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House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Report Includes Major Agriculture Policy and Food Waste Reduction Recommendations, Including Several Submitted by FLPC and FBLE

via CHLPI Blog

by Ali Schklair and MJ McDonald

Front cover of 'Solving the Climate Crisis' report

 

In June 2020, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis (Select Committee) released Solving the Climate Crisis, a comprehensive set of recommendations to confront climate change and resulting economic and racial inequities. Created in January 2019 by House Resolution 6, the bipartisan Select Committee spent 17 months interviewing scientists and stakeholders and gathering input through hearings and written comments. The Select Committee’s efforts ultimately culminated in hundreds of policy recommendations focused on 12 key pillars. As a member of the Farm Bill Law Enterprise (FBLE), Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) responded to a number of the Select Committee’s questions on ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change through two separate submissions: (1) on behalf of FBLE, FLPC submitted recommendations on agriculture policy and, (2) FLPC submitted recommendations on food loss and waste reduction policy. We are pleased to see that many of FBLE and FLPC’s recommendations were included in the Select Committee’s report. This post highlights where the Committee adopted recommendations in line with FLPC’s submissions and notes opportunities where the Select Committee could make its recommendations even more effective.

One of FBLE’s key recommendations was to move the United States agricultural system away from reliance on annual crops and toward a more sustainable perennial system. The SCCC report recognized the significant climate benefits agroforestry offers and recommends that Congress fund agroforestry research and establish a grant program (through existing conservation program funding) to support farmers transitioning to agroforestry.

FBLE also recommended that conservation compliance requirements be revised to include climate-friendly practices.  Set forth in the Conservation Title of the Farm Bill, conservation compliance requires producers to follow a conservation plan approved by the Natural Resources Conservation Service when planting crops on highly erodible land and prohibits producers from planting on wetlands. FBLE recommended that government funds only be awarded to producers who incorporate conservation and climate measures on their land, as opposed to producers who meet the minimum requirements for highly erodible lands and wetlands.  FBLE also noted that even if conservation compliance requirements remained unchanged, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must increase enforcement of the requirement for them to be effective.

In line with FBLE’s submission, the Select Committee recommended that enforcement of the conservation compliance requirements be improved.  However, the Select Committee’s enforcement strategy focused mostly on administrative changes, rather than conservation compliance. To further promote conservation compliance, the Select Committee recommended that Congress increase funding to restore native grasses and wetlands and expand the sodsaver policy. Currently, this policy only applies to six states, so expansion would be beneficial.  Nevertheless, the change falls short of FBLE’s recommendation that subsidies be made conditional on enhanced conservation compliance.  Therefore, the Select Committee’s suggested changes may be too minor to achieve the Committee’s purported goals.

Crop insurance offers an additional opportunity to incentivize climate-friendly farming practices.  As FBLE suggested, the Select Committee recommended that the USDA provide more resources to the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program, an insurance program that provides coverage for all of a farmer’s crops, thus eliminating the need to insure each crop individually. The Select Committee further suggested that Congress increase the USDA’s capacity to help farmers enroll in the program and offer higher incentives for incorporating crop diversification and climate conscious farming practices. Finally, the Select Committee included FBLE’s recommendation to offer discounts on crop insurance to farmers who use climate-friendly practices.

FBLE also made a number of recommendations regarding improvements to conservation programs to help achieve climate goals. FLPC is pleased to see that the Select Committee included many of FBLE’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) recommendations in its report, including expanding acreage protected under the CRP, increasing rental rates, lifting administrative barriers to CRP enrollment, extending CRP contract limits and allowing permanent easements. the Select Committee also addressed FBLE’s recommendations for improving the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and included the recommendation to make practices that promote carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions eligible for conservation incentive contracts. FLPC is disappointed, however, that the Select Committee did not take up FBLE’s recommendation to cut funding for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Despite the environmental harm caused by methane gas emissions from these operations, the Select Committee did not address CAFOs in its report.

All of these suggested policy changes can greatly reduce agriculture’s impact on climate change. However, in order to sustain this progress, Congress must invest in future developments of our agricultural system.  FBLE recommended many ways Congress could contribute to ongoing research on climate-friendly farming practices.  The Select Committee included the recommendation to formally authorize regional USDA Climate Hubs, which will produce practical science-based research and provide general support to farmers engaged in climate-friendly farming.  Further, while not included in FBLE’s recommendations, FLPC agrees with the Select Committee’s recommendation that Congress should provide financial and technical support to beginning, young, and socially disadvantaged farmers working to adopt climate-smart practices.

In addition to the recommendations submitted as a member of FBLE, FLPC submitted its own recommendations on food loss and waste reduction policy opportunities. For years FLPC has supported local, state, and federal policies that divert excess food to people in need and prevent the economic and environmental impact of food waste. FLPC submitted several food loss and waste policy recommendations to the Select Committee and is excited the Committee demonstrated its commitment to reducing food waste and increasing food recovery in its final report. The Select Committee recommended that Congress support implementation and provide funding for the Winning on Reducing Food Waste initiative and provide financial resources to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030. The Committee also called for Congress to increase support and investments in food waste reduction initiatives in homes, schools, grocery stores, and restaurants, as well as on the farm, throughout the government, and in landfills. These recommendations align with FLPC’s submitted recommendations. Although the Select Committee’s recommendations are broad, they specifically suggest that funds and resources be provided for food waste reduction efforts.  FLPC’s submission detailed a number of specific ways that Congress support and invest in food waste reduction, should Congress decide to create targeted solutions in upcoming legislation.

For example, Congress could provide funding for a national food waste educational campaign or for comprehensive research and tracking on the amount of food lost or wasted at each stage of the supply chain.  Additionally, funding could be allocated to the USDA to study imperfect produce waste and potential solutions and to research and create grant programs for innovative technologies that limit food waste. To divert food waste from landfills, Congress could increase funding to support the construction of composting and anaerobic digestion facilities, provide research and development funding for food recycling technologies, and fully fund the Compost and Food Waste Reduction Pilot Projects grant that was included in the 2018 American Agricultural Act (2018 Farm Bill), while providing funding to states and localities that seek to implement organic waste bans. Congress has many opportunities to invest in food loss and waste reduction, thereby leading our nation in the fight against the global climate crisis.  We hope Congress will consider the many food waste reduction opportunities supported by FLPC and the Select Committee.

FLPC looks forward to seeing all of these recommendations incorporated into U.S. agricultural policy. One bill that already addresses many of these issues is the Agriculture Resilience Act (H.R. 5861). Introduced by Representative Chellie Pingree, the bill would increase funding and support for farmers committed to climate-friendly farming practices, such as land conservation and carbon sequestration. The bill would also encourage the use of digesters to convert methane emissions from livestock and food waste into renewable energy. To help reinforce SCCC’s recommendations, FLPC hopes that Congress considers passing the Agriculture Resilience Act to achieve a climate-friendly and resilient agricultural system.

Amid Pandemic, New Research Provides a Roadmap to Fight Hunger and Climate Change through Increased Food Donation

via Globe Newswire

Today, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) released a first-of-its-kind interactive resource to inspire long-term policy solutions to food waste, hunger, and climate change: The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas. In partnership with The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), and with the support of the Walmart Foundation,  The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas maps the laws and policies affecting food donation around the globe and provides recommendations to prevent unnecessary food waste and improve food distribution to those in need. The research released today focuses on Argentina, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United States, the first five of 15 countries participating in this project.

While hunger everywhere is on the rise due to the impacts of COVID-19,  one-third of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). There has long been a need for countries to bridge the gap between surplus food and the growing need for food for the most vulnerable; the pandemic has profoundly exacerbated that need. The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas provides guidance so food system actors will be more likely to distribute safe, surplus food to food insecure populations, instead of sending it to the landfill.

The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas looks at six main barriers to food recovery: food safety for donations, date labeling, liability protection for food donations, tax incentives and barriers, government grants and funding, and food waste penalties or donation requirements. It identifies several opportunities for governments to prevent unnecessary waste and to promote food donation. Examples of policy recommendations that apply across several countries include:

  • Clarify national food safety guidance as to the rules that apply to donated products;
  • Establish clear, federal guidelines for dual-date labeling, featuring expiration dates to convey when food is no longer safe to eat or “best by” dates for food that may safely be consumed and donated once the date has passed;
  • Offer liability protection to food donors and food recovery organizations that act in good faith; and
  • Remove tax barriers and provide incentives so it is less expensive to donate food than it is to dispose of it.

“It’s more important than ever for policymakers, government agencies, food donors, companies, food banks, and the public to understand the impact of unnecessary food waste in their countries and the need to change it,” said Emily Broad Leib, Faculty Director at FLPC and Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. “The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas is the first research study to compare food donation policies and best practices across the world, providing us with the global perspective we need to address this complex issue,” Broad Leib concluded.

Food banks worldwide depend largely on product donations to provide food to those facing hunger. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many food banks are seeing increases in demand for service. Through a combination of research and on-the-ground field work with food bank staff, food industry professionals, government officials, and food recovery organizations, FLPC researchers developed accessible country-specific legal guides and policy recommendations to outline best practices and long-term solutions for increased food donations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike any situation we have ever experienced before. Food bank organizations in our network are struggling to meet demand and get food to those who need it most,” said Lisa Moon, President and CEO of GFN. “The release of this project is extremely timely as it provides a roadmap for organizations and shines a light on global food system challenges for policymakers.”

FLPC will release similar reports for ten additional countries in the coming year: Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, France, Guatemala, Peru, Singapore, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

“Walmart Foundation has a long-standing commitment to increasing access to healthier foods in communities around the world and we are pleased to support the Global Food Donation Policy Atlas, because of its potential to accelerate effective and sustainable solutions,” said Eileen Hyde, Director of Sustainable Food Systems and Food Access for Walmart.org. “This project provides not only groundbreaking research to address the complexity of public policy relating to food donations, but it also presents clear opportunities to improve how surplus food gets to communities that need it.”

Legal guides, policy recommendations, executive summaries, and an interactive map to compare food donation laws and policies across countries are available at atlas.foodbanking.org/.

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ABOUT THE HARVARD FOOD LAW AND POLICY CLINIC

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) serves partner organizations and communities by providing guidance on cutting-edge food system issues, while engaging law students in the practice of food law and policy. FLPC’s work focuses on increasing access to healthy foods, supporting sustainable production and regional food systems, promoting community-led food system change,  and reducing waste of healthy, wholesome food. FLPC is committed to advancing a cross-sector, multi-disciplinary and inclusive approach to its work, building partnerships with academic institutions, government agencies, private sector actors, and civil society with expertise in public health, the environment, and the economy. For more information, visit http://www.chlpi.org/flpc/.

ABOUT THE GLOBAL FOODBANKING NETWORK
The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) is an international non-profit organization that nourishes the world’s hungry through uniting and advancing food banks in 40+ countries. GFN focuses on combating hunger and preventing food waste by providing expertise, directing resources, sharing knowledge, and developing connections that increase efficiency, ensure food safety, and reach more people facing hunger. Last year, 943 GFN member food banks rescued over 500 million kilograms of food and grocery products and redirected it to feed 9.6 million people through a network of more than 55,000 social service and community-based organizations. For more information, please visit www.foodbanking.org.

ABOUT THE WALMART FOUNDATION

By using our strengths to help others, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation create opportunities for people to live better every day. Walmart has stores in 28 countries, employing more than 2.3 million associates and doing business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are helping people live better by accelerating upward job mobility for the retail workforce; addressing hunger and making healthier, more sustainably-grown food a reality; and building strong communities where we operate. We are not only working to tackle key social issues, but we are also collaborating with others to inspire solutions for long-lasting systemic change. To learn more about Walmart’s giving, visit giving.walmart.com.

How ‘Upcycled’ Ingredients Can Help Reduce The $940 Billion Global Food Waste Problem

via Forbes

by Robin D. Schatz

ReGrained, which turns spent brewing grains into granola bars and snack puffs, is just one of 70 companies in the Upcycled Food Association. REGRAINED

Jam made with bacon scraps; fish jerky that turns unwanted fish into something delicious; granola bars and snack puffs crafted from spent brewing grams.

These are just a few examples of how entrepreneurial ingenuity is transforming food byproducts and scraps into novel and often very nutritious products for human consumption, creating new sources of protein, other nutrients and fiber in the process—and keeping it all out of landfills.

“Upcycling,” the new term of art, is one way to reduce reduce food waste and help the environment. But until now, there hasn’t been a single standard definition of upcycling, even as the number of startups tackling food waste grows and consumers show more interest in buying products made with upcycled ingredients.

Today, May 19, a task force comprised of food industry players, academic researchers an1d nonprofits is unveiling the first formal definition of the term upcycling. The group says the adoption of a single term and definition by the industry will lead to a powerful new product category that will encourage both the food industry and consumers to embrace products with upcycled ingredients. A 2019 report from Future Market Insights estimated the current value of the upcycled food industry at more than $46 million and projected a 5 percent compounded annual growth rate.

Food waste and loss cost the global economy more than $940 billion a year, according to a study by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Proponents of upcycling say the practice could help reduce the more than 70 billion tons of greenhouse gases generated by food loss and waste, while creating new jobs and innovative products.

The Upcycled Food Association, a Denver-based nonprofit with about 70 member companies, formed just six months ago. Its members, mostly in the U.S., produce some 400 upcycled food products. Realizing a need for clarity, the group immediately established a task force to define upcycled food. Participants included researchers from Harvard University and Drexel University, along with representatives of nonprofits such as ReFed, which aims to reduce food waste, the World Wildlife Fund and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

Here’s the definition the task force came up with: Upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.

Upcycled food provides protein, fiber and nutrients that might otherwise have gone to waste. UPCYCLED FOOD ASSOCIATION

Upcycled ingredients must add value to a product and help to reduce food waste. Hot dogs and baby carrots don’t count, Turner Wyatt, CEO of the Upcycled Food Association, told me. The group doesn’t want to see big food companies engage in “greenwashing” by rebranding products that won’t mitigate the food waste problem and have been around for years.

“The main goal is to get them to adopt upcycled food ingredients into their food products, putting it all to use and making sure it goes to feed people,” Wyatt added. “We want upcycled to be a word with integrity in the food system.”

 

Upcycled Food Association’s infographic accompanies the May 19 release of the first formal industry definition of upcycling. UPCYCLED FOOD ASSOCIATION

Upcycling is clearly gaining momentum. In 2019, Future Market Insights estimated the upcycled food industry was worth more than $46 billion, with a predicted 5% compound annual growth rate. A study from the food product consultancy Mattson said that more than half of consumers want to buy more upcycled foods. And a 2017 study from Drexel University found that consumers view upcycled food as having similar environmental benefits to organics.

“Upcycled food needs a clear definition in order to be meaningful and relevant,” Jonathon Deutsch, co-author of the 2017 Drexel study and a member of the task force, said in a statement.

 

Environmental benefits of upcycled food UPCYCLED FOOD ASSOCIATION

Another task force member, Emily Broad Leib, clinical professor of law, director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, and deputy director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, said in a statement that scaling up the use of upcycled foods would help make the food supply chain more efficient and resilient. “This upcycled foods definition serves as a strong starting place to help businesses, consumers, and other users align around a common meaning and usage of the term.”

Later this year, the Upcycled Food Association will use its new definition as jumping-off point to develop a product certification program. To learn more about the definition of upcycling and the industry’s future, you can sign up for the association’s free public webinar on May 27. You can also find the full infographic and the task force’s report on the Upcycled Food Association’s website.

Emily Broad Leib talks Food Law and COVID-19

via Food Tank

Emily Broad Leib talks Food Law and COVID-19

Today on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Dani interviews Emily Broad Leib, Clinical Professor at Harvard Law School & Director of Harvard Law School’s Food Law & Policy Clinic, about protecting and promoting better wages for food workers in the COVID-19 crisis. “If part of what comes from this is that we realize all the people who are handling the food from the beginning on the farm to the end of the chain are really vital. We need to treat them better, pay them better, give them benefits,” says Broad Leib. 

You can listen to “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” on Apple iTunesStitcherGoogle Play MusicSpotify, or wherever you consume your podcasts. While you’re listening, subscribe, rate, and review the show; it would mean the world to us to have your feedback.

Emily Broad Leib named clinical professor of law

via Harvard Law Today

photo of Emily Broad Leib sitting on a rock bench in front of a grass lawn

credit: Jessica Scranton

Emily Broad Leib ’08, founder and director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, has been named clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School. She was formerly an assistant clinical professor at HLS.

A national leader in food law and policy, Broad Leib founded the first food law and policy clinic in the country at Harvard Law School. She has used her position to advocate for improvements to the laws and policies that govern America’s food system, including in the area of food waste. She also serves as deputy director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation.

“Emily Broad Leib is a superb teacher and is internationally respected for her groundbreaking work on food law and policy,” said John F. Manning ’85, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean of Harvard Law School. “Through her commitment, intellectual leadership, and teaching, she has inspired countless students and attorneys to pursue options within the legal system to improve the food system and enhance the well-being of others.”

“I am humbled by my promotion to clinical professor, and full of gratitude at the opportunity to continue working alongside the committed and inspiring faculty, staff, and students of the HLS community. It has been a pleasure to make my home at such a supportive institution that has provided the resources and vision for me to build the first clinic in food law and policy, to develop opportunities for students to learn and participate in the vital field of food law, and to see the impact the Food Law and Policy Clinic has had and will continue to have on policies that impact the environment, health, and social justice,” Broad Leib said.

Broad Leib joined HLS’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation in 2010 as a senior clinical fellow. The following year, in 2011, she founded the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), which provides legal advice to nonprofits and government agencies, while educating law students about ways to use law and policy to impact the food system.

Broad Leib focuses her scholarship, teaching, and practice on finding solutions to some of today’s biggest food law issues, aiming to increase access to healthy foods, eliminate food waste, and support sustainable food production. She has published scholarly articles in the California Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, the Harvard Law & Policy Review, and the Food & Drug Law Journal, among others.

In 2015, she was an inaugural recipient of Harvard University’s Climate Change Solutions Fund. Her project “Reducing Food Waste as a Key to Addressing Climate Change,” was one of seven chosen from around the university to confront the challenge of climate change by leveraging the clinic’s food law and policy expertise to identify systemic solutions to reduce food waste, which is a major driver of climate change.

Under Broad Leib’s direction, FLPC has been advocating for the standardization of date labels since the release of its 2013 report “The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America.” FLPC has also worked with members of Congress on legislation to reform the expiration date system, and Broad Leib testified for Congress on date labels and other areas of federal policy that impact the amount of food that goes to waste. She led work with the two largest food trade associations to implement a voluntary standard for date labels, which will go into effect this year. Last summer, the clinic released a follow up issue brief “Date Labels: The Case for Federal Action.”

Beyond date labels, Broad Leib has led the clinic in supporting food producers, businesses, and government agencies in understanding and improving laws relevant to food waste and food recovery. The clinic’s work has included consulting to government agencies and legislators at the federal level and in nearly two dozen states, and publication of scores of policy reports and toolkits, including Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill (2017) and Food Safety Regulations and Guidance for Food Donations: a 50-State Survey of State Practices (2018) and a number of resources to support states and localities in addressing food waste through policy, including “Bans and Beyond: Designing and Implementing Organic Waste Bans and Mandatory Organics Recycling Laws” (2019) and “Keeping Food Out of the Landfill” (2016).

Drawing on this expertise, in 2019, Broad Leib launched the Global Food Donation Policy Atlas project, through which she and clinic staff and students are partnering with local food donation agencies in fifteen countries around the globe to compare and analyze the laws relevant to food donation, and make recommendations for best practices that can help more safe, wholesome food make it to those in need.

In 2016, she was named by Fortune and Food & Wine to their list of 2016’s Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink. Her groundbreaking work has been covered in such media outlets as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, The Guardian, TIME, Politico, and the Washington Post. She has appeared on CBS This Morning, CNN, The Today Show, and MSNBC.

In 2016, Broad Leib partnered with colleagues around the country to found the Academy of Food Law and Policy, the first-ever academic association for the growing number of faculty and scholars teaching and writing in the field of food law and policy. She served as the founding co-chair of the Academy’s Board of Trustees from 2016 to 2019.

After graduating from HLS, Broad Leib spent two years in Clarksdale, Mississippi, as the Joint Harvard Law School/Mississippi State University Delta Fellow. She directed the Delta Directions Consortium, a group of university and foundation leaders who collaborate to improve public health and foster economic development in the Delta region. In that role, she worked with community members and outside partners, and with support from more than 60 HLS students, to design and implement programmatic and policy interventions on a range of critical health and economic issues in the region.

Broad Leib’s fellowship work in Mississippi inspired the Mississippi Delta Project, a student practice organization at HLS that provides opportunities for current students to continue advocating for similar issues in the Mississippi Delta region. Broad Leib continues to support that organization as the faculty supervisor. She is also the faculty supervisor for the Harvard Law School Food Law Society.

In 2013, she was appointed deputy director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation. In 2015, she was named an assistant clinical professor of law.

Broad Leib received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and her B.A. from Columbia University.

Food as medicine: Massachusetts bill would give Medicaid recipients fresh food and grocery money

via The New Food Economy

by Jessica Foo

 

Massachusetts lawmakers want to know: What happens when Medicaid recipients get healthy food as part of their healthcare?

The answer might sound obvious and even tautological—newsflash: healthy eating makes people healthier—but Democratic state senator Julian Cyr and house representative Denise Garlick want details. So this week they introduced a first-of-its-kind bill that would establish a pilot program to give individualized nutrition services—including meals, groceries, or grocery money—to residents enrolled in Medicaid and then measure the impact of doing so on people’s well-being and the state’s bottom line.

“If you look at the amount of dollars that we spend on healthcare in Massachusetts, we spent over $60 billion last year,” Cyr said in a phone interview, referring to a finding in a recent state report on the expenditures through Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance.

MassHealth, the state- and federally funded Medicaid program that provides health insurance to low-income Massachusetts residents, spent $17 billion on health care in 2018. The program has varying eligibility thresholds for residents, based on factors including age, disability, and family size. A family of four must earn under $34,248 per year to qualify.

Before becoming a legislator, Cyr worked at the state department of public health. Inspired by the local food initiatives taking hold in his district, which includes Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, he says he wanted to know how centering nutrition in the healthcare system would affect people statewide. He teamed up with Rep. Garlick, who also has a background in nursing and public health, to sponsor the legislation in the house. (Garlick didn’t respond to requests for comment.)

Food as medicine is an age-old idea—some people speculate that Greek physician Hippocrates was a proponent of the approach—that has gained popularity in the American medical system in recent years. Today, plenty of localities fund programs to give food stamp users with specific health needs money to spend at farmers’ markets. A California hospital is piloting a program that places doctors in grocery stores to guide shoppers towards healthier purchases. And the state of California itself is currently experimenting with delivering pre-made meals to people with congestive heart failure.

Plenty of localities fund programs to give food stamp users with specific health needs money to spend at farmers’ markets.

These examples illuminate the wide scope that medically tailored nutrition can encompass. The proposed pilot program in Massachusetts would include all of the following: pre-made meals, pre-selected groceries, and money for nutritious foods. The range speaks to the various and specific needs that patients have. For example, people with relatively severe health issues, such as congestive heart failure, type 2 diabetes, and kidney disease, might receive pre-made meals delivered to their homes, while those with high blood pressure or pre-diabetes might get subsidies to use at the grocery store.

“There are different populations that are in need of different nutrition interventions,” explains Sarah Downer, an associate director and law instructor at Harvard Law School’s health law and policy clinic. She says that pre-made and delivery meals “are really for people who have […] trouble shopping and cooking for themselves—it’s not the right nutrition intervention for everyone.”

“This [pilot program] would look at the efficacy of a suite of those services, the ability to triage individuals and find the correct service for them, link them to it, and then see what the impact is on utilization and costs across the board.”

Pre-made and delivered meals were correlated to a halving of inpatient hospital admissions and a 16 percent reduction in health care costs.

Downer led the research team that recently published a comprehensive report on the potential benefits that food can have on the Massachusetts health care system, which in turn informed the development of this proposed legislation. The report highlighted a range of findings linking nutrition with health. In a 2019 study of over 1,000 participants, for example, pre-made and delivered meals were correlated to a halving of inpatient hospital admissions and a 16 percent reduction in health care costs.

The exact details of the pilot program still need to be hammered out. As it stands, implementation would be guided by a commission of public health officials, medical experts, and representatives of nonprofit health care organizations. By incorporating nutrition into the daily lives of MassHealth recipients, the state—which devoted nearly a quarter of its budget to the program last year—also stands to benefit economically.

As mentioned above, it feels increasingly redundant to spout how healthy eating can benefit health. Massachusetts lawmakers appear to have decided that it’s time to calculate just how valuable that benefit is.

Harvard Group Recommends Increased Nutrition Education For Doctors

Via Forbes
By Tommy Tobin

Many chronic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, are related to diet and nutrition. Although many diet-related diseases are highly correlated with poor health outcomes, U.S.-trained doctors receive little or no training in nutrition. A new report published last week by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (“FLPC”) aims to address this knowledge gap by recommending increased nutrition education in undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical training.

With its report, Doctoring Our Diet: Policy Tools to Include Nutrition in U.S. Medical Training, Harvard’s FLPC focused on integrating “nutrition as an essential component of U.S. medical education” and allowing doctors “to support better outcomes for individual patients and to address the most common and costly health risks facing our country.”

Unfortunately, there is a lack of attention to nutrition education in medical training. As one recent headline put it, “[y]our doctor may not be the best source of nutrition advice.” Other researchers writing in a medical journal were less reserved: “It cannot be a realistic expectation for physicians to effectively address obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hospital malnutrition, and many other conditions as long as they are not taught during medical school and residency training how to recognize and treat the nutritional root causes.”

The authors of the Harvard FLPC report identified several medical education stages in which to increase nutrition training and recommended policy mechanisms to address the lack of nutrition training:

  •  For undergraduate medical education, amending accreditation standards to require nutrition training and offering additional grant funding to create nutrition education programming.
  •  For graduate medical education and board certifications, requiring nutrition education in medical schools and incorporating nutrition-related questions in required examinations.
  • After formal medical education, states should integrate nutrition education into continuing education and require—or strongly encourage—physicians to take nutrition education courses as part of maintaining their license.

The report’s authors note that “increased nutrition education for doctors at every stage of their career can ultimately improve outcomes for individual patients, advance population health, and change the healthcare landscape for the better.”

The FLPC report’s publication comes during a dust-up within nutrition science concerning a recent article in the Annals of Internal Medicine on guideline recommendations for meat in consumer diets. According to the New York Times, the article and its associated guidelines “raise uncomfortable questions about dietary advice and nutritional research, and what sort of standards these studies should be held to,” and has faced substantial criticism from public health advocates. It is possible that the increased funding and training in nutrition recommended in the FLPC report could encourage further medical research into nutrition and its role in disease prevention and mitigation.

Given the important association between diet and nutrition and many chronic health conditions, the FLPC report makes considerable sense. Time will tell how palatable the authors’ recommendations are for the relevant decision-makers.

FLPC Releases Report Calling for Greater Nutrition Education in the Medical Field

Via CHLPI Blog

Source: Food Law and Policy Clinic

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) released a new report today identifying policy approaches to increase nutrition competency of U.S-trained physicians. Doctoring Our Diets: Policy Tools to Include Nutrition in U.S. Medical Training highlights the current lack of education on diet-related diseases and nutrition that doctors receive over the course of their medical careers. The report illustrates the impact of this knowledge-gap on healthcare costs and patient health, and provides a number of recommendations for federal, state, and non-governmental policymakers to tackle this issue.

Diet is the most significant risk factor for disability and premature death in the United States, and diet-related diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes affect an unprecedented number of Americans. Patients turn to doctors for advice on how to avoid or mitigate these and other health risks arising from poor diet and nutrition. Yet, unbeknownst to patients, many doctors are no more equipped to provide this advice than patients themselves: an average medical student spends less than one percent of total classroom hours learning about food and nutrition, and seventy-three percent of physicians reported that they received no or minimal instruction on nutrition during their medical training. This gap in medical education not only represents a violation of the public trust but a missed opportunity to invest in better population health.

To bridge this divide, Doctoring Our Diet calls for relevant policymakers to take action, recommending specific policy solutions applicable at each stage of medical education. For example, policymakers can condition non-grant funding on the inclusion of nutrition education in medical school programs and residency programs, offer performance-based incentives to medical schools and residency programs that provide a baseline amount of nutrition education, and amend accreditation standards to require baseline competency in nutrition. For each recommendation, the report features a brief feasibility analysis, addressing the benefits and potential challenges associated with implementation.

As one example of the types of policies recommended in Doctoring Our Diet, the report shines a special spotlight on the government’s failure to use existing Medicare funding of GME programs to leverage nutrition education for doctors. Medicare is the single largest contributor of graduate medical education (GME) in the United States, providing $16 billion in 2015. At the same time, Medicare spending accounts for nearly 15 percent of all federal spending. As the prevalence of preventable, but costly, diet-related diseases continues to rise, so too will this percentage: over the next 10 years, Medicare spending is expected to increase from $630 billion to a projected $1.3 trillion—or more than 18% of the federal budget. Doctoring Our Diet explains that requiring Medicare-funded GME programs to educate physicians on nutrition is a logical and necessary approach to mitigating diet-related diseases and saving healthcare costs in the long-term.

This report is a product of FLPC’s ongoing involvement with the Nutrition Education Working Group (NEWG), a group of leaders in nutrition science, education and policy from FLPC, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and the Gaples Institute for Integrative Cardiology. FLPC has collaborated with NEWG to raise awareness about the lack of nutrition education provided in medical training, presenting the issue to policymakers, writing comments to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), and working with various medical boards to add nutrition-focused questions to exams. This initiative represents the latest effort in FLPC’s ongoing commitment to policy development at the intersection of food and health.

Brighter Bites to participate in industry-first Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator

Via The Produce News

By: Rich Dachman

ReFED announced the cohort of 10 organizations that will participate in its Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator, which aims to catalyze ideas and inspire actions that lead to a doubling of healthy food available to the 40 million Americans facing food insecurity.

“Brighter Bites is grateful to ReFED for this incredible, game-changing opportunity to magnify our work converting food waste into a public health opportunity,” said Rich Dachman, chief executive officer at Brighter Bites. “We are excited to work alongside the nine other exceptional organizations comprising this cohort, as well as the accelerator’s world-class Expert Network. Our participation in this program will bolster Brighter Bites’ efforts to source more produce for families in a sustainable manner, all while combatting food insecurity and teaching healthier choices to the families we serve.”

More than 125 candidates applied for the accelerator. The selected cohort range from long-standing food recovery organizations with hundreds of employees servicing thousands of donors, to newly formed innovative organizations that leverage concepts from the sharing economy and apply them to food rescue. What unites them is the desire to work together on a shared mission — to become operationally sustainable and deliver more impact at scale in a dignified and convenient way.

“The accelerator’s nationwide open call for applications confirmed ReFED’s hypothesis that this type of program will provide value in the form of helping food recovery organizations overcome some of the biggest barriers to increasing the amount of nutritious food they can deliver in a dignified manner,” said Alexandria Coari, director of capital and innovation at ReFED. “Some of these barriers include funding models dependent on grants versus earned revenue, a reliance on volunteers instead of paid staff, underutilization of technology solutions, and a lack of collaboration and best practice sharing across the sector. These are just a few of the topics we’ll tackle throughout the accelerator.” The accelerator’s one-of-a-kind, highly customized curriculum will combine a virtual classroom with in-person ReFED Learning Labs that focus on co-creating earned revenue models and technology-enabled solutions using human-centered design.

“Growing awareness about the scale of senseless food waste in this country has catalyzed existing organizations to innovate their paradigms and inspired energetic entrepreneurs to launch creative new models that use this surplus food as a resource,” said Emily Broad Leib, assistant clinical professor of law and director of the Harvard Law School Food Law & Policy Clinic. “As an Expert Network member, it has been incredible to see the response to ReFED’s Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator, which will build the needed network and resources for these innovators. I am excited about the announcement of the 2019 cohort, and cannot wait to see them take the next steps to address this major societal issue of our era.”

In addition to Brighter Bites, the other members of the cohort for the first-ever Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator are 412 Food Rescue (Pittsburgh), Boston Area Gleaners (Waltham, MA), Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona (Nogales, AZ), Eat Greater Des Moines (Des Moines, IA), Philabundance (Philadelphia), Plentiful (New York City), Replate (Berkeley, CA), Rescuing Leftover Cuisine (New York City), and Seeds That Feed (Fayetteville, AR).

Each participating organization will receive $30,000, plus an additional $100,000 will be awarded to a selected winner at the end of the accelerator. In addition, organizations will have access to a world-class group of food business and technology executives, capital providers and subject matter experts who make up the accelerator’s Expert Network, which includes Afresh, Albertsons, Aramark, Baldor Specialty Foods, Blue Apron, Bon Appetit Management Co., CalRecycle, Center for EcoTechnology, Chick-fil-a, Cisco, Claneil Foundation, ClimateWorks Foundation, Closed Loop Partners, Compass, DoorDash, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, EPA, Fast Forward, FDA, Feeding America, Fink Family Foundation, Food Donation Connection, Food for Soul, FoodMaven, General Mills, GoodR, Harvard Law School Food Law & Policy Clinic, HelloFresh, Imperfect Produce, Nestle, Next Course LLC, Ovio, Pisces Foundation, Posner Foundation, Rabobank, Sodexo, Spoiler Alert, Starbucks, Taylor Farms, The Ajana Foundation, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Wonderful Company, Tyson Foods, USDA, Village Capital, Wells Fargo, Whole Foods Market and World Wildlife Fund.

FLPC Welcomes New Team Member Emma Scott

Via CHLPI Blog 

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) welcomes Emma Scott to the team as a Clinical Instructor!

Emma joined the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic in August 2019 as a Clinical Instructor. Her work currently focuses on FPLC’s Sustainable and Equitable Food Production Initiative and the Clinic’s ongoing projects in the Mississippi Delta.

Prior to joining FLPC, Emma served as a Justice Catalyst Fellow at California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation in the Labor and Civil Rights Litigation Unit. At CRLAF, Emma’s practice focused on group representation of immigrant workers in employment and labor litigation, with an emphasis on farmworkers and the H-2A visa program.  Emma got to know FLPC as an HLS student through the Food Law and Policy Seminar, attending FLPC sponsored conferences, and serving as a Research Assistant to Prof. Emily Broad Leib.  Emma received her B.S. in Social Sciences, with a concentration in Cross-Cultural Studies and International Development, from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, in 2010. She graduated from Harvard Law School, cum laude, in 2016. She then served as a law clerk to the Hon. John A. Mendez of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California from September 2016 to August 2018, assuming the position and responsibilities of Senior Law Clerk in her second year.  She is a licensed member of the California Bar.

Here’s how we solve the planet’s food waste problem

Via Grist

By: Maddie Stone

Celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott at the launch of the campaign “Love Food, Hate Waste,” which found that the UK is throwing away a third of all food bought in the country. Source: David Parry, PA Images via Getty Images

Earlier this month, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a dire report highlighting the enormous environmental impact of agriculture. But the report also pointed to a clear way for us to feed more mouths without causing more planetary destruction: We can stop wasting food.

Globally, we humans squander up to a third of the food we produce, according to the U.N. We leave it to rot in fields and refrigerators. We cull it because it’s too ugly to sell. We stack it in overflowing supermarket displays where some is inevitably squashed. All of this uneaten food required energy to produce; if food waste were its own country, it would have the third highest carbon footprint on Earth—right behind China and the U.S. and just ahead of India. That’s a harsh reality in a world where 821 million people don’t have enough to eat.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. We can streamline the supply chain to reduce spoiled and lost food, and we can change the way we eat at home. Already, simple technologies like better storage bags, are making a big difference, and wonkier solutions like national policies that standardize food labels are in the works.

To eat or not to eat

In wealthier countries, the biggest food-waste culprit is easier to pinpoint: It’s us.

In the U.S., individuals throw away some 27 million tons of food a year, amounting to 43 percent of all food waste nationwide. In the UK, household waste accounts for 70 percent of losses beyond the farm.

Trashing food happens for many reasons: We buy too much. We don’t use it in time. We forget to eat the leftovers. To Liz Goodwin, director of Food Loss and Waste at the World Resources Institute, it all boils down to the fact that food is now a throwaway item. “We know we can get more, so it doesn’t really matter,” she said.

Raising awareness that food waste does matter can work. The UK’s “Love Food Hate Waste” initiative, which Goodwin described as “the single best-evaluated campaign there is,” led to a 20 percent reduction in household food waste between 2007 and 2012, she said.

Somewhat surprisingly, meal kits can also help reduce waste. A recent study by Miller’s team in Michigan showed that meals prepared from Blue Apron recipes resulted in one-third less carbon emissions on average than the same meals prepared from grocery store ingredients. The difference was largely due to the fact that the kit portioned ingredients very carefully, resulting in less wasted food — which more than compensated for the climate impact of all the extra packaging.

“We have this great understanding of plastic and packaging waste as major environmental impacts, but for whatever reason we don’t have that same idea associated with food,” Miller said.

Standardizing date labels could also make a difference. They became common in the 1970s as a marker of food quality, but many of us today wrongly assume that once the “sell by” date has passed, the food’s spoiled. In fact, these dates are often a manufacturer’s arbitrary estimate of when the food will taste most fresh — and different states have different standards. The result is we throw out loads of food that’s still fine to eat, according to Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law School Food and Policy Clinic.

Read more.

Home Cooking for Profit? Sure, Just Not in New Jersey

Via NYT

By: Amelia Nierenberg

Source: Jeenah Moon, NYT

FRANKLIN, N.J. — With just a little white chocolate and some sprinkles, Heather Russinko can make a wedding gown in under seven minutes. Give her five minutes more, and she can dress a groom, too. Three buttons, a bow tie, and a tuxedo swell over a round white chest.

Ms. Russinko uses dips and drips instead of pins and pleats to outfit the couple, who are cake pops, lollipop-size pastries made of batter and frosting. She has made beach-themed pops for a Sweet Sixteen party and lopsided, whimsical monsters with googly eyes for Halloween.

“If I could sell these at a Starbucks price, at $2.75 a piece? That’s his college,” said Ms. Russinko, 40, speaking of her 16-year-old son. “I want to be able to say, ‘O.K., Jared, you can go to college. Go ahead. You need money for books? Yeah, I have that right here for you.’”

But she lives in New Jersey, the only state where it remains illegal to sell homemade foods for profit, so she can only give away her creations or donate them to bake sales. If she tried to sell them, she could be fined up to $1,000. Every other state has dropped such restrictions.

“There’s this rogue law standing in my way and preventing me from earning an income,” said Ms. Russinko, one of three named plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Health. “It’s not like I am out there trying to sell drugs or do anything illegal. It’s a cookie. Or in my case, a cake pop.”

New Jersey’s sanitary code, like most states’, is derived from federal food laws based on a 1906 act; these codes have long excluded home kitchens from the definition of retail food establishments.

But one by one, states have eased those limits or enacted so-called cottage food laws, which allow the sale of homemade foods like breads, granola, dried herbs and jams. Many of these laws set a cap on annual gross sales and require that home kitchens pass safety inspections.

In just the last decade, 19 states and the District of Columbia have moved to allow sales of homemade foods, said Emily Broad Leib, the director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and a lead author of an August 2018 report that documented a “dramatic increase in small-scale food production” nationwide.

Read more.

Island embraces Food Is Medicine state plan

Via MV Times 

By: Brittany Bowker

Courtesy of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

If nutritious food prevents chronic disease and promotes long-term health, why shouldn’t it be included in our healthcare plans? That’s the notion behind Food Is Medicine, a Massachusetts coalition dedicated to increasing access to vital nutrition services for every community in the commonwealth.

The coalition, which stems from a team at the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School, launched June 18, and aims to connect food and nutrition with health and wellness, as well as legislative policy. On Monday, representatives from Food Is Medicine met Island stakeholders at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital (MVH) to discuss goals, ideas, and initiatives.

“Food and nutrition are at the cornerstone of health and wellness,” said hospital CEO Denise Schepici to a group of about 30 gathered over lunch in the hospital’s community room. Representatives from Island Grown Initiative (IGI), the hospital, Island Health Care (IHC), Family Planning, Social Services, Elder Services, and the Island Food Pantry, among other invested community members, attended.

According to a study from the Greater Boston Food Bank and Children’s HealthWatch, food insecurity costs the state $1.9 billion in annual healthcare costs.

“The cost of the healthcare system increases as severity of food insecurity increases,” said Sarah Downer, primary author of the Food Is Medicine state plan. “If someone is in the hospital and they’re malnourished, it’s going to be more expensive to the system … We want to explore what role the healthcare system plays when it interacts with the food system.”

The Food Is Medicine coalition came up with four intervention initiatives:

    • Medically tailored meals designed by a registered dietitian to respond to a specific medical condition.
    • Medically tailored groceries, a package of nonprepared grocery items selected by a registered dietitian as part of a treatment program. The recipient is usually capable of picking up the food and preparing it at home.
  • Produce prescription/voucher programs for free or discounted produce distributed by healthcare providers to address a specific health condition. Redeemable at retail grocery stores, farmers markets, or CSA (community-supported agriculture) programs.
  • Population-level healthy food programs, where antihunger programs partner with healthcare providers to distribute healthy food to any patient regardless of health status.

The hospital and IHC, along with health providers across Massachusetts, have begun adopting these initiatives. The hospital has rolled out two food insecurity primary-care screening questionnaires developed by Hunger VitalSign and Children’s HealthWatch to identify young children and families who may need assistance, with inquiries like these:

  • Within the past 12 months, we worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more.
  • Within the past 12 months, the food we bought just didn’t last, and we didn’t have money to buy more.

“People are more frank when asked to answer a questionnaire,” said Aletheia Donahue, primary-care physician at MVH. “It’s an effective, validated screening tool where we can get data and compare it with other institutions.”

IHC is rolling out a similar screening questionnaire for all social determinants of health, according to Kathleen Samways, chief quality officer at IHC. “We know we have something really big to tackle,” Samways said.

Just this week, IHC launched a produce prescription pilot in partnership with IGI. Six chosen patients will receive free locally grown produce and free cooking classes.

“We’ll start getting a sense for the way these programs can influence blood pressure, weight, and shopping habits,” said Noli Taylor, community food education director at IGI.

“Patient profiles show the need is huge,” said IHC nurse practitioner Marcia Denine.

Food Is Medicine is also focused on getting food access resources ingrained in statewide healthcare systems. “We want to make sure healthcare providers are equipped with all the information they need to screen a patient for food insecurity,” Downers said. “It would be ingrained in the system. There would always be something in the community for the patient to be referred to.”

Taylor gave an overview of the existing food-equity services on Martha’s Vineyard. Among them are the Food Equity Network, a group of over 22 organizations focused on tackling food equity issues on the Island. There’s the Island Food Pantry, which doubled its number of clients between 2017 and 2018, and is seeing a 30 to 80 percent monthly increase in 2019, according to Island Food Pantry executive director Kayte Morris. The Island also has robust SNAP, WIC, and HIPservices. According to Taylor, more than 600 Islanders utilize SNAP, which represents a fraction of individuals who could sign up for those services. “More outreach and coordination are necessary, and I’m looking forward to being a part of that,” said Eve Gates of Dukes County Social Services.

The Island clergy are another robust food and grocery voucher distributor. Mandi Moran of the Good Shepherd Parish said they distributed 75,000 pounds of food in one year. There’s a food resource hotline, 508-693-7900, ext. 410, launched by Martha’s Vineyard Community Services in partnership with IGI. IGI’s gleaning program has collected and redistributed 25,000 pounds of produce from local farms, and 1,000 pounds of produce from grocery stores. IGI also has a processed-food programand a partnership with Kitchen Porch Catering to prepare and freeze food to make it easier for Islanders to eat. IGI is expanding its processing program with Camp Jabberwocky this winter. IGI also offers a free lunch program, and a year-round Mobile Market.

“Even though so many of us are working on this, we know we’re not reaching everyone,” Taylor said. “We’re excited to be working with the hospital and health center. Together we can have a stronger food-equity support structure, and our programs will be more impactful.”

“The hospital is committed to being a ‘Food Is Medicine’ leader,” Donahue added.

Food Is Medicine is working closely with state policy and legislation. “We’re in the business of making sure we’re on the agenda,” Downer said. Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, was supposed to appear at Monday’s gathering, but had a prior engagement. Cyr, who represents the Island in the state Senate, has been instrumental in getting Food Is Medicine through to policymakers, according to Downer. “In the healthcare legal and policy world, it’s hard to get people to pay attention until you have studies,” Downer said. “We now have bodies of emerging research showing things we’ve been witnessing.”

“This is all very heartening to me,” IGI executive director Rebecca Haag concluded. “The only way we start making a difference is if we collaborate and cooperate — just sharing information. Let’s get back together in a year and see how far we’ve come.”

Representatives Pingree and Newhouse Introduce Legislation to Standardize Food Date Labels

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Last week, Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced the Food Date Labeling Act of 2019 (H.R. 3981), federal legislation to standardize date labels on food products. The Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) enthusiastically supports this legislation, which will reduce consumer confusion and food waste.

40% of food in the U.S. goes to waste each year, and confusion over date labels is a significant contributor to food waste. Currently, date labels are not regulated at the federal level. In the absence of federal legislation, manufacturers use a dizzying variety of date labeling phrases, most of which are meant to communicate when food will be at its peak quantity. However, many consumers misinterpret these date labels to be indicators of food safety, leading them to throw out food prematurely. Moreover, states have developed their own date labeling requirements, resulting in a patchwork system of inconsistent state laws.

FLPC has championed federal legislation to standardize date labels and alleviate this confusion since 2013 when we released our report, The Dating Game, in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). According to ReFED, standardizing date labels is the most cost effective solution to food waste.

Legislation to standardize date labels was first introduced in 2016, when Representative Pingree and Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced the Food Date Labeling Act of 2016. Date label standardization was also proposed in the Food Recovery Act of 2017. The Food Date Labeling Act of 2019 builds on these previous legislative efforts with changes that make the standards more flexible for food labelers.

Under the new legislation, manufacturers or retailers may choose whether or not to use date labels on food products. However, if they choose to use a date label, they must use one of two prescribed phrases. This gives industry the freedom to decide whether or not to use date labels on their products but still ensures that labeling language is consistent on food products across the country. If a labeler wishes to indicate a food’s peak quality, the labeler must use the phrase “Best if Used By.” If a labeler wishes to communicate when a food should be discarded for safety, the labeler must use the phrase “Use By.” These phrases are consistent with voluntary date labeling initiatives developed in recent years (discussed below), and a national survey shows that most consumers understand these phrases to convey quality and safety.

This legislation will address the current patchwork system of state-level date labeling laws by pre-empting any state labeling regulations that require alternative date labeling language. The legislation also bars any state-level prohibitions on the donation of past date food based on a quality date. This will help ensure that wholesome food can be donated to food rescue organizations. Finally, the legislation requires the creation of a national consumer education campaign to inform consumers about the meaning of the new standard labeling language.

In recent years, federal agencies and industry leaders have taken important steps towards standard date labeling language. On May 23rd of this year, the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, Frank Yiannas, penned an open letter to the food industry encouraging the adoption of the standard term “Best if Used by” for quality dates on food products. This FDA recommendation mirrors USDA’s 2016 revised guidance, which similarly encourages the use of the phrase “Best if Used by” to indicate quality. Two years ago, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) launched the Product Code Dating Initiative, a voluntary call to the industry to adopt standardized quality and discard date phrases. Federal legislation will bolster the success of these existing initiatives and allow for complete uniformity nationwide.

With so much recent momentum in support of standardized date labels, the time is now to pass legislation to establish a uniform national system. FLPC is pleased to support this bill, which will alleviate confusion over date labels and ensure that more safe, wholesome food gets eaten.

To follow the status of the legislation, click here. For Representative Pingree’s press release, see here.

FLPC Welcomes New Team Member Melissa Shapiro

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy

Melissa Shapiro

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) welcomes Melissa Shapiro to the team as a Clinical Instructor!

Melissa joined the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic in July 2019 as a Clinical Instructor.

Immediately prior to coming to FLPC, Melissa served as a consultant to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, working with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to increase the visibility of the right to food mandate, and as an Attorney-Advisor with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of General Counsel. Melissa received her J.D. and Master of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School in 2016, where she led the Food and Agricultural Law Society and worked with Hunger Free Vermont as a Schweitzer Fellow. Melissa received her B.A. in Human Ecology from Middlebury College in 2013. She is a licensed member of the bar of the State of New York.

FLPC Clinic Director Emily Broad Leib to be Featured in New Food Waste Documentary

Via Forbes

Food Law and Policy Clinic Director and Assistant Clinical Professor of Law Emily Broad Leib is one of six experts in food law that will be featured in a new documentary titled, “Robin Hoods of the Waste Stream.” The film will look into scalable solutions to the problem of food waste through interviews with a large cast of leading crusaders including Tristram Stuart, “the godfather of the food waste movement”, food waste warrior Dana Gunders, and Ben Simon of Imperfect Produce.

Read more about the documentary here.

FLPC Releases Organic Waste Bans Toolkit

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and the Center for EcoTechnology released a new toolkit today on state and local organic waste bans, policies that restrict the amount of food or organic waste that can be sent to landfills. Bans and Beyond: Designing and Implementing Organic Waste Bans and Mandatory Organics Recycling Laws serves as a resource for state and local policymakers, regulators, and advocates interested in policy solutions to reduce food waste and keep food out of landfills.

40% of the food in the United States goes uneaten. The challenge of food waste has significant impacts on the economy, food insecurity, and the environment. Not only does this wasted food require a significant amount of water and energy to produce, but most of it ends up in landfills, where it breaks down and generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. And now, cities and states are facing an additional barrier: they are running out of space to store trash.

In recent years, state and local governments have explored policies to reduce food waste. Organic waste bans are one of the most innovative categories of policies. By restricting the amount of food waste that businesses and even individuals can dispose of in landfills, organic waste bans can drive adoption of more sustainable practices. Cost-benefit analyses have shown the potential of organic waste bans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while stimulating local economies and creating green jobs. In Massachusetts, the state’s organic waste ban supported over 900 jobs in the organic waste hauling, processing, and food rescue industries in 2016 and generated $175 million in industry activity.

Bans and Beyond examines the legal landscape of existing state and local organic waste bans. This landscape is constantly evolving:  six states and seven municipalities across the country have now passed organic waste bans, and three of these policies passed within the last year. The toolkit analyzes the structure of these different policies and the challenges that jurisdictions have faced in implementing them—for example, challenges with accessing funding, developing effective enforcement mechanisms, and building sufficient organics recycling infrastructure.

The toolkit also analyzes nine additional sets of policies and programs that can be implemented to incentivize waste reduction. These policies are essential to creating an environment where organic waste bans can succeed, and can also be effective policy tools to reduce food waste in states where an organic waste ban or recycling mandate may not be feasible. For example, states and localities can provide grant funding for food waste reduction, recovery, and recycling programs; revise permitting and zoning regulations to facilitate the development of composting facilities and anaerobic digesters; and implement “pay as you throw” systems that charge residents based on the amount of waste they throw out, in order to encourage residents to reduce their waste disposal and increase recycling and composting.

This toolkit builds on other resources FLPC has produced to support states and localities in addressing food waste through policy. FLPC’s 2016 toolkit, Keeping Food Out of the Landfill, offers an array of policy suggestions for reducing food waste, from strengthening food donation liability protections to offering tax incentives for food donors to implementing organic waste bans. Today’s toolkit builds on that with much more detail about organic waste bans.

With greater public attention on food waste, organic waste bans have become increasingly popular in the years since Keeping Food Out of the Landfill was published. Organic waste bans have the potential to transform waste management systems and drive food waste reduction, recovery, and recycling. FLPC hopes that Bans and Beyond will support state and local efforts to identify and advance organic waste management policies that are the best fit for the local context.

Read Bans and Beyond: Designing and Implementing Organic Waste Bans and Mandatory Organics Recycling Laws.

Amanda Kool On Solving America’s Rural Justice Gap

Via Law360 

By: RJ Vogt

Amanda Kool left her dream job at Harvard Law School to tackle America’s rural access to justice gap from Bracken County, Kentucky.

Amanda Kool remembers listening to her law school peers describe their “average middle class” backgrounds during icebreaker sessions at the beginning of her first year.

“My mom lived in the trailer park and my dad did transient farm work and other side businesses,” said Kool, who grew up in rural Kentucky. “I was like, wait, was that not middle class?”

The moment was just one of the many times Kool has noticed the rural-urban divide that permeates the legal community.

She knows the chasm well, having grown up and gone to college in Kentucky before attending law school at Northeastern University, working in the corporate sector at Nixon Peabody LLP and spending five years running the Community Enterprise Project, a clinical program at Harvard Law School.

While at Harvard, she helped shift the clinic’s focus from primarily serving tech startups to serving more small, local community enterprises that needed help with business, finance and other transactional legal matters.

The post also gave her the opportunity and the platform to research more about the access to justice gap that the rural-urban divide can exacerbate in places like her home state.

The research and the project combined to convince Kool to give up her “dream job” and go back to Kentucky, where she could have a greater impact.

Now, she and her family have traded city life for a house and a yard in Bracken County, population 8,000, big-box retailers 0. As director of legal operations at the Lexington-based Commonwealth Commercialization Center, she’s applying her experiences in Boston to a statewide $1.2 million-plus project that aims to use Kentucky law schools to pair high quality legal services with local businesses.

She’s also helped start the Alliance for Lawyers and Rural America, an initiative geared toward facilitating conversations, ideas, information and resources at the intersection of law and rurality.

Law360 caught up with Kool at the Equal Justice Conference in May, hosted in Louisville by the American Bar Association and National Legal Aid and Defenders Association. She described how moving to rural America can be a key step in providing access to legal services where it’s needed most.

You’ve said your new project in Kentucky stems from some of the work you did at Harvard’s Community Enterprise Project. What’s the connection?

Back in the mid-’90s, Harvard Law School had put together a program called the Community Enterprise Project to help people start small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

It was located out in the community at the Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain, but in the late 2000s they brought it back to campus — in Harvard Square essentially. When I came on board in 2012, the Community Enterprise Project was rebranded as the Transactional Law Clinic. Instead of mom-and-pop businesses, low-income people, communities of color, immigrants … it was more high-tech startup types.

That work was really relevant to our students, who were going on to work at large firms in New York. But there was this entire other set of needs and people that wasn’t being served because we were no longer in those communities — and they were not getting onto train lines to come to us at campus.

I started to find these students who were social justice-minded and transactionally-minded. I started exploring more about worker cooperatives and community land trusts. We started going back to the community again: one day a week, and then it was two, and over time we built this program with a waiting list and a reputation.

What’s an example of one of the community projects that grew out of the law clinic?

The first one came along kind of organically: we called it the Food Truck Project. It was right after the city of Boston had permitted food trucks for the first time and said, you know, “we’d like to have more of these.” The city worked with Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and came up with a permitting regime.

And our clinic just naturally started seeing people saying, “I’m going to start a food truck, will you help me form an entity? Will you help me register my trademark?”

I said, well, these people have all of these other needs, too. They need to maybe finance the truck. They need to get the truck inspected. They need to have a relationship with the commissary kitchen.

What if we connected with all of those people and put together a toolkit and a training program that was like Food Trucks 101, with all the legal stuff you need to know in one place?

What made you think about going back to Kentucky?

There were certain hurdles. It’s really hard for me to help grow my clients’ business when someone just bought their building and wants to triple their rent, right? And because I come from here [Kentucky], I’m always thinking about what’s happening in other places — here, people are seeing things like falling property values as a bad thing. Where I was sitting, I saw it as an opportunity.

Secondly, I was working in a place where transactional legal services were available, basically, across the spectrum: there were clinics like mine, law firms getting involved, incubators … and I was looking at my home state of Kentucky and saying, “we have one pro bono transactional services provider in the entire state?”

And then, being at a law school, I had connected with a number of students at Harvard Law School, especially in the wake of the election, who were very catalyzed by the justice gap and access to justice. When you don’t have access to a system that works for you, you kind of pull away from that system and you no longer even see yourself as a part of it.

There was only so long I could sit in a place like Cambridge, Massachusetts, and say “people should go practice in rural places” before it was time for me to do it.

How is it different, doing what you do at the CCC in Kentucky as compared to what you did at Harvard, in Boston?

In the city, entrepreneurship is not necessarily economic development. Whereas in Kentucky, those things are much more closely aligned, which is why I’m attracted to it.

And when we talked about doing that as a state, it took me a matter of two to three months to be talking in person with the Kentucky Bar Association, with the people at law firms doing this work, with the heads of the three law schools, etc.

Within the first four months in my job, we were all sitting at the same table talking about how we work together as a state. There were three law schools talking about how they develop programming that all of their law students can enroll in and participate in together.

You can’t pull that off in other markets.

What would you say to other people who might consider working on access to justice in a rural area?

If you are a creative, innovative or proactive thinker, rural communities are for you. There’s so much room for really creative, exciting stuff to happen. You can’t invest in the city is as well as you can in rural places.

I loved Boston. I loved Harvard Law School — wouldn’t change a thing. But I’m so glad to be here. I’m not going anywhere.

Revolutionizing the food systems in Israel and U.S.

Via YNet News 

By: Sarah Vorsanger

Source: Pexels

Education is an essential way to make the general public aware of the food they are eating. School children in Israel are learning healthy, fun eating habits from an early age by growing their own vegetables in newly implemented school gardens and learning healthy recipes from older students that they can make with their parents at home.

Professor Emily Broad-Leib, Director, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard University was the keynote speaker at a lecture regarding food systems and strategies given at Tel Aviv University in May.

“This is the beginning of an opportunity to share ways the U.S. and Israel are similar and different in food strategies,” says Broad-Leib. The various initiatives to grow food in schools shows the “level of thoughtfulness and sophistication in Israel” that could be brought to the U.S., says Broad-Leib. These new programs have a long lasting societal impact on children in a way that shows them the need to make conscientious and healthy food based decisions.

Dr. Efrat Oron, the Director of Research & Outreach of the Manna Center Program for Food Safety and Security at Tel Aviv University, defines the food system as “the entire envelope from designing, producing, storing, packaging, distributing, consuming, and wasting of food.”

Maya Oren, Program Director of the Manna Center, adds that “to think of the food system in a circular way is a new concept that is only about 15 years old.”

Regulating the food systems

“From my time here, what I am seeing on food policy and matters, in general, is that there are more similarities than differences,” says Broad-Leib.

Growing environmental and health concerns are forcing us to change how we interact with our food system, but this comes with its own challenges. In the U.S., many government offices have different roles in the food system, but since they are isolated from one another, they lack communication, and their oversight is inconsistent and insufficient.

Israel has similar issues when it comes to communication. Oron explains that ministries should communicate and reach agreements together, however, they are not.

According to Professor Ronit Endevelt, Nutrition Division Manager of the Ministry of Health and lecturer in the School of Public Health at Haifa University, who was also presenting at the lecture, it takes a lot more time and work to pass new laws with today’s government.

Professor Nir Ohad, head of the Manna Center, explains that in Israel, “there are closer connections to agriculture since we evolved as an agricultural country. Agriculture is in the DNA of the society.” He adds that there is a “tight link between what we produce and what we eat.”

He notes that Israel’s food system is only independent when it comes to fruits and vegetables.

National food strategies

Israel, like the U.S., is a melting pot. However, according to Broad-Leib, the U.S. does not have a healthy, native cuisine that ties its people together as the Mediterranean diet does for Israelis. Therefore, it is harder to find common ground when explaining what Americans should and should not eat.

The National Nutrition Security Council under the Ministry of Welfare, works with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to collect food waste from the industry. The name of this council, according to Oren, is misleading.

“The scope is extremely limited since they are dealing with poorest people in Israel. Their focus is a very ‘now’ approach, which is not looking to solve food security. This is not a food systems approach,” she says.

There is not much oversight in the foods delivered in food baskets to those in need. While the basket provides overall sufficient dietary quality, Ohad, Oron, and Oren agree that the food baskets may not be the healthiest or culturally appropriate.

“This is where the Ministries of Health and Welfare butt heads,” say Oren and Oron.

Why do we care?

“Food is a powerful topic. Everyone has an opinion on food because everyone interacts with the food system on a daily basis,” says Broad-Leib.

There has been an increase in diabetes, obesity, and heart disease in both the U.S. and Israel. Trends in the U.S. show that as household income decreases, money spent on food increases.

In Israel, Endevelt attributes these health risks to the fact that families are not cooking. She also says that since the cost of fruits and vegetables has increased by 45% while ultra-processed foods are cheap, these unhealthy foods are the main nutritional problem in Israel.

Environmental impacts are also prevalent. Broad-Leib mentions that the agricultural industry uses 70-80% of the water in the U.S., while 20% of this water goes to watering crops that will eventually be thrown away.

Since a third of the greenhouse gases emitted in the U.S. comes from this industry, the third best way to reduce this is by cutting down on food waste. Right now 30-40% of food all food is wasted in both the U.S. and Israel.

Improvements to the food system

As Director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, Broad-Leib aims to make policy changes to the food system in the U.S. by educating law students on how to write legislature and providing legal advice for companies regarding food. She also launched the academy of food in law and policy.

During her time director, she and her students have helped farmers receive subsidies and support from the government as well as improve bills to reduce food waste.

“Last year’s U.S. Farm Bill had nine food waste provisions, and seven of those were written by us,” says Broad-Leib. “Policy takes time, but we have had a lot of success,” she added.

In Israel, an initiative recently passed that will implement healthy foods in schools starting next year. Endevelt explains that this was a difficult law to pass because all the food contracts had to be canceled. “These old contracts focused on food safety, but now they will also provide healthy food too,” she says.

Other recent initiatives include nutrition guidance and monitoring at Well Baby Clinic nationally, healthier options in vending machines at hospitals, and incentivizing Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) to provide nutritional education for selected groups.

In 2020, the Ministry of Health will put red stickers to all products in Israel that have a high amount of sugar, sodium, and/or saturated fats, and green stickers to healthier food options. Endevelt hopes that consumers will choose healthier products, and companies will change their recipes if their product has been given a red sticker.

What else should be done?

Since it is easy for people to turn a blind eye to the food that they eat, Broad-Leib encourages the use of media outlets to promote policies pertaining to the food system, whether it is about food waste or utilizing resources sustainably.

Sustainability is a necessity of the food system. “You can’t give someone advice on food without including this concept,” says Broad-Leib.

“If we don’t tend to a more sustainable food system (i.e., increased pay and livelihood of farmers and workers in the industry), more people will be food insecure in the future.”

“It is a challenge to integrate these kinds of programs because a decision has to be made where to impose an increase in the price of sustainable foods,” says Professor Dov Chernichosky, Chair of the Israeli National Nutrition Security Council.

FLPC Releases Issue Brief Calling for Federal Legislation to Standardize Date Labels

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) released an issue brief that outlines the need for federal legislation to standardize date labels on food products. Date Labels: The Case for Federal Action describes existing government and industry efforts to standardize date labels and presents the case for why federal action is needed.

40% of the food in the United States goes uneaten. This wasted food has significant impacts on the economy, food insecurity, and the environment. The majority of food waste happens in consumer homes and consumer-facing businesses, and confusion over date labels is a significant cause of food waste.

Federal law does not regulate the use of date labels on food products, with the exception of infant formula. In the absence of federal regulation, states have developed their own date labeling laws. 41 states require date labels on at least some food products, and 20 states prohibit or restrict the sale or donation of food past the labeled date. Even in states that require date labels, manufacturers have broad discretion over how the dates on foods are selected. Most date labels are indicators of quality; however, many consumers and businesses mistakenly believe they are indicators of food safety. According to a surveyconducted by FLPC, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and the National Consumers League, 84 percent of consumers at least occasionally discard food close to or past the date on its package, and one-third of consumers report they always do so.

Recognizing that confusion over date labels leads to unnecessary food waste, government and industry actors have made significant efforts in recent years to standardize date labeling language on food products. At the state level, eleven states introduced bills in the 2017-2018 legislation session that seek to standardize date labels or eliminate unnecessary date labeling requirements. On the industry side, the most significant industry action was the voluntary Product Code Dating Initiative, launched in 2017 by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). This initiative encourages manufacturers and retailers to use standard date labeling phrases on consumer-facing food packages to indicate quality and safety (read FLPC’s blog post about the initiative here). Most recently, FDA released a letter encouraging the food industry to use the phrase “Best if Used by” on food products to indicate quality. This is the same standard quality date phrase used by the Product Code Dating initiative.

These initiatives represent significant progress, but as the issue brief demonstrates, they are not sufficient to achieve standardization of date labels nationally. Due to the continuing patchwork of state date labeling laws, voluntary initiatives cannot fully cure inconsistent date labeling language. FLPC’s analysis found that the Product Code Dating Initiative conflicts with state laws in 27 states for at least one food product, meaning that manufacturers cannot use the voluntary standard in those states.

Moreover, state and industry initiatives cannot provide consistent education to consumers across the country. Because manufacturers cannot use the same date labeling language everywhere due to state laws, it remains difficult to educate consumers about what date labeling language means.

This issue brief demonstrates that federal legislation is necessary to achieve true standardization of date labels nationally. Federal legislation should require that manufacturers or retailers who choose to use date labels on foods use one of two prescribed labeling phrases: “BEST If Used By” to indicate quality, and “USE By” to indicate safety. These terms are consistent with the voluntary Product Code Dating Initiative. Federal legislation should also preempt state laws that ban the sale or donation of food past the quality date, and create a national consumer education campaign to inform the public about the meaning of these labeling terms.

FLPC has been advocating for the standardization of date labels since the release of its 2013 report, The Dating Game. We are pleased to see so much progress towards standardizing date labels at the state and industry level, but these efforts have limitations. As this issue brief demonstrates, it is time for a federally standardized date labeling system, and we look forward to working with federal and industry partners to develop such a system.

Read Date Labels: The Case for Federal Action.

Key Takeaways from Day Two of WasteExpo 2019

Waste 360’s recap of the second day of WasteExpo 2019 written by Cristina Commendatore, Mallory Szczepanski, and Arlene Karidis highlights a panel featuring Katie Sandson of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. This excerpt of the article reads: 

In a session called “Organic Waste Bans, Mandatory Organics Recycling Laws, and Related Strategies for Food Waste Management,” Katie Sandson of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation and Lorenzo Macaluso with the Center for EcoTechnology (CET) dove into what’s going on with the five states with food waste bans. They talked of a flurry of legislative activity suggesting more local governments may adopt similar policies. And they shed light on what’s entailed in setting up infrastructure to make a ban work.

The states that have some form of a food waste ban are California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont—and in 2022, New York will adopt a policy that includes a ban for some businesses. In the most recent legislative session, another 30 states had bills addressing food waste “so it’s on state policymakers’ minds,” Sandson told a captive crowd.

There are issues around developing infrastructure. And bans often present a chicken-and-egg scenario; no one wants to build capacity without guaranteed feedstock, but governments hesitate to take the policy plunge without knowing the waste will have a place to go.

The Food Law and Policy Clinic is releasing a toolkit in the next few weeks to help with some of the challenges, incorporating some ideas that came from speaking to states that have taken the lead.

One reality that became clear to Sandson and her colleagues is as new policy evolves, permitting requires more thought.

“Rhode Island revised its original permit regulations. It developed a permit structure with a tier system based on throughput. Those at the lower end of the tier have the least amount of obligations and risk. The more food waste, the stricter the permit regulations,” she said.

There can be back-and-forth conversations over multiple issues, as she pointed out New York, whose ban just passed late April.

“It’s been a long process,” she explained. “Among issues they needed to work out is a distance exemption [whereby generators beyond a certain distance from a processor do not have to participate.]”

Read the full article here.

Challenges and opportunities in organics recycling

Via Supermarket News

Source: Pixabay

Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council estimate that up to 40% of all food produced in the United States is lost or wasted every year. Meanwhile, Feeding America estimates that one out of every eight Americans, or more than 40 million people, is food-insecure (almost 13 million of whom are children). According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, each year consumers in wealthy countries allow almost as much food to go to waste (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).

While these statistics could make the most optimistic among us waver, there is cause for encouragement among the data.

Wednesday, April 24, is Stop Food Waste Day. Described as “a day of action and awareness to focus attention on the global epidemic of food waste and the solutions to combat the problem,” the goal behind this awareness campaign is to make individuals and businesses alike aware of their surplus food by not wasting anything for an entire day. This means everything from making a grocery list and taking it to the supermarket so you’re not tempted to pick something up that you don’t have a plan for, to making sure you chop up and serve every inch of a vegetable, to, of course, finishing everything on your plate.

Source reduction must come first

The greatest challenge and opportunity for food waste is source reduction. While composting is important — we’ll get into more details on this — when your business reduces the volume of food it produces or purchases in the first place, composting gets that much easier. This has the additional benefit of saving your business money.

The Food Recovery Hierarchy, developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is designed as an inverted pyramid that clearly prioritizes the different actions that a business or individual can take to ensure that they prevent and, when not preventable, convert, wasted food to its highest possible use.

With each tier of the Food Recovery Hierarchy focusing on a different strategy for managing food waste, this top-down approach shows that the highest tier in the food recovery pyramid is source reduction — the act of reducing the volume of surplus food being generated in the first place.

Food donation and animal feed

The second priority is food donation. Many grocers are generally very good at setting aside baked products and finding partners that can distribute these items to people in need. Donating fresh fruits and vegetables is more complicated, and even more difficult is getting perishable items such as meat, dairy and prepared foods to those who can use them. However, there are organizations that are well equipped to help with these surplus foods.

Animal feed programs and rendering are other examples of higher uses of wasted food. There can be challenges with finding local farmers who can provide reliable pickups, but, again, there are companies that make these programs efficient and manageable.

Organics is more than just food

Of course, organics recycling doesn’t only refer to food waste.

While discarded food takes up a large proportion of the organics recycling category — with this including everything from fruits and vegetables, to meats, poultry, and seafood (including bones and shells), to coffee grounds, egg shells and bakery ingredients — organics includes other organic materials, food-soiled paper, coffee filters and plant material such as leaves and stems.

While organics recycling includes much more than food waste, these programs typically have the same contamination challenges as mixed recycling (paper, plastics, metal and glass). Plus, separating food waste for collection has the added hindrance of being an unfamiliar experience, which holds back many individuals and organizations from trying it for the first time.

Organics recycling opportunities

While this may be a challenge to take up, it also presents an opportunity. Businesses can educate their employees, and themselves, on how to best deal with their wasted food and other organics to ensure they’re being separated correctly. If your waste and recycling partner doesn’t currently offer organics recycling, find out if another company can pick these materials up for you.

Technology can help to improve upon our current organics recycling efforts. For businesses looking to implement organics recycling programs either on a small scale, or across an international footprint, food waste reduction programs can first help you to uncover what you are discarding. With data that shows what is left, donation and organics recycling programs can be designed and implemented that keeps these useful resources out of the landfill.

Stop Food Waste Day is a reminder to all of us that the biggest opportunity in organics recycling, as in all other forms of recycling, is source reduction. The less we produce, the less we need to recycle. After that, we need to put in the work to make sure that we educate our employees, and ourselves, on why putting the food we produce toward a beneficial use is so important.

New Federal Interagency Strategy Provides Opportunity to Advance Food Waste Reduction Efforts

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy

Source: Pixabay

On Tuesday, April 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an exciting new interagency strategy to reduce food waste. As FLPC wrote in an earlier blog post, this strategy is the first time these agencies – or any federal agencies – have created a coordinated plan to attempt to reduce the 40% of food that goes to waste in the U.S.

The strategy identifies six priorities on which the three agencies will coordinate. This post outlines several actions that the federal agencies can take within these priority areas to maximize food waste reduction.

Priority Area 1: Enhance Interagency Coordination

The strategy’s first priority area calls for improved coordination between EPA, FDA, and USDA in order to maximize resources and avoid redundant efforts. FLPC has long advocated for improved interagency coordination on the issue of food waste. Food waste is often left out of the calculation when policies are developed simply because it is not on the radar of decision makers. Better coordination among agencies can ensure that measures to address food waste are included in relevant federal programs, such as conservation programs and food assistance programs.

FLPC has also been an advocate for enhanced coordination across the food system more broadly. In February 2017, FLPC and the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School published a report proposing a national food strategy that would require a coordinated approach to policymaking and regulation of the food system. We are pleased to see the federal agencies recognize the need for improved coordination and hope that their efforts around food waste can serve as a template for other areas of the food system.

Priority Area 2: Increase Consumer Education and Outreach Efforts

Recognizing that many consumers do not know about the issue of food waste, the second priority area proposes the development of a consumer education campaign by the federal agencies in partnership with public and private sector entities. According to ReFED, consumer education campaigns are one of the top two most cost-effective food waste solutions and have the greatest overall diversion potential at 584,000 tons. In the United Kingdom, a similar national education campaign led to a 21% reduction in consumer food waste over five years and had a 250 to 1 benefit-cost ratio.

Several national consumer education campaigns, such as the Save the Food campaign created by NRDC and the Ad Council, already exist in the U.S., as do various local, state, and regional campaigns. Federal government support can build on existing campaigns like Save the Food and utilize their research and materials to help ensure that the information is disseminated more widely and better incorporated into other relevant federal programs and materials.

Priority Area 3: Improve Coordination and Guidance on Food Loss and Waste Measurement

Priority Area 3 proposes enhanced coordination and guidance on food waste measurement in order to help refine food waste reduction goals and better report on progress. Data on food waste trends can help government entities, businesses, and other stakeholders identify the most effective solutions and track progress over time.

States and localities have been at the forefront of efforts to measure food loss and waste. For example, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, in partnership with Portland State University’s Community Environmental Services, is conducting a five-part Wasted Food Measurement Study that will look at the amount of food waste generated in the state and seek to identify drivers of food waste. In addition to coordinating among federal agencies and developing voluntary guidance on best practices, the federal government can advance food waste measurement efforts by providing funding to support state studies and initiatives to measure food waste.

Priority Area 4: Clarify and Communicate Information on Food Safety, Food Date Labels, and Food Donations

The fourth priority area seeks to reduce confusion by providing guidance on food date labels, food safety, and liability protections for food donation. Federal action to streamline and provide clarity on each of these topics is consistent with longstanding FLPC recommendations.

Date Labels

Confusing date labels result in unnecessary food waste among consumers and in the retail sector. Because of a lack of federal law standardizing date labels, date labeling language varies from state to state and across food products, and date labels generally have no relation to a food’s safety. Yet 84 percent of consumers report discarding food close to or past the date on its package. Federally-standardized date labels are the most cost-effective solution to food waste according to ReFED and have the potential to divert an estimated 398 thousand tons of food waste.

Important steps have been taken in recent years to reduce consumer confusion by encouraging the use of standard date labeling terms to indicate quality and safety. In particular, FLPC applauds USDA’s industry guidance, which encourages manufacturers to use the standard term “Best if Used by” to indicate product quality. We have also been excited to see industry action to standardize date labels, most notably the voluntary Product Code Dating Initiative. Launched in 2017 by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), this initiative encourages businesses to use only one of two standard phrases on any food product: “BEST if used by” for products where it is an indicator of quality, and “USE by” on products that may have a safety risk over time. However, due to conflicting state laws and the voluntary nature of this initiative, universal adoption of these voluntary standards cannot happen without federal action. Therefore, the federal agencies should work with Congress to support federal legislation to standardize date labels; alternatively, FDA and USDA can require the use of standard date labeling language on products within their jurisdiction through regulations. Once labels are standardized, the three agencies can work to educate consumers to make better decisions and waste less.

Liability Protections

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act provides strong liability protection to food donors and nonprofit organizations that distribute donated food. Yet many food retailers, restaurants, and manufacturers still cite liability as a barrier to food donation. The federal agencies can promote food donation by raising awareness of the liability protections available under the Emerson Act. Additionally, USDA can provide clarity on ambiguous terms in the Act by developing guidance on the scope of the available protections. These actions are consistent with provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill instructing USDA to create guidance on elements of the Emerson Act and to raise awareness of the liability protections provided by the Act. With the focus on this topic as part of the interagency food waste strategy, FLPC hopes to see agency action to clarify and raise awareness about this important protection so that donors are encouraged to donate safe, surplus food. We also hope that the agencies will support efforts to enhance Emerson Act protections to better align with the modern food recovery landscape, such as the Food Donation Act of 2017 or similar efforts.

Food Safety

Another key barrier to food donation is confusion about what safety procedures are required for food donation. A fifty-state survey of state food safety officials, conducted by FLPC and the Food Safety for Donations Working Group, found that one reason for this confusion is that most states and localities do not have regulations or guidance on this topic. Most states and localities use the FDA Food Code, a model code developed by the Conference of Food Protection, as the basis for their food safety regulations for restaurants and retailers. Because the FDA Food Code does not include information about food donations, very few state or local regulations address this topic. The agencies, particularly FDA, can support safe food donation by creating guidance for restaurants and retailers on food safety practices for food donation; this guidance could be part of the FDA Food Code or separate. FDA can also create similar guidance for food facilities.

Priority Area 5: Collaborate with Private Industry to Reduce Food Loss and Waste Across the Supply Chain

The fifth priority area calls for collaboration between the federal government and the private sector. Food businesses have been leaders in food waste reduction efforts, with many adopting food waste reduction goals and implementing practices to reduce food waste in their operations. Yet limited data exists on the scope of these goals and the impact they have made. The federal agencies can help advance private sector initiatives by working with food businesses to collect, analyze, and report information about their efforts and their progress towards their goals.

Priority Area 6: Encourage Food Waste Reduction by Federal Agencies in their Respective Facilities

The final priority area seeks to position federal agencies as leaders by example, by encouraging federal agencies to reduce food waste in their own cafeterias and events. The Federal Food Donation Act of 2008 represented an important first step in this direction; the Act encourages executive agencies entering into food service contracts above $25,000 to donate excess food. Agencies must include clauses in their contracts encouraging the contractor to donate surplus food to the extent possible. However, the Act does not actually require the agencies or their contractors to donate, or even to report on the amount of food that is donated. FLPC has made recommendations to strengthen this Act by requiring federal agencies to report on the amount of food they donate and requiring contracts to include language mandating that contractors take steps to donate surplus food.

EPA, FDA, and USDA can model the federal government’s commitment to food waste reduction by including provisions in their own food service contracts that require the contractors to enter into agreements with food recovery organizations to donate excess food. The agencies can also commit to taking steps to reduce the amount of food waste generated in their cafeterias, and to sending excess food that is not edible to organics recycling facilities to the extent possible. Finally, the agencies can commit to collecting and publicizing data on the amount of food that they donate and recycle.

FLPC is thrilled to see the agencies begin to take coordinated action on food waste, and we hope to work with the agencies and other stakeholders to implement some of these next steps.

My Experience at the 2019 Food Law Student Leadership Summit

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy 

By: Oliver Brown

This April, I attended the Food Law Student Leadership Summit (FLSLS) in hopes of broadening my knowledge of emerging legal issues in food law. I came to law school with an interest in food and agriculture reform. Through my participation in the Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic, I was able to translate that passion into practical tools for advocacy. FLSLS offered a unique opportunity to further develop that skillset alongside professors, practitioners and students from around the country.

Hosted at Georgetown University Law Center, Washington D.C. was an ideal setting to tackle the public policy and regulatory issues at the heart of food law. Experts like Laura MacCleery and Ricardo Carvajal shared how administrative reforms are enacted and offered insights into legislative advocacy. In a powerful keynote, Navina Khanna, Director of the HEAL Food Alliance, outlined her organization’s comprehensive Platform for Real Food—a roadmap towards a more sustainable food economy. With so many knowledgeable voices in conversation, the outlook for that vision felt a little more hopeful.

Despite the incredible panels and seminars throughout the weekend (David Vladeck’s nerve-wracking lecture on deceit in food marketing was a particular highlight), I was most inspired by the network of passionate food advocates in attendance. It was an incredible opportunity to connect with other aspiring lawyers interested in this practice area. Hailing from law schools nationwide, students came with unique backgrounds and career goals. With food law touching so many legal disciplines (from labor, to intellectual property, to environmental sustainability), each participant brought their own perspective, and weighed how particular policies might impact the issues they cared about most. It was fascinating to see where our interests aligned and where they were in tension. Since the summit, I’ve developed a better understanding of the opportunities for progress in food system reform. I can identify points of collaboration, between farmers and animal-rights advocates, between commercial producers and food-waste NGOs. And most importantly, I have partners I can call on as we work towards meaningful change.

Consulting in the Law

By: Julia Nitsche, J.D. ’19

Julia Nitsche J.D. '19

Julia Nitsche J.D. ’19

 

Over the course of my three semesters with the Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), I have worked on numerous projects, from state technical assistance, to the Farm Bill, to international food waste regulations.  All of them presented their unique sets of interesting challenges, and I feel like I have learned a ton from the collective experience of working on them all. Perhaps the most formative experience I had, was the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council Project.

In my first semester with the FLPC, I was assigned to a project where we worked with the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council (PFPC) to help them craft policies that would be more favorable to small or cottage food vendors. PFPC told us that they felt small food vendors in the Pittsburgh area were having a hard time opening new businesses, and they needed both guidance on how to make the process easier, and ideas on how to incentivize healthy food vendors to come onto the market.

The project was broad, and frankly a little scary. I didn’t know the first thing about the cottage food industry, or Pittsburgh, or Food Policy Councils (of which, it turns out, there are many). But with the help of my peers on the project and our clinic supervisor, we designed a plan and got to work. We put ourselves in the mindsets of a new business owner, combed through local food safety and vending regulations, and identified pain points. Then, we did some research on how other cities regulated small food vendors, and what types of incentives people had proposed for healthy food vending, like discounted vending permits for fruit & veg vendors operating in underserved areas. With a little structure and a lot of research, we finally put together a memo on what we had found, and our recommendations for how Pittsburgh could make its regulations less onerous on small, healthy food vendors.

I was lucky enough to go to Pittsburgh in my second semester with FLPC to continue the project and present our findings to the PFPC members. Overall, it was a great experience – they were very receptive, thrilled to have our help, and it really felt like our recommendations might make a difference.

While I am not going to practice law once I graduate, there are many things I take away from this project, and the rest of my experiences at FLPC, that I know will be useful to me in my career as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group. First, I know that I can tackle any project, no matter how large. Combing through all of Pittsburgh’s statutes relating to food safety and vending regulations seemed insurmountable at first. But taking a step back, coming up with a plan, and then assigning jobs amongst our team broke a massive project into manageable pieces. I know that in consulting, this type of approach is paramount (and in law too). Second, this project helped me develop my research skills. I doubt I will have the occasion to look up local regulations in consulting, but there is something to be said for learning how to find information – knowing where to look and knowing when to ask. Third, meeting and presenting to our client, PFPC, definitely prepared me for my future career. And finally, this project centered around teamwork. We so rarely have the opportunity to work with others in law school, but on work projects we are often a much smaller piece of a larger whole. This is true in consulting, in law, and in life. I know that it was really helpful to me to have at least one experience in law school where I worked with someone else and truly had to communicate with them and rely on them to render a good result.

I am so grateful to FLPC for the great projects they have exposed me to and recommend anyone interested in food law or getting practical experience to join!

 

 

FLPC and Partner Launch the Global Food Donation Policy Atlas

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy 

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) is excited to announce the launch of our latest project, the Global Food Donation Policy Atlas. The Atlas is a two-year collaborative project that will chart the laws and policies affecting food donation in 15 different countries as well as provide best practices and guidance on how laws and policies can be improved to both increase food donations and decrease food waste.

According to the United Nations, more than enough food is produced to feed every person in the world, yet an estimated 821 million people globally suffer from hunger. While millions of people go without adequate food, one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Because food is heavily regulated, and food safety laws can pose barriers to the creation of food donation programs in many countries, redirecting safe, surplus food can be difficult and complicated. Not knowing what safety rules apply to donations, or being forced to bear a tax burden for donated food, can pose insurmountable barriers to donation.

Around the world, communities are actively implementing and advocating for policy reforms to help move safe, surplus food into the hands of those who need it. The Atlas will contribute to these efforts by providing research to help make sense of laws relating to food donation, compare food-donation laws across countries and regions, analyze food donation barriers, and share best practices and recommendations for policy improvements.

To undertake this first-of-its-kind project, FLPC is partnering with the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), with the support of the Walmart Foundation.  In building the Atlas, FLPC will rely heavily on GFN’s on-the-ground food-bank partners, as well as other key stakeholders in the 15 countries, such as food-rescue organizations and other non-profits, food donors, government agencies, and academics.  In addition to providing written legal guides to food donation and policy considerations for each country, the Atlas will outline its findings with a website and interactive map presenting countries’ food donation laws.

Both FLPC and GFN identified 15 countries where the Atlas could be especially useful.  In the first year, the Atlas will focus on Argentina, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and the United States.  The second year will bring in ten more countries.

“In the U.S., our work has uncovered unclear or confusing laws that lead to unnecessary food waste. Businesses throw food away because they do not know what safety rules apply to donations, or because they cannot access tax credits to cover the cost of transporting such food,” says Emily Broad Leib, FLPC’s director. “We are thrilled to collaborate with GFN and our in-country partners to examine these issues in a range of countries, aiming to reduce barriers, learn best practices and build more thoughtful policies to get food to those in need.”

Since the release of The Dating Game in 2013, which exposed how much food waste is related to misleading date labels, FLPC has been at the forefront of policy research on reducing food waste in the United States and is excited to expand our footprint to different countries.

Looking back at FLPC’s work on food waste reduction and recovery, we have worked actively in over a dozen states to provide technical assistance on state laws and policy changes, and our students have developed fact sheets on date labeling, tax incentives, and liability protections in a number of states. We also collaborate with advocates in a number of states to review and support legislation that reduces food waste and increases food recovery. For example, FLPC worked with advocates in California to support legislation to standardize date labels and expand liability protections. Both bills were signed into law in October 2017. FLPC’s work across the United States in this space will be highly beneficial as the Atlas seeks to understand national laws relating to food donation, compare laws across countries and regions, learn about food donation barriers, and share best practices and recommendations.

Ultimately, the Atlas will culminate in a website featuring an interactive map of food donation policies that allows users to compare food donation laws across countries; written legal guides summarizing food donation laws for each country; policy suggestions for each country based on local interviews and comparative research; and presentations of findings at public conferences and events.

Read the press release for the Global Food Donation Policy Atlas

View a one-pager on the Global Food Donation Policy Atlas

View FLPC publications related to food waste reduction and food recovery:

FLPC Releases Advocacy and Lobbying Guide for Food Policy Councils

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) released a new resource today for food policy councils and others working to change the food system. Advocacy & Lobbying 101 for Food Policy Councils was created to equip food policy councils in the US with legal information necessary to know how they are allowed to influence policy decisions by local, state, and federal government.

A recent survey found that the vast majority of food policy councils are actively engaged in advocacy work. Advocacy activities involving interactions with government policymakers to shape specific legislation may require adherence to specific laws and regulations known as “lobbying” laws.

“Creating change in the food system requires educating, organizing, and persuading others that change is necessary and feasible,” said Anne Palmer, program director at CLF. “This guide is intended to assist councils to understand how lobbying laws apply to their work, and how to proceed legally when attempting to influence government policymakers.”

The guide discusses what it means to lobby the government, explains how lobbying differs from general advocacy work, and addresses topics that every food policy council should consider before engaging in advocacy or lobbying. It also examines how the different organizational structures of councils affect what they may do to lobby and provides case studies to illustrate how councils have successfully and legally influenced government policy.

“A food policy council should not shy away from trying to influence government policy simply because these laws exist,” said Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic. “We hope this guide empowers councils to confidently navigate applicable state and federal lobbying laws — they will learn that much work on policy issues is not restricted because it is considered advocacy, not lobbying, and may even realize that their opportunities to lobby legally are far greater than previously thought.”

Read Advocacy & Lobbying 101 for Food Policy Councils.

RFP: Approaches to Reducing Consumption of Sugar

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovcation

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), with support from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, is working with community organizations and government entities to identify locally-supported policies that will reduce sugar consumption and build capacity for policy change. Excess consumption of sugar is linked to obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related chronic diseases that have tremendous social and economic costs. Reducing population-level consumption of sugar is one of the most promising strategies for addressing these pressing public health concerns.

FLPC is offering pro bono technical assistance (TA) to community organizations, food policy councils, and local, state, and tribal government entities across the United States interested in implementing innovative sugar-reduction policies.

A request for proposals (RFP) application will remain open until May 1, 2019. FLPC anticipates making two TA awards as a result of this RFP. TA grantees will be notified by May 31, 2019. Please contact flpc@law.harvard.edu with any questions.

Read the RFP.

Maryland Seeks to Expand Complete Streets Program to Prioritize Food Access

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

By: Alex Harding J.D. ’19

On February 7, FLPC provided written testimony to the Maryland Environment & Transportation Committee in support of a bill that would expand the state’s “Complete Streets” grant program to cover projects which improve access to nutritious food to residents living in food deserts.

Throughout 2017, FLPC had the opportunity to work with stakeholders in Maryland who were involved in creating the Maryland Food Charter to develop a complementary policy scan of state policies related to the food system as well as opportunities for change. Following a series of interviews, community meetings, and legal and policy research, FLPC published its findings in “A Review of Food System Policies in Maryland.” This report outlined possible initiatives for the state of Maryland to enhance its food production, safety, and waste prevention policies in order to make the state’s food system stronger and better able to serve the people of Maryland.

Improving access to nutritious food was one of the main concerns raised by the many Maryland community members and experts with whom we engaged. As one of our suggestions to increase food access, we recommended using urban transportation resources to move residents in food deserts—areas of low healthy food availability—to local food markets. Maryland’s House Bill 82 uses the novel approach of incorporating food access into the state’s definition of a Complete Streets program—a grant program that allows local governments to receive funding for infrastructure projects which improve quality of life. This approach allows Maryland to get its food access resources to local governments, who are best suited to understand their local food access barriers and needs and to tailor their solutions efficiently to those specific needs

As a student in FLPC, this was the point where I was invited to write legislative testimony on behalf of FLPC supporting Maryland’s Bill. This project gave me the opportunity on to work on the one hand with the staff of Maryland legislators, and on the other with expert FLPC fellows and advocates who had worked with Maryland and knew its specific legal and political landscape. This has been a rare learning opportunity in policy-making that I would be hard pressed to find elsewhere—it turns out that Harvard Law School does not, in fact, offer as many law-making classes as it does law-abiding ones (judicial activism schemes aside).

Maryland’s House Bill 82, attached below, addresses food access issues in three key ways. First, the bill would give the term “food deserts” its first official state law definition as “[a] community that does not have easy access to healthy food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, typically in the form of a supermarket, grocery store, or farmer’s market.”

Second, the text of the bill expands the definition of Complete Streets to include food access so as to expand the types of local transportation projects the policy can fund. Third, the bill creates a ranking system for such projects which improve food access specifically for areas already designated as food deserts. The approach of moving infrastructure funding towards food access—especially through a Complete Streets program, is an innovative one. We look forward to seeing more creative solutions like this at the state level from Maryland and across the country.

FLPC’s full testimony to the Maryland Environment & Transportation Committee can be found here.

Maryland’s House Bill 82 can be found here.

Survey: Misunderstanding Food Date Labels Linked With Higher Food Discards

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation 

A new survey examining U.S. consumer attitudes and behaviors related to food date labels found widespread confusion, leading to unnecessary discards, increased waste and food safety risks. The survey analysis was led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), which is based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study, published online February 13 in the journal Waste Management, comes at a time of heightened awareness of food waste and food safety among both consumers and policymakers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 31 percent of food may be wasted at the retail and consumer levels. This study calls attention to the issue that much food may be discarded unnecessarily based on food safety concerns, though relatively few food items are likely to become unsafe before becoming unpalatable. Clear and consistent date label information is designed to help consumers understand when they should and should not worry.

Among survey participants, the research found that 84 percent discarded food near the package date “at least occasionally” and 37 percent reported that they “always” or “usually” discard food near the package date. Notably, participants between the ages of 18 to 34 were particularly likely to rely on label dates to discard food. More than half of participants incorrectly thought that date labeling was federally regulated or reported being unsure. In addition, the study found that those perceiving labels as reflecting safety and those who thought labels were federally regulated were more willing to discard food.

New voluntary industry standards for date labeling were recently adopted. Under this system, “Best if used by” labels denote dates after which quality may decline but the products may still be consumed, while “Use by” labels are restricted to the relatively few foods where safety is a concern and the food should be discarded after the date. Previously, all labels reflected quality and there was no safety label. Neff and colleagues found that among labels assessed, “Best if used by” was most frequently perceived as communicating quality, while “use by” was one of the top two perceived as communicating safety. But many had different interpretations.

“The voluntary standard is an important step forward. Given the diverse interpretations, our study underlines the need for a concerted effort to communicate the meanings of the new labels,” says lead author, Roni Neff, PhD, who directs the Food System Sustainability Program with the CLF and is an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health and Engineering. “We are doing further work to understand how best to message about the terms.”

Using an online survey tool, Neff and colleagues from Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and the National Consumers League assessed the frequency of discards based on date labels by food type, interpretation of label language and knowledge of whether date labels are regulated by the federal government. The survey was conducted with a national sample of 1,029 adults ages 18 to 65 and older in April of 2016. Recognizing that labels are perceived differently on different foods, the questions covered nine food types including bagged spinach, deli meats and canned foods.

When consumers perceived a date label as an indication of food safety, they were more likely to discard the food by the provided date. In addition, participants were more likely to discard perishable foods based on labels than nonperishables.

Raw chicken was most frequently discarded based on labels, with 69 percent of participants reporting they “always” or “most of the time” discard by the listed date. When it came to prepared foods, 62 percent reported discards by the date label and 61 percent reported discards of deli meats. Soft cheeses were near the bottom of the list with only 49 percent reporting discards by the date label, followed by 47 percent reporting discards of canned goods and breakfast cereals.

Among foods included in the survey, prepared foods, deli meats and soft cheeses are particularly at risk of contamination with listeria which can proliferate in refrigerated conditions. Despite concerns of listeria, soft cheeses were rarely discarded by the labeled date. On the other hand, raw chicken was frequently discarded even though it will be cooked prior to consuming and is not considered as big of a risk. Unopened canned goods and breakfast cereal pose the least concern based on time since packaging, but were still discarded by just under half of respondents.

“Foodborne illness is misery–or worse,” says Neff. “As date labeling becomes standardized, this research underlines the need for a strong communications campaign and highlights a particular need for education among those ages 18 to 34.”

The research was supported by the National Consumers League and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

Misunderstood food date labels and reported food discards: A survey of U.S. consumer attitudes and behaviors” was written by Roni Neff, Marie Spiker, Christina Rice, Ali Schklair, Sally Greenberg and Harvard FLPC’s Emily Broad Leib.

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