When Pasco County initiated its Food Policy Advisory Council, it was among the first in the state to create such a council, Dell DeChant, the council’s chairman said, during an annual report to the Pasco County Commission.
The advisory council was formed on May 19, 2015, DeChant said, “which makes us one of the oldest Food Policy Councils in the state.
“When we were originally established, we were only the second one in the state, so that’s a point of pride for this county,” DeChant added, during the county board’s Dec. 6 meeting.
But he noted that much work remains to achieve the council’s goals.
“We are very interested in developing resiliency within the county, which, as of right now, with all due respect, we don’t have,” DeChant said.
“We are also working to cultivate a local food system, which, again, with all due respect, is something that we don’t have,” he added.
“The vast majorities of food that is consumed in Pasco County is imported. It’s imported from other parts of the country, it’s imported from other parts of the state, and imported from overseas.
“To the degree we can localize the food system, we’re all better off and we’re stronger for it.
“To the degree that we begin to produce more of the food that we consume here, in the county, the better off we are,” DeChant said.
He reminded the county board that the advisory council’s purpose is to support an equitable, resilient and local food system in Pasco.
The council also aims to “provide credible, well-conceived community food policy advice that can dramatically reduce instances of chronic disease and obesity, preserve agricultural lands, promote agricultural uses throughout the county and assists in the development of new businesses in the food sector,” according to a slide in a presentation to the board.
DeChant and Sonide Simon, a planner II for Pasco and staff liaison to the advisory council, made the presentation.
DeChant was complimentary of Simon’s efforts to help the council.
“Whatever we’ve accomplished, the achievements that we’ve had, are largely the result of Sonide’s great work. We’re very appreciative of her and her leadership and caring,” he said.
The council seeks to connect economic development, food security efforts, preservation and enhancement of agriculture and environmental concerns, according to the presentation.
It also aims to:
- Support the development and expansion of locally produced foods
- Review proposed legislation and regulations that affect the food system
- Make recommendations to government bodies
It also seeks to inform others by gathering, synthesizing and sharing information regarding community food systems.
The council has had some influence, with the backing of both the Pasco County Commission and City of New Port Richey, DeChant said.
Those government boards supported the food council’s recommendation to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council to include an item in its resiliency plan relating to local food systems, DeChant said.
The advisory food council is made up of members representing academia, farmers, farmers markets, health departments, and the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Science.
The food council also is participating with efforts to update the Pasco County Comprehensive Plan.
It also is recommending that the county include fruit trees among the list of trees that would be acceptable to meet the requirements of the county’s landscaping ordinance, DeChant said.
“That would make a big difference. If we planted fruit trees, that would also be a ready source of food,” he said.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey told DeChant and Simon: “I’m so proud of the work you’re doing.”
She noted that she’s also interested in the possibility of tying agriculture and tourism together, and in doing more to market products that are produced locally.
“I think agritourism has a place in our county,” Starkey said.
For his part, DeChant would love to see the county provide a budget for the council, to enable the volunteer group to expand its efforts.
Published January 04, 2023
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