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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.

Trump Signs Farm Bill, Announces Food Stamp Work Requirement Rule

Via UPI 

Via Jessie Higgins

President Donald Trump signed the 2018 farm bill Thursday afternoon, ending months of congressional negotiations over the $867 billion legislation.

The bill, which overwhelmingly passed both House and Senate last week, did so in part because lawmakers left out controversial work requirements for food stamp recipients that were originally included in the House version. Those requirements were a key sticking point during joint House and Senate negotiations — and were supported by Trump.

At the signing ceremony, Trump announced a plan to bypass the bill by having the U.S. Department of Agriculture impose stricter work requirements on food stamp recipients.

“I have instructed my administration to take immediate action on welfare reform,” Trump said. “Millions of able-bodied, working-age adults continue to collect food stamps without working or even looking for work. This action … was a difficult thing to get done. But farmers wanted it done, we all wanted it done, and I think in the end it’s going to make a lot of people very happy.”

The new requirements appear as a proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The USDA already requires adults who do not have dependents to work at least three months every three years to collect food stamps. However, states can waive that requirement in areas where unemployment is 20 percent above the national average.

The Trump administration’s proposal would raise the waiver threshold, allowing states to waive the requirement only if unemployment is above 7 percent. That’s nearly double the national average of 3.7 percent.

“It’s called work rules and [the USDA] is able under this bill to implement them through regulation,” Trump said.

Some Democrats have decried the new rule and questioned whether Trump can use his executive powers to authorize it.

“Congress writes laws, and the administration is required to write rules based on the law,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate agriculture committee. “Administrative changes should not be driven by ideology. I do not support unilateral and unjustified changes that would take food away from families.”

The farm bill itself received bipartisan support and was largely celebrated by farmers and industry groups.

“It was a bipartisan success, something you don’t hear much,” Trump said at the signing ceremony, as he thanked the various people who worked to get the bill passed. “I want to thank the Democrats, who worked really hard on this bill, they really have. I may have to deny that I said that someday, but I won’t do that. You worked really hard.”

It took time to get there. The 2014 farm bill expired Sept. 30 before a joint House and Senate committee could reach a compromise. The House and Senate had passed strikingly different bills. After its expiration, dozens of programs went on hold.

Farmers and groups who rely on the programs feared they would languish another year if lawmakers didn’t compromise during this year’s lame duck session before a new House and Senate start in 2019.

Ultimately, the 2018 bill maintains most programs as they were before, said Erika Dunyak, a clinical fellow at the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic.

But many groups claim improvements.

“There are some really great things in this bill,” said Ferd Hoefner, a senior adviser for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

A group of programs that support beginning and small farmers, local foods and organic research — among other things — receive permanent funding in the bill, Hoefner said. Previously, those programs had to find new money to operate every five years when the farm bill renewed.

“We’ve been beating this drum for a long time,” Hoefner said. “It’s still a tiny slice of the overall farm bill pie, but it’s a permanent slice now, and it will probably grow over time.”

The bill gives greater support for the struggling dairy industry and it legalizes industrial hemp production.

On the conservation side, the bill directs more money toward soil health initiatives that will improve water quality and fight global climate change.

Not everyone was happy with the compromise.

One change in the 2018 bill allows farm subsidies to go to more distant relatives of farmers. In previous bills, a farmer’s immediate family — who did some kind of work on the farm — could apply for certain federal assistance. Those family members had to be parents, children, siblings or spouses. The 2018 bill expands that list to include first cousins, nieces and nephews.

Under the previous farm bill, such subsidies sometimes went to relatives who did not live or work on the farm, according to the Environmental Working Group, which has criticized the new provision. This new rule may enable more money to go to people who are not farmers, the group has said.

Supporters counter that it will encourage more people to get involved in farming.

Farm Bill Passes House And Senate

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation 

iStock

The 2018 Farm Bill just passed the House (368-47), after passing the Senate yesterday (87-13). The Bill now goes to the President’s desk.

Here is the 10,000 foot view of the 2018 Farm Bill as it relates to FBLE priorities:

Food Waste

FBLE is thrilled to see that all of the provisions in the House and Senate drafts of the Farm Bill related to food waste remained in the 2018 Farm Bill. The many provisions included reflect the longstanding recommendations of FBLE member, Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic. This is the first farm bill to dedicate resources to reduce the nearly 40% of the food supply that we currently waste.

Specifically, the Farm Bill includes eight new provisions and programs to reduce food waste, including pilot funding to support state and local composting and food waste reduction plans in 10 states, creation of a Food Loss and Waste Liaison position within the USDA, and clarification and expansion of liability protections for food donations.

SNAP Work Requirements

The controversial House work requirements for SNAP were mostly dropped in the final Farm Bill. These requirements would have forced more SNAP participants to work or participate in job training for at least 20 hours a week. The House Bill also brought in a larger age group and those with school age children to comply with the work requirements. The bill does reduce state waivers to work requirements from the 2014 Farm Bill. As such, states can exempt only 12% of their SNAP recipients from work requirements, as opposed to 15% in the 2014 Farm Bill. Though the Bill does slightly reduce the amount of state waivers, it preserves geographic exemptions to work requirements in areas with high rates of unemployment and does not implement the inflexible House work requirement program. Protecting SNAP recipients from burdensome work requirements is consistent with FBLE recommendations.

Socially Disadvantaged and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Studies

The 2018 Farm Bill includes two GAO studies specifically concerning socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers (SDFR). One studies barriers to and recommendations for accessing land for SDFR and beginning farmers and ranchers (BFR). The other report will study SDFR access to credit. Both reports must be completed within 120 days of the final passage of the Farm Bill and sent to Congress. These reports are consistent with FBLE recommendations to improve access to credit and land for SDFR. They are also representative of FBLE’s forthcoming recommendations on transparency and access to information.

Crop Subsidy Payment Limits

Contrary to FBLE recommendations, the 2018 Farm Bill does not limit commodity payments to high income farmers and ranchers. This was referred to as the Grassley amendment in the Senate version of the Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill maintains the current adjusted gross income (AGI) cap for commodity payments. But the 2018 Farm Bill goes beyond simply maintaining 2014 law and expands the “active personal management” loophole for those who can receive farm bill payments by adding first cousins, nieces and nephews to the definition of family members. These changes could mean a $1 billion cost increase for the commodity title over the next ten years.

Additionally, the bill lacks income limits on crop insurance subsidies, something FBLE had recommended, and still disproportionally benefits the largest farms over small and midsize operations.

Local Agricultural Market Program

In line with FBLE recommendations, the 2018 Farm Bill streamlines small-scale growers’ and producers’ access to markets through the Local Agricultural Market Program (LAMP). Small farming operations often rely on the increased profit margins at farmers markets, value-added products, and direct-to-consumer sales to be financially viable. LAMP merges the Farmers Market Promotion Program, Local Food Promotion Program, and Value-Added Producer Grant. By combining them, the 2018 Farm Bill for the first time provides permanent baseline funding to these programs; however, at a slightly lower level than the programs were funded separately ($213 million over the course of the 2014 Farm Bill and only $200 million over the duration of the 2018 Farm Bill).

Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill provides opportunities for SNAP payment innovation in ways that will benefit smaller-scale farmers and farmers markets. Specifically, the 2018 Farm Bill makes it easier for farmers markets to accept SNAP. The 2018 Farm Bill also directs USDA to make SNAP benefits useable at online retail stores nationwide, which could provide more opportunities for farmers to sell directly to consumers online instead of through the traditional channel of farmers markets.

The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program & Produce Prescription Program

The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program has been renamed the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, and the mandatory funding was dramatically increased from $135 million over the 2014 Farm Bill to $250 million over the 2018 Farm Bill. This aligns with the FBLE recommendation to provide additional support to FINI.

The 2018 Farm Bill also creates a Produce Prescription Program, based on the proposed Harvesting Health pilot program in the Senate bill. However, the Produce Prescription Program does not have dedicated funds, and pulls money from FINI (newly renamed the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program). With a nearly doubling of funds in the FINI coffers, this will allow Produce Prescription Programs to become much more available. This aligns with FBLE’s recommendation of more investment in food is medicine; however, FBLE would have liked to see an innovative food is medicine pilot to include medically-tailored meals.

Conservation

The 2018 Farm Bill’s conservation title closely aligns with the Senate version of the Farm Bill. Generally, the 2018 Farm Bill doesn’t cut any money to the conservation title; instead the Bill shifts funds around (primarily by moving money from the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). You can review FBLE’s analysis of conservation title in the Senate Farm Bill here.

The 2018 Farm Bill is consistent with FBLE’s recommendation on allocation of EQIP funds to animal feeding operations. The 2018 Farm Bill drops the mandatory percentage of funds going to animal feeding operations from 60% to 50%.

Other

Finally, there few other important provisions that you will hear circulating in other news outlets. Namely, the forestry title, which some commentators thought would not make it into the final farm bill, is in the 2018 Farm Bill, and growing non-psychoactive hemp is now legal, so farmers may cultivate it and Land Grant Universities may study it.

Stay tuned as FBLE provides more in-depth analysis of the 2018 Farm Bill.

You can read all 807 pages of House and Senate passed Farm Bill Conference Report here!

Congress’s Conference Report Solidifies Farm Bill Support for Major Food Waste Reduction Measures

Via the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation 

iStock

40 percent of food in the U.S. goes to waste each year, costing billions of dollars, preventing wholesome food from getting to people in need, and causing tremendous ecological harm. The 2018 Farm Bill represents a crucial opportunity to address food waste in a way that benefits farmers, consumers, and the environment, and FLPC is excited to report that Congress has provided major new investments in food waste reduction in this farm bill.

Recognizing the potential for the Farm Bill to make a significant impact on food waste reduction, FLPC published Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill, outlining 17 recommendations for incorporating food waste measures into the 2018 Farm Bill. FLPC has been closely tracking the 2018 Farm Bill process, and released blog posts analyzing proposed programs to reduce food waste in both the House and Senate bill drafts. The 2018 Farm Bill represents the first U.S. Farm Bill to provide dedicated programming, resources, and efforts to reduce food loss and waste in the U.S.

Though drafts of the Farm Bill passed the House and Senate in summer 2018, these versions were quite different from one another, and in August 2018, a conference committee was formed to reconcile differences between the two bills. On December 10, 2018, the farm bill conference committee released the Farm Bill Conference Report. The conference report includes updated bill language, referred to as the conference substitute, and a joint explanatory statement.

After reviewing the conference report, FLPC is thrilled to see that all of the provisions in the House and Senate drafts of the Farm Bill related to food waste remained in the conference version, including many that reflect FLPC’s longstanding recommendations. FLPC is eager to work closely with Congress on these provisions as the Farm Bill is finalized, and with USDA and other agencies on implementation of these programs once the legislation goes into effect.

In partnership with the Farm Bill Law Enterprise, FLPC is also compiling a more comprehensive review of a range of topics in the conference report, including score cards evaluating several key programs, which will be available here.

Food Waste Provisions Included in the Farm Bill Conference Report

Below we briefly describe the programs relevant to food waste that appear in the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Report.

Pilot Project to Support State and Local Composting and Food Waste Reduction Plans:

The conference version of the farm bill includes a major investment in a program proposed in the Senate farm bill to provide funding for the development of local composting and food waste reduction efforts. Created within a new Farm Bill section on urban agriculture, this program will support pilot projects in at least 10 states to develop and implement municipal compost plans and food waste reduction plans. Eligible projects must increase access to compost for agricultural producers, encourage waste management and permaculture business development, reduce municipal food waste, and divert food waste from landfills, among others. Projects applying for funds will receive priority review if they address other food waste strategies, including food recovery efforts. $25 million is committed to the section, to be shared between these pilot projects and grants in urban agriculture specified within the section.

This exciting new program aligns with FLPC’s recommendation for the farm bill to provide funding to support state and local efforts to implement organic waste bans and food waste reduction plans. These policies can transform the landscape of food waste reduction by creating new infrastructure and incentives to recover food and address the harmful environmental impacts of food waste in landfills.

Grant resources for food recovery infrastructure investments:

The Farm Bill conference report amends The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to better promote the donation of agricultural commodities. TEFAP provides food and funding to states to supply emergency feeding assistance to those in need. The Farm Bill would allocate $4 million per year to states for projects involving the “harvesting, processing, packaging, or transportation” of donated agricultural commodities. States can use this funding for projects that reduce the waste of agricultural products through donation, provide food to food insecure individuals, and create new partnerships to distribute food to those in need. USDA must provide guidance on best practices to reduce food waste among donated food commodities for TEFAP. This addition to TEFAP aligns with FLPC’s recommendation that the Farm Bill include grants to support investment in food recovery infrastructure.

This funding was initially proposed in the Senate farm bill, and remains the same except for the addition of “transportation” as an eligible project purpose.

Food Loss and Waste Liaison and Study on Food Waste:

The Farm Bill conference report creates a Food Loss and Waste Reduction Liaison as a new staff position in the USDA. The Food Loss and Waste Reduction Liaison will “coordinate Federal programs to measure and reduce the incidence of food loss and waste.” The Liaison’s duties include harmonizing efforts between the USDA, the EPA, and the FDA, all of whom play vital but differing roles in food waste prevention; supporting and promoting federal programs to measure and reduce food waste and increase food recovery; serving as a resource for food waste and food recovery organizations; raising awareness of existing liability protections for food donation; and making recommendations for expanding food recovery and waste reduction efforts.

The conference version also charges the Liaison with working with USDA to conduct a study evaluating available methods to measure food waste, factors that cause food waste, and the cost and volume of food loss. The study also will assess the efficacy of existing liability protections for food donation and ensure that USDA programs do not interfere with food waste reduction efforts. The Liaison will be required to submit a report on the results within one year, followed by a second report the following year that includes an estimate of food wasted that year and the results of USDA’s food waste reduction activities. This study aligns with FLPC’s recommendation that Congress provide funding for research on food waste–comprehensive research on the amount and causes of food waste in the U.S. has been limited, and such research will help inform future policies and programs and evaluate progress over time.

The Liaison position was originally proposed in the House farm bill, and the Study on Food Waste came from the Senate bill; some minor changes were made as they were combined.

Food Donation Standards for Liability Protections:

The conference report includes a provision clarifying liability protections for food donation and allowing for food donation directly from certain donors to individuals. Currently, under the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, donors receive comprehensive liability protection, but only  for donations made to a nonprofit organization that distributes the food to those in need. This provision would expand protection to donations made by a “qualified direct donor” directly to individuals in need. “Qualified direct donors” are entities that have food safety certification and licensing, such as retail food stores, restaurants, and agricultural producers; these entities have the knowledge to ensure food will be donated safely. Extending liability protections to direct donations can increase efficiency, reduce costs, enable timely use of perishable food, and support donation where quantities of surplus food are too small to be used by a food recovery organization.

The provision also instructs USDA to provide guidance about liability protections for “qualified direct donors” when donating surplus food to those in need. Despite the strong protections offered by the Emerson Act, the majority of food businesses cite fear of liability as a reason for not donating surplus food. Before now, no agency has created guidance, clarified the language of the Act, or raised awareness about these protections. While creating guidance on the protections for qualified direct donors, USDA has an opportunity to provide clarity on terms like “apparently wholesome food” that remain unclear in the Emerson Act itself.

FLPC has long advocated for changes to the Emerson Act to provide guidance on the Act and expand liability protections to align with current food donation practice, and we are thrilled to see this language included in the farm bill.

Milk Donation Program:

The conference report creates a Milk Donation Program to reimburse dairy farmers for donating class 1 fluid milk products to nonprofit organizations that distribute the milk. The new Milk Donation Program is intended to make it easier for producers and processors to donate milk to food recovery organizations. The program will receive $9 million for 2019 and $5 million for each subsequent year until 2023. This program was proposed in the Senate farm bill and replaces the existing Dairy Product Donation Program.

Local Agriculture Marketing Program:

The conference report establishes the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), which combines the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) with the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program and provides $50 million per year in permanent mandatory funding (a slight reduction from the $60 million proposed in the Senate bill). LAMP would provide grants to business and nonprofits for a range of eligible activities; relevant to food waste, these activities include the promotion of “new business opportunities and marketing strategies to reduce on-farm food waste.” This provision aligns with FLPC’s recommendation to amend the language authorizing LFPP grants to include “food-recovery related businesses or nonprofits” as entities eligible for the program, to ensure they are eligible to benefit from these funds.

Spoilage prevention:

The conference report amends the Speciality Crop Research Initiative to include funding for efforts to better understand systems to “improve and extend the storage life of specialty crops,” consistent with proposed language from the Senate bill. Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other horticulture crops. FLPC has previously recommended that Congress provide grant funding for new technologies to slow food spoilage.

Carbon Utilization and Biogas Education Program

The conference version of the farm bill includes a provision to support education around biogas. Biogas can be produced from any organic waste, including food waste and animal manure. Biogas operations capture gases that would otherwise contribute to local air quality problems and climate change and use them to generate electricity. This provision establishes competitive grants for entities that provide education to agricultural producers and stakeholders about the aggregation of organic waste from multiple sources in single biogas systems.

This provision was originally in the Senate farm bill, but in that bill it also included additional provisions to support the development of the biogas industry. These provisions would have created an Interagency Biogas Opportunities Task Force to coordinate policies, programs, and research around biogas, and also would have authorized a study on biogas. Interestingly, although this additional language was not included in the conference version, the joint explanatory statement to the conference report states that the conference committee expects USDA to coordinate policies and programs around biogas and to study biogas markets; it also directs USDA, in coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, to establish an Interagency Biogas Opportunities Task Force, whose composition and tasks would match those originally proposed in the Senate bill.

Next Steps for the Farm Bill

Now that the conference committee has produced its report, the report will be sent back to the House and Senate for a vote. The House vote is anticipated to occur on December 12, 2018; the Senate vote is anticipated on December 13, 2018.

Overall, FLPC is grateful for the attention paid to the pressing problem of food waste in this farm bill and looks forward to next steps in implementing these new policies and programs towards food waste reduction nationally.

To track the next steps of the farm bill and review farm bill score cards, visit the Farm Bill Law Enterprise website here.

New York’s Making It Easier for Makers to Start Selling from Their Home Kitchens

Via Edible Brooklyn

By: Lisa Held

Source: Pixabay

What do the founders of Early Bird GranolaPilot Kombucha, and Hungry Bird Eats have in common?

They started baking oats, fermenting tea and rolling crackers at home before turning their kitchen habits into food businesses.

It’s a story that’s so common it’s become a trope: Cool Brooklynite makes innovative food for friends. Friends urge him or her to sell said food. Food becomes top seller at Whole Foods.

However, there are many factors that influence how successful makers are at moving through that timeline, and a new report from Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic digs into one that doesn’t get a lot of attention: state laws that regulate the sale of small-batch foods made outside commercial kitchens.

“Cottage Food Laws in the United States” provides a comprehensive overview of how states create legislation and regulations related to cottage foods, common elements from state to state (like which foods are allowed and sales limits) and recommendations to strengthen laws.

It’s an important resource for makers in Brooklyn (and across the country) who are just starting out and may find it difficult to navigate issues like which foods they can make and where they can sell.

The team at food incubator Pilotworks, for example, said that it was common for students in its Launchpad program to experiment with production and sales from home kitchens before moving into a production facility like theirs, and that helping makers understand regulations is a critical role they fill. “We have to be deeply knowledgeable about federal, state and local regulations and how they apply to all types of food companies, large and small.”

In terms of findings (and especially given Brooklyn’s reputation as a maker mecca), how did New York’s cottage food law stack up against others across the country?

Emily Broad Leib, director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic and one of the authors of the report, said that New York’s law is generally supportive of cottage food producers and has eliminated most big barriers. “For example, New York is one of only a dozen states that allows for some wholesale sales of cottage food products, and one of 17 states that explicitly allow for online sales, which 13 states explicitly prohibit. It is also more permissive than many states by not setting an annual gross sales limit,” she said. “Further, New York meets one of our most important recommendations to provide easy-to-follow guidance, so cottage food producers are able to take advantage of the exemptions and know where to find relevant information.” (That information is available through the Department of Agriculture.)

The one area that the state could improve upon, Broad Leib said, is expanding the kinds of cottage foods that are allowed, since they are restricted to a specific list. State laws tend to allow for what they consider low-risk foods (like baked goods, jam and shelf-stable sauces) in terms of food safety concerns, since these small-batch businesses are often not required to adhere to the food safety regulations of bigger companies. (High-risk foods include dairy, meat, fish, eggs and so forth that require time and temperature controls to prevent the growth of microorganisms and the production of toxins.)

Another big finding from the report is that, nationwide, more states are introducing cottage food laws. Every state except New Jersey now has one, compared to 42 states in 2013, and a few states (like Wyoming) have introduced new “food freedom” laws that essentially allow almost any foods to be sold to an “informed consumer.” “Many states that allowed some cottage foods in 2013 have also broadened their laws to allow more types of sales,” Broad Leib added.

The authors of the report see this shift as overwhelmingly positive and write that making it easier for small-batch food producers to get started supports local food economies. Evidence on the impacts of the laws, however, is basically nonexistent, and Broad Leib sees it as an area ripe for research.

“What we do know is that there is a lot of consumer interest in purchasing food from their neighbors and from within their own communities, whether or not this food follows safety regulations, and that there are many producers interested in using cottage food production as an avenue to start a small business, or at least to test out their markets before building a more traditional food business,” she said. “To the extent that cottage food laws allow these new market opportunities to take place without any costs to the state, they bring a lot of benefit.” In other words, other states likely want in on the Brooklyn maker phenomenon, too.

New Frontiers in Homemade Food

Via The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

By: Amy Hoover

Amy Hoover was a FLPC summer intern and Cottage Food Laws in America report co-author.

Source: Pexels

An innovative bill on the verge of being signed into law in California could create a new frontier in the state laws that allow cooks to sell food made in home kitchens. Building on the success of cottage food laws, which allow food producers to sell certain low-risk homemade foods, this new law would open up sales opportunities for entrepreneurs selling a wider array of foods, including hot meals, made in their homes.

Cottage food laws are now commonplace across the United States. In the timespan between FLPC’s 2013 report on cottage foods and our new report released last month, cottage food laws passed in seven additional states and the District of Columbia, bringing the total of states with cottage food laws to 49. Furthermore, many states have updated their cottage food rules to expand the types of products or scale of production that is allowed under their cottage food provisions.

Although cottage food laws vary tremendously from state to state in their details (just check out our 50-state appendix for an interesting snapshot of federalism at work), most have traditionally followed a fairly standard basic structure. These laws typically allow home cooks to sell limited types or categories of foods that pose low food safety risks when held at room temperature, subject to certain sales limits. Higher-risk food items that require time and temperature control for safety, such as meats, cooked vegetables, and premade meals, are not allowed under these cottage food laws.

All cottage food laws followed this basic pattern until 2015, when Wyoming broke away from the typical cottage food law with its food freedom law. In contrast to other cottage food laws, Wyoming’s law removes almost all limitations on what types of foods home producers can sell. It requires only that cottage food producers sell directly to “informed end consumers” for home consumption. Within these limits, home food producers’ actions are not regulated by the state. Since Wyoming’s food freedom law passed, North Dakota and Illinois have also passed laws based on this model (although with more constraints than Wyoming’s law).

Another new frontier in homemade foods is now on the horizon in California, where a coalition of food advocates is on the verge of securing enactment of A.B. 626. If (or at this point, perhaps when) A.B. 626 becomes law, in addition to making low-risk foods under the state’s existing cottage food law, home producers will have another, more expansive option: the proposed law would allow home cooks to sell almost any foods, including hot prepared meals. Within the proposed law’s oversight and food safety framework, home cooks in California would be able to make and sell foods that need time and temperature control for safety—exactly what almost every cottage food law forbids.

Although both California and Wyoming have sought to broaden the types of foods that home producers can sell, A.B. 626 innovates in a very different way from Wyoming’s food freedom law. Wyoming’s law exempts homemade food producers from any state oversight. In contrast, the California bill allows home cooking but subjects “microenterprise home kitchens” to a new set of regulations. The bill’s permitting and licensing requirements (more than for cottage food producers; less than for commercial food operations) are designed to create a new avenue of economic opportunity for home cooks while ensuring food safety.

Alongside its innovative elements, A.B. 626 retains several of the features that have helped cottage food laws successfully balance food entrepreneurship and food safety. It allows only direct sales, on the theory that a personal interaction between cook and consumer can create a relationship that reduces the need for government oversight. It also limits annual gross sales, number of meals sold, and number of employees, meaning that only micro-scale operations are allowed under the proposed law. But even these small operations can help home cooks make some extra money and test the market before they scale up and face the costs of complying with the full array of food safety regulations for commercial operations.

With overwhelming bipartisan support, A.B. 626 is well on its way to becoming law. It passed California’s Assembly on January 29th, and just recently, on August 28th, it passed California’s Senate. Now, Governor Jerry Brown has until September 30th to sign the bill into law. Its enactment can provide a new model for homemade food sales and may well set the stage for future shifts in cottage food laws nationwide.

In California and other states across the nation, food entrepreneurs, lawmakers, and regulators are innovating and experimenting to open up new opportunities for safe and delicious homemade foods. To learn more about the recent trends in cottage food laws nationwide, check FLPC’s new definitive guide, Cottage Food Laws in the United States.

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