Robin Safley on Paths to Prosperity, Food, and More

We caught up with Robin Safley, Executive Director of Feeding Florida to discuss issues like food insecurity, paths to prosperity, and how businesses can play a part in creating solutions. Click the videos below to hear more.

On food security:

“A child who is hungry can’t learn in school. And an adult who is stressed and is hungry can’t be retrained for a job… I think businesses could do a big job with their employees and the individuals they come in contact with to really identify food insecurity.”

On their Produce Program:

If you estimate that about 16 percent of all produce grown doesn’t make it into the supply chain…but it’s perfectly edible. What could possibly be available is between 700 and 900 million pounds of produce on an annual basis. There’s about 3.2 million individuals who are food insecure. If I was going to try to attempt to get every one of them a serving of fruit and vegetables every day- all I would need to do is source 104 million pounds of food. We could that with some nutrition classes, so that we are really teaching people the importance of that food and also how to prepare it.

When you look at poverty and you look at all the intricate parts of that- housing and transportation and jobs- I almost see food as that common denominator, that fundamental base that people needs to have prosperity in those other sectors.

On place-based solutions and intersectionality of issues:

“The more that we don’t isolate these conversations- it’s not just take care of housing, but when you are taking care of housing, you should think about transportation and where is the food in proximity to that housing. [Consider] place-based solutions- how do we embed food in an environment- whether it’s charitable or retail. We don’t necessarily need more bricks and mortar, we just need to utilize the bricks and mortar we have more intently.”

On creating financial literacy and understanding the A.L.I.C.E. population:

Sometimes we think individuals are not making the right choice in that early moment, and it’s probably under the stressful situation in which they are just surviving- sometimes to the detriment of that long-term planning. I think if we wrap all of those issues around some of the individuals we are dealing with, with food being that fundamental, I think we are going to see success.

Mosaic on Becoming More Globally Competitive

Mosaic is the world’s largest supplier of phosphate and potash but is looking to stay competitive in a rapidly growing industry. Karen Swager, Vice President of mining at Mosaic, said improvements in global phosphate mining has motivated the company to revamp its own practices.

“We are in the process of transformation and what we are trying to do is ensure that all of our assets remain competitive in the market as they continue to evolve. Central Florida used to be the center of the universe for the phosphate industry,” Swager said. “Recently, more deposits in the world are becoming economic and are being developed, particularly over the past decade. Africa and the Middle Eastern are some of the areas where this is happening and they are being constructed with the latest and best technology.”

One aspect of the company that is transforming is the participation of Mosaic employees. Input from ground-level workers has been integral to the development of new ideas. By bringing them into the process, Swager said employees have a greater sense of involvement in the company’s new direction.

“In order for us to remain competitive, we really need to develop a culture that is focused on innovation and reliability. We’ve really engaged our employees in this effort and have a very strong pipeline to the front line,” Swager said. “We are eliminating some of the red tape and bureaucracy from the past, which may have stymied some of the decision making in these areas and some of the innovation that our employees are quite proud of.”

The decision-making process isn’t the only change the company is making. In 2017, Mosaic completed the largest land acquisition in the company’s history. The company purchased Vale Fertilizantes in Brazil for $2.5 billion, a move Swager said is still paying dividends. The goal was to increase the company’s international presence and strengthen its presence domestically.

“I think the acquisition of Vale Fertilizantes is going to have tremendous benefits for Mosaic. It certainly enlarged our footprint in one of the fastest growing agricultural markets. It is going to ensure that the whole company benefits from that growth,” Swager said. “In addition, that newer, bigger footprint in South America will ensure that we remain the producer of choice for our customers in America. With a broader asset base in the hemisphere, it makes it harder for offshore competitors to compete and penetrate these markets.”

In addition to land expansion, Mosaic is also ramping up efforts in the Tampa Bay community. The Company partners with the Tampa Bay Lightning on the Goals for Food program. Since the program’s inception, Mosaic has provided nearly a half-million dollars to local food banks.

“We’re really a producer of agricultural commodities and it’s such a primary mission to help the world grow the food that it needs. What a lot of us know is unfortunately in our own back yard there’s thousands of families that lack certainty on where their next meal is going to come from,” Swager said. “There is no better brand to associate with in Tampa than the Lightning and they have helped raise the profile of all of these organization. They’re also critical to ensuring that families that are struggling to make ends meet and are able to put food on the table.”

Swager said projects like Goals for Food are a core part of what Mosaic wants to be as a company. She added that a free market economy gives Mosaic and other companies the best opportunity to do so.

“People don’t just move here for beaches and warm weather. They move here because Florida has a vibrant economy where they can start a business and be successful,” Swager said. “That growth is enabled by Florida’s approach to free enterprise. Our property taxes are lower than most states and we have no income tax because the state is able to fund its obligations by revenues generated by this business activity.

The Business Case for Economic Prosperity


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In a recent blog post submitted to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center, the Florida Chamber Foundation discusses why businesses have the unique ability to help create economic prosperity.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s mission is a simple, yet significant one – to secure Florida’s future. Through our efforts to develop foundational research, inform and educate businesses, and convene business leaders and stakeholders in in-depth discussions, we work to identify the challenges and opportunities that Florida has not just today, but 20 or more years from now. In fact, this mission is the basis of our Florida 2030 research, which over the course of two years has taken us to all 67 counties in our state, where we heard from more than 10,000 Floridians on the issues that matter to them.

One of those issues? Economic prosperity.

Consider the following:

  • There are 28 counties in Florida with a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher.
  • 44 percent of Florida’s 7.5 million households cannot afford the basic needs.
  • More than 3 million Floridians live in poverty. Of those, more than 944,000 are kids under age 18.
  • If we don’t do something today, 133,329 additional children in Florida will live in poverty by 2030.

So, how do we go about securing our state’s future if nearly 1 in 6 Floridians live in poverty?

Believe it or not, even after years of leading this discussion, we are still asked why the state chamber is driving these conversations. And when businesses ask us if the challenge of creating opportunities for economic prosperity for all Floridians is one of economic or moral significance, our answer is “yes” to both.

We believe all leaders in our state should be working together to ensure every Floridian – regardless of their circumstances – has the opportunity to lead successful and meaningful lives. And while there will always be situational poverty – the kind stemming from temporary setbacks – business leaders can play a strong and crucial role in helping break the cycle of generational poverty.

At the Florida Chamber Foundation, we took on the challenge of trying to identify what economic prosperity means for Florida and to educate businesses on how complex the issue of poverty is. Our Less Poverty, Through More Prosperity Report culminates years of research and analyzes poverty rates in all of Florida’s counties, and identifies the challenges that keep people from rising out of generational poverty. This report also identifies a few key opportunities to prepare our state’s workforce and create economic opportunity, which include employing two-generational strategies which recognize that focusing on interventions for children living in poverty without addressing the needs of the parents of those children leads to sub-optimal results, focusing on early learning initiatives so that students have a chance to succeed from a young age, creating workplace based solutions, and ensuring that low-income families have access to the services they need.

We are taking our research and our words and turning them into action. We are traveling the state to talk about economic prosperity, and bringing together businesses, non-profit organizations, community leaders, elected officials and more to discuss best practices and steps toward action at our annual Less Poverty, Through More Prosperity Summit.

Florida has led the way in economic growth and opportunity. We can and must do more to break the cycle of generational poverty by focusing on creating opportunities for all Floridians, especially those born into poverty. And with the business community leading the way, we can be successful.


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Commissioner’s Business Recognition Award- Workforce Summit Registration

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Florida Chamber CEO Delivers Unexpected Message


, Bradenton Herald, February 17, 2017

On Wednesday, Florida Chamber of Commerce CEO Mark Wilson delivered a somewhat unexpected message to a room of 75 businesses leaders and government officials.

“I’m positive that when some of you got the invite for today you asked, ‘What’s the chamber doing looking at poverty?’” he said.

Wilson took attendees through a presentation showing how business leaders and their attitudes need to adjust to solve the problems associated with generational poverty.

Read the full article that appeared in the Bradenton Herald.


Join the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Prosperity Movement. Click here to learn more.


JUST RELEASED: More than 3.1 Million Floridians in Poverty

By 2030, Florida is expected to grow to 26 million residents and will welcome more than 150 million visitors per year. With this, comes opportunities and challenges, as this growth is expected to come during one of the most disruptive periods, where changes in the landscape of work, technology and talent will create a new normal. With this in mind, the Foundation’s Florida 2030 project is committed to focusing on Florida’s long-term future and ensuring global competitiveness, pathways to prosperity and vibrant and sustainable communities.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Less Poverty, More Prosperity: Florida’s Fiscal Cliffs Report shows Florida has more than 3.1 million people living in poverty, with  944,415 of that total under the age of 18. The large number of Floridians living in poverty in our state impacts not only individual families, but also businesses, Florida’s economy, and our state’s global competitiveness. Florida will find it harder to succeed in 2030 and beyond if more than 1 in 6 Floridians continue living in poverty.

Click here to download the report.

1 in 4 Florida Children Are Living in Poverty

Almost half of all children born in poverty remain in poor economic conditions into adulthood, and in Florida, 1 in 4 Florida children are living in poverty. The cost of child poverty is an estimated $500 billion a year in lost productivity and increased spending on health care and the criminal justice system.

At last week’s Future of Florida Forum, business leaders accepted the challenge to focus on prosperity as an economic driver and find solutions to curb generational poverty. Do you know how many families are homeless in your community? If we are going to help solve the poverty problem, leadership must come from the business community, not just the tax base.

Get Involved

Join us in a Cornerstone 2030 conversation by holding a town hall in your community.

The Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line Featuring Ted Granger

United Way of Florida President Ted Granger Discusses Poverty, Prosperity and Minimum Wage on the Latest Edition of The Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line

Economic prosperity is the topic of discussion on the latest edition of The Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line.

United Way of Florida President Ted Granger explains that businesses and chambers of commerce are already active in their communities and helping those in need.

And he says that there are opportunities for system changes to help Florida families become more financially secure but raising the minimum wage isn’t one of them.

 “[A raise in minimum wage] is not going to solve the problem at all. If you look at the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Report, the difference between what folks are making and the actual cost of living would require a minimum wage that is so much, it would drive our businesses out of business,” said Granger. “The real issues are systems issues…How can we, creatively, address some of the transportation issues, which is almost always the No.1 issue for the ALICE group, to help them to continue to succeed and work?”

The Florida Chamber believes in a robust free enterprise system, and Florida is on the path to prosperity with record private-sector job creation and its focus on creating high-wage jobs.


Get Involved:

The Florida prosperity project will be featured at the Future of Florida Forum. Join us on September 29 – October 1 in Orlando to discuss this and other topics focused on moving Florida forward…faster. The ALICE Report is expected to be released in November.


The Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line is a web-based program featuring key figures from Florida’s corridors of power. Hosting the conversation with Ted Granger is Florida Chamber Foundation Executive Vice President Tony Carvajal.