for food insecurity in Michigan, such as the health care, agriculture, education, business and nonprofit sectors:

≤ 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.

≤ 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. Escareno, 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. 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 United Food & Commercial Workers Local 951 and the director of its foundation. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Western 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 nonvoting members of the Legislature: Sens. Kevin Daley and Winnie Brinks and Reps. Pauline Wendzel and Angela Witwer.

MDHHS director issues statement on testing for employees in farms, food processing

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon issued a statement regarding Michigan Farm Bureau opposition to the MDHHS order requiring testing of farm and food processing employees:

“Amid a pandemic that has killed more than 6,000 Michiganders, the state of Michigan took action to save lives by requiring COVID-19 testing and support for farm and food processing employees. These employees live and work in close conditions that put them at particular risk for COVID-19, and have experienced dozens of outbreaks as a result,” Gordon said in the release. “The state is offering on-site testing at no cost to all workers covered by the order, as well as support for housing and basic needs of workers. It is unfortunate that the Michigan Farm Bureau is opposing these efforts to keep agricultural employees safe, and that some in the industry have even advised employers to cancel planned testing events, choosing instead to contemplate litigating workers’ protections.

“We are confident in the legality of our order. It is not too late for the Farm Bureau to partner with the State of Michigan to support hard-working men and women, rather than promoting dangerous delays in much-needed COVID-19 testing.”

More information about testing for these workers can be found at the Michigan coronavirus website.

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