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America Needs To Get More Strategic About Food Policy

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Originally published on on June 14, 2017. Written by Emily Broad Leib, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, Deputy Director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, and Laurie Beyranevand, Professor of Law, and Senior Faculty Fellow, Food Law and Policy at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School.

“Eat your fruits and vegetables” is a simple-enough piece of nutritional advice most Americans have heard since they were young. When you look at America’s food policies, however, that straightforward missive gets incredibly complicated. Though our national nutrition guidance recommends that fruits and vegetables make up more than 50% of our dietary intake, the lion’s share of federal funding for farmers goes to soy, cotton, and corn. In fact, as a nation we produce 24% fewer servings of fruits and vegetables than would be necessary for us to meet that nutrition guidance.

There are many such head-scratching discrepancies all across our country’s food policy landscape. The web of food law in the United States is incredibly complex; for example, on the issue of food safety alone, there are over 15 federal agencies administering 30 different laws! Yet, at present, none of these laws or agencies are coordinated. For an administration that has pushed to reduce the role of regulatory agencies and save taxpayer dollars, the inefficiency of our food policies and laws is even more glaring.

At the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School, we’re committed to streamlining and improving our food policies. Earlier this year, we published Blueprint for a National Food Strategy which makes the case for laying all the pieces of our food policy on the table, together, so that we set goals and priorities, and fit them together in the way that works best. This week, we are hosting a webinar about our Blueprint report; the webinar will explain our research and findings in more detail, and provide an opportunity to kickstart a dialogue about making the idea of a national food strategy into a reality.

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The Diné Bich’iya (Navajo Food Sovereignty) Summit

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

“Food has been used as a weapon against the Navajo Nation.”

With those words, Amber Crotty, a delegate to the Navajo Nation Council, began her closing remarks for the Diné Bich’iya (Navajo Food Sovereignty) Summit. “We’re in the remembering phase,” she continued; the Navajo people have to reconnect with their traditional food ways. The Food Law and Policy Clinic had flown me and my teammate, Katie, and our supervisor, Christina, to Arizona, so that we could attend the summit. All semester, we had been studying the 2014 Farm Bill, to see how the programs authorized by it could be used, or altered, to help the Navajo Nation regain control over its food system.

Regions of the Navajo Nation have obesity rates ranging from 23-60 percent, and 25 percent of people living on the reservation, which stretches across New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, are diabetic. There’s a lot of fast food, and few grocery stores. Hot Cheetos are the best selling snack across the reservation. Traditional foods and other healthy foods are harder to come by than highly processed alternatives, and are far more expensive. At the same time, Navajo farmers face barriers gaining access to land and water, and a lack of infrastructure makes it difficult for them to bring their products to market.

Local advocates have risen to face these challenges, and are working to achieve food sovereignty for the Navajo Nation. As a part of this effort, Navajo Vice President Jonathan Nez sponsored the Diné Bich’iya Summit to create an opportunity for stakeholders to come together, identify issues facing the Navajo food system, and brainstorm solutions.

The summit ran for three days. Christina, Katie, and I spent them flitting from one break out session to another, trying to soak up as much information as we could. We heard from Navajo politicians, like Council Delegate Crotty and Vice President Nez, community organizers, public health professionals, botanists, farmers, and anyone else interested in the Navajo food system. It was exciting to be around so many motivated people eager to make a change. We learned a lot, too!

We weren’t just there to listen, though, and Katie and I spoke at a breakout session on the second day. We presented a food policy toolkit that the Clinic had put together in 2015 (Putting Food Policy to Work in Navajo Nation) and the Clinic’s 2016 report on how to expand farm to school in Navajo Nation (Growing Farm to School Programs on the Navajo Nation). We were joined by two exceptional women, our host, Sonlatsa Jim-Martin of Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment, and Pam Roy, of New Mexico Farm to Table.

Although the summit kept us plenty busy, we still found time to enjoy its setting. We stayed in Chinle, Arizona, which sits right at the lip of the Canyon de Chelly – a deep, dramatic canyon that native peoples have called home for millennia. We hiked to the canyon floor one evening, where the sunset bathed the sheer sandstone walls in golden light. We’d gotten selfie-sticks in our welcome bags at the summit, and they got plenty of use.

It was a privilege to work on this project and to travel to Navajo Nation. I met so many amazing people there, and learned so much about the challenges they face and the work they’re doing to overcome them. It was an inspirational experience, and one I won’t soon forget.

FLPC Clinical Fellow Accepted to the Stone Barns Exchange Fellowship​

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Congrats to FLPC Clinical Fellow Lee Miller!

Lee was accepted to the Stone Barns Exchange Fellowship, an exclusive fellowship program for inspirational leaders with big ideas, a deep understanding of the food system, and the skills to collaborate with a diverse coalition of change makers.

The Stone Barns Exchange Fellowship, spanning July 10-28, 2017,  is an interdisciplinary program designed to connect change makers from different sectors of the food system, immerse them in the principles of agroecology and farm-driven cuisine, and focus them on strategies for accelerating food system change.

Exchange Fellows will gather for a 3-week residency at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture as they hone their knowledge and skills, connect with experts and each other and evolve their ideas through hands-on activities, conversation, and project design, ultimately working to support the development of a healthy and sustainable food system.

Learn more about the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture.

FLPC Receives 2017 Environmental Merit Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency – New England

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

FLPC staff and students were on hand to receive the award on May 3, 2017. (l-r) FLPC staff Alyssa Chan, students Molly Malavey, Dominique Trudelle, and Katherine Sandson, FLPC Director Emily Broad Leib, and EPA staff Christine Beling and Geoffrey Trussell.

The EPA’s Environmental Merit Award Program honors teachers, citizen activists, business leaders, scientists, public officials and others who have made outstanding contributions on behalf of the region’s public health and natural environment. On Wednesday, May 3, EPA New England presented the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) with a 2017 Environmental Merit Award, recognizing the Clinic’s ongoing work to reduce food waste, and the resulting emission of over 18 million tons of greenhouse gases each year.

FLPC has contributed legal analysis and policy expertise to the issue of food waste for several years. In 2013, the Clinic published The Dating Game, which exposed the confusing system of food date labels in the US and its impact on food waste. Since then, FLPC has authored numerous reports, including the most recent Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill, and convened events, such as the Reduce and Recover: Save Food for People Conference (June 2016). During the award ceremony, Christine Beling, Project Engineer at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, commended FLPC: “The energy and analysis the Clinic brings to the issue of food loss and waste is groundbreaking.”

FLPC, ReFED, and FPA Release New Report Calling on Congress to Prioritize Food Waste Reduction in the 2018 Farm Bill

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Today, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), with support from ReFED and Food Policy Action, released Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill, a report detailing how Congress can take action to reduce food waste, with a focus on opportunities to make such changes in the next farm bill. Passed every 5 – 7 years, the farm bill is the largest piece of food and agriculture-related legislation in the United States that addresses virtually every aspect of our food and agriculture system, from crop insurance to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). Yet, although each farm bill appropriates nearly $500 billion to support our food system, not a single dollar is spent to ensure that the food produced in this country makes it to people’s plates instead of the garbage.

In the US, we waste approximately 40% of the food we produce, and this waste has tremendous economic, social and environmental costs. As we throw 62.5 million tons of wholesome food into the landfill each year, approximately 1 in 7 Americans is food insecure. We spend precious natural and economic resources—about 20% of fresh water, farmland, and fertilizer and $218 billion per year—to produce, process, distribute, and dispose of this food. The farm bill provides a predictable and visible opportunity to address food waste on a national scale.

Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill outlines 17 recommendations organized to reflect the priorities outlined in the EPA’s food waste reduction hierarchy. Similar to the EPA hierarchy this report breaks food waste recommendations into categories based on whether they are intended to reduce food waste at the source, recover more food for those in need, or recycle food scraps through composting or anaerobic digestion. The report also proposes a system of government coordination to ensure that food waste solutions can be effectively implemented and remain a federal priority. Each recommendation is followed by implementation opportunities, which describe how the policy change could be incorporated into the farm bill or other federal legislation.

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FLPC and ReFED Launch the U.S. Food Waste Policy Finder

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Today, Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, in partnership with ReFED, a multi-stakeholder non-profit committed to reducing U.S food waste, released a new tool that will aid advocates, policymakers, investors, businesses, and nonprofits in improving the food waste policy landscape.

Over the past few years, FLPC has produced various 50-state charts on multiple areas of food waste policy, which are generally used as static charts or appendices to several of our published reports and toolkits. In order to share this data with more stakeholders across the country, we have created the U.S. Food Waste Policy Finder, an interactive tool for exploring federal and state policies that affect food waste reduction and diversion. The tool provides a comprehensive database of laws surrounding food waste and contains searchable maps that allow users to explore state-level laws around date labeling, tax incentives and liability protection for food donation, feeding food scraps to animals, and organic waste bans and waste recycling laws.  As over a dozen states are seeking to change food waste laws, this tool provides a valuable look into what works (and what doesn’t), and how federal and state policy can accelerate food waste reduction.

The tool also includes an in-depth section on date labeling laws in order to emphasizes the nation’s patchwork system of date labeling laws that vary drastically from state to state, and highlights the need for an overarching federal date labeling system.

While an abundance of food is produced in the U.S., 40% of this wholesome, healthy, and safe food ultimately ends up in the landfill. In order to meet the national food waste reduction goal to cut food waste in half by 2030, there is a great deal of work to be done. The release of the U.S. Food Waste Policy Finder adds to FLPC and ReFED’s existing work to foster valuable cross sector collaboration to promote viable solutions to the nation’s food waste problem. FLPC hopes that these tools will inspire action, advocacy, and policy change to reduce unnecessary food waste.

Explore the U.S. Food Waste Policy Finder now!

On the Ground, In the Ground in North Carolina

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Written by Kait Beach, current student in the Food Law and Policy Clinic

Image from Duke Campus Farm’s Facebook page.

Tilth. I had trouble even wrapping my tongue around the word at first, but the meaning was clear enough to see. We travelled to Durham, North Carolina with the Food Law and Policy Clinic, then to the Duke Campus Farm. Handling two clods of dirt freshly dug from the ground, one felt of a heavy clay-like mud and one of a crumbling, root-filled, rich-looking cake. For someone like myself who has only ever visited farms as a neighbor or tourist, there was a steep learning curve with plenty to ask about—whether it was tilth, cover crops, starting a CSA program, or rigging an irrigation system.

Beyond a lesson in the basics of farming, it was a lesson in how beginning farmers must feel. Working with the Clinic on Farm Bill issues and focusing on market access (basically, how a farmer can find and reliably get buyers), I was quickly finding out just how much information there is to master. The learning curve for a new or expanding farmer is monumental. Our short North Carolina travels certainly showed that and revealed some of the many unexpected hurdles for farms aiming to turn a profit. There are the inputs—like seeds, water, and fertilizer—and the equipment, but there is so much more to a successful production operation. Each farmer or farm operation not only has to learn a trade, they must also learn how to run a small business.

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Food Waste Reduction Workshop in Toronto, Canada

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Written by Dominique Trudelle, current student in the Food Law and Policy Clinic.

As a Continuing Clinical student in the Food Law and Policy Clinic this semester, I spent two days at the North American Workshop on Food Waste Reduction and Recovery in Toronto, Canada. Since starting the clinic in January, I have been learning about and working on FLPC’s food waste and food recovery initiatives. Specifically, I helped to finalize a recent report produced in partnership with NRDC, Don’t Waste, Donate: Enhancing Food Donation through Federal Policy, detailing how the federal government can better align federal laws and policies with the goal of increasing donations of safe, surplus food to those in need. Through this work, I have learned about improving liability protections and tax incentives for food donation, as well as ways to support innovative food recovery models. At the Workshop, interacting with other organizations highlighted how each approaches tracking, reducing, and recovering food waste.

The Workshop brought together experts working in government, industry, business and academia from Canada, the United States, and Mexico to discuss opportunities to reduce food waste across the food supply chain in each country. The Workshop included a mix of short presentations about topics ranging from donation of surplus foods by retailers, tracking food waste, and liability protections for food donations in the U.S. by retailers, innovative food recovery organizations, and academics. These presentations were followed by roundtable discussions. Having focused primarily on food recovery, I appreciated the opportunity to discuss food waste reduction with others whose perspective and strategies differ from those I have focused on during my clinic.

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Skill Building in the Food Law and Policy Clinic

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Written  by Tyler Mordecai, current student in the Food Law and Policy Clinic.

Harvard Law School clinical student testimony in DC

Tyler Mordecai delivers testimony to Washington D.C. City Council.

I took the Food Law and Policy (FLPC) seminar last year, and I enjoyed the material so much that I decided to enroll in the Clinic this Spring. Now in the clinic, much of my focus has been on FLPC’s state and local food waste initiatives. We work with various state and local advocates to reform and modernize their laws aimed at reducing the more than 62 million tons of food that goes to waste each year. Among other projects, I am currently creating a D.C.-specific food donation resource guide, which will review and analyze the applicable food recovery laws in D.C.

As part of my work on the D.C. resource guide, on Tuesday, March 28th I had the opportunity to testify before the Washington D.C. City Council about a new law under consideration there: The Save Good Food Amendment Act of 2017. The Act would reduce food waste by (1) providing tax credits for donated food, (2) extending liability protections for those who donate food, (3) simplifying D.C.’s food date labeling system, and (4) publishing a food donation guide.

At the hearing, I thought I was only going to read a statement advocating for passage of the law, so it was quite a surprise when D.C. Councilmembers asked questions for more than half an hour! The Councilmembers were incredibly interested, but also a bit reluctant, about the proposed legislation. They used my testimony as an opportunity to ask some very pointed questions and gain more clarity about the bill. Some examples: Why is a tax credit more beneficial than a tax deduction? Which specific foods pose a safety risk after their date label has passed? Which states have enacted similar liability protections, and has there been any issues in those states? The Q&A portion of the testimony was my favorite part of the hearing—it was a great experience to have a discussion with elected officials about how to use the law to effectively reduce food waste.

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Reflecting on my work with the Food Law and Policy Clinic

By Drake Carden, J.D. ’17

I have always taken an interest in food and how our food system operates, but had not done anything pertinent to the field outside of some light reading and Netflix documentary binge-watching. In the Spring of 2016, I had the pleasure of taking Emily Broad Leib’s Food Law class. This prompted my interest in enrolling in the clinic the next fall. I was placed on two projects: The Farm Bill Consortium and the Blueprint for the National Food Strategy.

The Farm Bill project was just taking off, and I specifically got to work on the Crop Insurance Title (Title XI) of the Farm Bill. My role consisted of written and interview-based research (which included a trip to rural Iowa!) to help formulate policy recommendations for the next Farm Bill with respect to Title XI. I worked closely with another teammate to coordinate our recommendations around commodities as well.  I also got the chance to travel to the Food Law Student Leadership Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, where I met a lot of students and faculty from the Consortium partner schools. The project is now moving in an exciting direction, where they will combine recommendations among all coordinated groups working on other Titles of the Farm Bill. I look forward to seeing the final product!

In a bit of contrast, the National Food Strategy project was nearing its completion. This project entailed a white paper written in conjunction with Vermont Law School, and I came on board to help with final edits to both the paper and the appendices of supporting national and international strategies. Just last week, I received a copy of the final paper. It was great to be able to see a finished product, and I was very proud of the work of the entire team!

The Food Law and Policy Clinic provided me a valuable lesson in project management and team-building. I enjoyed working with Emily, the fellows (shout out to Lee and Emma!), and my classmates. I also enjoyed focusing on policy-making, something that is rarer in black letter law classes. And I got to work with interesting, smart, kind and patient people. Mission accomplished: I cannot say enough good things about the clinic staff!

In new report, Food Law and Policy Clinic calls for federal action on food recovery

Via Harvard Law Today

‘Don’t Waste, Donate’ outlines actionable recommendations for policy changes

On March 9, the Food Law and Policy Clinic of Harvard Law School (FLPC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), released “Don’t Waste, Donate: Enhancing Food Donations through Federal Policy” presenting actions the federal government should take to better align federal laws and policies with the goal of increasing the donation of safe surplus food. Such food recovery has the potential to address the coupled issues of food waste and food insecurity in the United States, reducing the 40% of food that is wasted by instead getting edible food onto the plates of those in need.

Dont-Waste-Donate_-March-2017_coverIn 2015, the federal government made reducing food waste a national priority through the announcement of a national goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030. In this report, FLPC and NRDC lay out a variety of policy opportunities that help the federal government meet this goal. The report identifies a number of federal laws and policies that strive to enhance food recovery, but fail to address the evolving needs of the food donation landscape or reduce unnecessary barriers to donation. For example, under current laws, if an entire manufacturing run of yogurt has a misprint with the incorrect net weight, the manufacturer would not benefit from the liability protections or tax incentives meant to encourage food donation unless every container were re-labeled with the correct number of ounces. These types of hurdles do nothing to protect consumers and everything to discourage food donations. Fortunately, simple and targeted changes to federal policy can reduce these senseless barriers.

“Don’t Waste, Donate” offers 16 actionable recommendations spanning five key areas of federal policy that can increase the amount of safe, wholesome food donated to those in need. The report recommends policy changes that would:

–Enhance liability protections for food donations;

–Improve federal tax incentives for food donations;

–Standardize and clarify expiration date labels;

–Better monitor and encourage food donation by federal agencies; and

–Modernize and clarify food safety guidance for food donations.

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Food Law and Policy Clinic & Natural Resources Defense Council Offer Federal Policy Recommendations to Increase Donation of Wholesome Food and Reduce the 40% of Food Wasted in the U.S.

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

The Food Law and Policy Clinic of Harvard Law School (FLPC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council, released Don’t Waste, Donate: Enhancing Food Donations through Federal Policy presenting actions the federal government should take to better align federal laws and policies with the goal of increasing the donation of safe surplus food. Such food recovery has the potential to address the coupled issues of food waste and food insecurity in the United States, reducing the 40% of food that is wasted by instead getting edible food onto the plates of those in need.

In 2015, the federal government made reducing food waste a national priority through the announcement of a national goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030. In this report, FLPC and NRDC lay out a variety of policy opportunities that help the federal government meet this goal. The report identifies a number of federal laws and policies that strive to enhance food recovery, but fail to address the evolving needs of the food donation landscape or reduce unnecessary barriers to donation. For example, under current laws, if an entire manufacturing run of yogurt has a misprint with the incorrect net weight, the manufacturer would not benefit from the liability protections or tax incentives meant to encourage food donation unless every container were re-labeled with the correct number of ounces. These types of hurdles do nothing to protect consumers and everything to discourage food donations. Fortunately, simple and targeted changes to federal policy can reduce these senseless barriers.

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FLPC Releases “Moving Food Waste Forward: Policy Recommendations for Next Steps in Massachusetts”

Via Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Moving Food Waste Forward_CoverToday, the Food Law and Policy Clinic of Harvard Law School released Moving Food Waste Forward: Policy Recommendations for Next Steps in Massachusetts.

The report follows FLPC’s October 2016 report, Keeping Food Out of the Landfill: Policy Ideas for States and Localitiesa resource that provides detailed information on how states and local governments can contribute to local food waste reduction. Moving Food Waste Forward provides information and recommendations specific to Massachusetts stakeholders. In addition to information from other states, it also references ideas and recommendations that emerged from conversations with food waste experts and stakeholders from around the state of Massachusetts. The report covers tax incentives, liability protections, date labels, food safety, school food waste, the Massachusetts organic waste ban, and government support for food waste reduction.

Massachusetts stakeholders can use the information in this report in order to determine key priorities for next steps in policy change to further reduce the amount of food wasted in the state. The recommendations in this report could be implemented individually or in tandem, or could be combined together into comprehensive state food waste legislation.

Food Law & Policy Clinic sponsors Sugar Stands Accused event

Via Harvard Gazette

Author makes case for ‘uniquely toxic’ health effects in talk at HLS

Gary Taubes

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Gary Taubes signs copies of his book “The Case Against Sugar” following his talk for the Food Law and Policy Clinic. The acclaimed science writer hypothesizes that sugar “has deleterious effects on the human body that lead to obesity and diabetes, and that it should be considered a prime suspect [in the national dietary epidemic].”

Sugar was in the dock at Harvard Law School this week, accused of a prime role in the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes sweeping the country.

Science journalist and author Gary Taubes ’77 made his case that sugar consumption — which has risen dramatically over the last century — drives metabolic dysfunction that makes people sick. The hour-long talk was sponsored by the Food Law and Policy Clinic and drawn from Taubes’ new book, “The Case Against Sugar.”

A reputation for “empty calories” — devoid of vitamins and nutrients but otherwise no different from other foods containing an equal number of calories — has allowed sugar to maintain a prominent place in the U.S. diet. Taubes is dubious. First, all calories are not equal because the body metabolizes different foods in different ways. More specifically, there may be something about eating too much sugar — in particular fructose, which is metabolized in the liver — that implicates it in metabolic disease.

“I’m making an argument that sugar is uniquely toxic,” said Taubes. “It has deleterious effects on the human body that lead to obesity and diabetes.”

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Hunger for change: Panelists focus on a fix for a broken food system

Via HLS News

At the same time the government urges Americans to eat healthy foods, it heavily subsidizes farmers who produce corn and other crops used in junk foods, and invests little in those who grow fruits and vegetables.

The result? A pound of fresh broccoli costs about $2 in any supermarket, while a calorie- and fat-filled cheeseburger is half that price in many fast-food restaurants.

This system that makes healthy food expensive and junk food cheap should be fixed, said a panel of experts who gathered at Harvard Law School on Nov. 30. The panel discussion — “Transforming Our Food System” — was sponsored by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic in partnership with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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5 Questions for Emily Broad Leib

Via Clinical Law ProfBlog

In the spirit of thanksgiving and the abundance of food most of us partook in last week, I thought this would be a great time to continue that theme and learn about the amazing Food Law and Policy Clinic that Emily Broad Leib supervises at Harvard.  Here’s a recent interview I had with Emily about the interesting work she is doing.  Enjoy!

  1. I recently saw that Fortune and Food & Wine Magazines named you as the number one most influential woman in food and drink for 2016. This seems like a pretty big deal!

For the past three years, Food & Wine and Fortune Magazine have put out a list of the most innovative women in food & drink. I was incredibly surprised and humbled to be included at the top of the list! This honor was mostly in recognition of the work of my clinic, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), on the issue of food waste. 62.5 million tons of food is wasted annually in the U.S., presenting a grave threat to our economy, health, and environment. While there are a variety of reasons for this pervasive waste, we’ve come to learn that much of this waste results from laws regulating the food system.

My work in date labels and the broader issue of food waste began from a clinic project we conducted on behalf of Daily Table, an organization that aims to increase access to healthy and affordable food by rescuing and selling surplus foods that would have otherwise gone to waste. To answer Daily Table’s legal questions, clinic students examined the laws in Massachusetts regarding date labels on food. When we zoomed out from Massachusetts to see what surrounding states were doing, we found a dizzying array of state laws, many of which restrict sale or donation of past-date foods. This is despite the fact that these dates are generally intended as indicators of quality, not safety, and for the most part food will still be safe and wholesome after that date has passed. Our work on date labels continues, and we’ve branched out to tackle other policies impacting food waste, such as food safety regulations, tax incentives for food donation, and liability protections for food donation.

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FLPC Releases Toolkit to Promote Food Waste Reduction

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

food-waste-toolkit-coverToday the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) releases Keeping Food Out of the Landfill: Policy Ideas for States and Localities. This toolkit provides comprehensive information on eight different policy areas that states and localities can consider as they ramp up efforts to reduce food waste. There are great opportunities for food waste reduction at the federal level, but much can be done by states and localities, whose involvement in finding solutions to food waste and food recovery is vital. The toolkit includes recommendations for each of the policy areas, which can be utilized by legislators, advocates, food donors, and food recovery organizations to call for policy changes.

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Screening Toolkit for Not Really Expired is Now Available

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

expired-screening-guide-coverThe Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), in partnership with Racing Horse Productions, has released a screening toolkit for the short film EXPIRED? Food Waste in AmericaExpired? was released in February 2016 and explores how misleading date labels on food products contribute to food waste in America.

By now, Expired? has more than 16,800 views on Vimeo. But this impactful documentary has the power to engage and inform millions on the critical issue facing the United States. With that in mind, FLPC has released a screening toolkit to encourage food waste warriors at every level to reach even more people.

The screening toolkit contains helpful advice for preparing to screen the documentary for the public, discussion questions and talking points to get the conversation started, advice on how to take action to combat food waste and reform  expiration date labels, and additional resources from other leaders in the food waste reduction movement.

The U.S. alone wastes 160 billion pounds of food, or nearly 40% of food produced in this country, annually.

We hope the screening toolkit will encourage colleges and universities, high schools, libraries, food policy councils, health departments, advocates to hold screening of Expired? to help raise awareness on the need to reform our expiration date labeling system and reduce the amount of safe and wholesome food wasted in the U.S.

Download a copy of the Expired? Food Waste in America screening toolkit.

FLPC and NRDC Release New Fact Sheet on Food Donation

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Food donation provides a critical link between organizations with wholesome surplus foods and the 42 million Americans who are food-insecure today. Yet while there are strong federal and state protections, many food manufacturers, retailers, and restaurants cite fear of liability as one of the main barriers to donating food. The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently created a fact sheet with recommendations to strengthen the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, passed by Congress in 1996, encourages donations through a broad range of protections for food donors, but many seem unaware of these protections. FLPC and NRDC first looked at the challenges impacting use of the Act in 2015’s Federal Enhanced Tax Deduction for Food Donation: A Legal Guide. This newly released fact sheet strengthens the suggestions made in the legal guide, explaining five ways the law should be updated and implemented to expand and strengthen the protections—and ensure they better align with the current food-recovery landscape:

  1. Assign an executive agency, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to oversee implementation and interpretation of the law.
  2. Extend protections to nonprofits that sell food at a discounted price, as well as their donors.
  3. Extend protections to donations made by food service establishments and retailers directly to individuals.
  4. Limit labeling requirement to comply with safety-related federal, state, and local laws, but not immaterial errors such as incorrect weight.
  5. Explicitly extend protections to past-dated food.

Read the “Recommendations to Strengthen the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act” fact sheet.

Harvard Law School partners with Food For Free

Via HLS News

Harvard Law waste reduction ‘exemplary’ during Commencement in 2016

Credit: Elizabeth Marble Caton

Kicking off the semester sustainably, Harvard Law School launched its first formal food donation program, in partnership with Food For Free, a local nonprofit that recovers wasted food from companies across Cambridge and Boston to redistribute to the area’s hungry. HLS will set aside excess prepackaged and retail foods from its dining halls for weekly pickup by Food For Free.

Food recovery and wasted food have long been a focus at HLS. In May 2016, HLS piloted its first food donation at a zero-waste Commencement lunch and was able to recover 900 meals that were distributed by Food For Free to local food pantries and shelters. This initiative was made possible through collaboration with Restaurant Associates (RA), HLS’s food services provider, HLS’s Sustainability Manager, and guidance from the HLS Food Law and Policy Clinic.

The Food Law and Policy Clinic is tackling food waste through work on date labeling policies, food donation policies and liabilities, and through education efforts like their recent Reduce Recover: Save Food for People conference in June.

Across campus, Harvard University Dining Services, which serves all 14 undergraduate dining halls and the Harvard Business School is also partnering with Food for Free to redistribute prepared and prepackaged foods. These efforts align with Harvard’s commitment to build and operate a healthier, more sustainable campus. As outlined in the Harvard Sustainability Plan, Harvard has a University-wide goal to reduce waste 50% per capita by 2020, and the Office for Sustainability is in the process of creating Sustainable and Healthful Food Standards, which will address food waste.

While the partnership between HLS and Food For Free will initially focus on the donation of just prepackaged and retail foods, they are looking forward to expanding donations to include all prepared foods that are safe to donate from the cafeteria and catering services on campus. Elizabeth Marble Caton, the Sustainability Manager at HLS, completed a pilot study that found that the wasted food generated through Restaurant Associates’ catered events on campus is roughly 40 percent or .59 pounds of food per attendee. “We are eager to recover this wasted food and redistribute it to those in our community that are in need,” said Marble Caton.

Eliminate Laws That Cause Healthy Food to Go to Waste

Via New York Times

Emily Broad LeibEmily Broad Leib is an assistant clinical law professor, director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, and deputy director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation. She is on Twitter.

Multiple policies could be implemented to address food waste and its impacts on the environment, food security, and our climate. In particular, we should eliminate laws that cause healthy food to go to waste, incentivize food donation and, when needed, enact penalties for senseless food waste.

Let’s start with consumer confusion, and the misguided laws regarding food date labels. Eighty four percent of consumers report they frequently throw food away after the sell-by date has passed, despite date labels being indicators of freshness, not safety. What’s more, in the absence of federal law on date labels, no two states have the same date label rules. Several states even restrict or ban the sale or donation of past-date foods. Federal legislation is needed to eliminate state laws that require past-date — but still safe — foods to be wasted, and to standardize date labels so they are clearer to consumers.

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Harvard Law School to Launch Pilot Food Donation Program with Food For Free in Effort to Reduce Food Waste and Enhance Food Recovery

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

We are thrilled to announce that Harvard Law School will join the growing list of colleges and universities in Massachusetts and around the nation that donate excess foods to those in need, thanks to a new partnership with Cambridge-based Food For Free, a leading food recovery organization committed to rescuing food that might otherwise go to waste.

Starting September 7, 2016, wholesome, excess pre-packaged and retail foods from the Law School’s dining hall will be set aside for pick up each week from Food For Free, who will then distribute the food to various food pantries, shelters, day care centers, after-school programs, clinics, and drop-in centers in the Boston/Cambridge metro area.

Reducing food waste is a priority of the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School (FLPC), which is a national leader on providing research and cutting edge policy recommendations to reduce the waste of healthy, wholesome foods. This summer, FLPC co-hosted (with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and Recycling Works in Massachusetts) a national conference on reducing food waste. The Reduce and Recover: Save Food for People conference convened more than 350 entrepreneurs, practitioners, policymakers, and enthusiasts from around the country to further a public dialogue on reaching the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s national food waste reduction goal of 50% by 2030. The event was held at Harvard Law School, and FLPC worked closely with Harvard Law School’s catering vendor, Restaurant Associates, as well as Sustainable America, an environmental nonprofit, to source rescued food so that almost all of the meals served at the conference—nearly 1,000 meals in total—were made from rescued food.

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FLPC, in partnership with the Food Recovery Project, Launches “Leftovers for Livestock: A Legal Guide for Using Excess Food as Animal Feed”

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Leftovers for Livestock_coverIn the United States, approximately 63 million tons of food is wasted every year. The natural resources used to produce that food, including water, fertilizer, and land, are also lost as a consequence of this alarming amount of waste. Furthermore, this wasted food typically ends up in landfills where, as it breaks down, it leads to significant emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas with 56 times the atmospheric warming power of carbon dioxide. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in its Food Recovery Hierarchy, prioritizes recovery opportunities for reducing food waste. According to the hierarchy, wholesome, edible food should be kept in the human food supply if possible. When that is not possible, it should be used as feed for animals. Given the significant environmental impact of food in landfills, many businesses, nonprofit organizations, and policymakers have seen a renewed interest in the use of food scraps as animal feed.

In Leftovers for Livestock: A Legal Guide for Using Excess Food as Animal Feed, the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Food Recovery Project at the University of Arkansas provide the first-ever catalogue of the different state regulations and requirements for feeding food scraps to animals. Leftovers for Livestock serves as an important resource for businesses with food scraps that could go to animals, livestock farmers, and other interested stakeholders.

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Food Law clinic sponsors conference focused on food waste, consumer education

Via HLS News

Reduce-and-Recover-Conference-Book-Cover-2016“$1.3 billion per year is spent on sending food to landfills.”

“Food waste makes up 21% of landfill waste in the United States”

“As much as 40 percent of food produced in America gets thrown out.”

“This month you’ll toss 24 pounds of food in the trash.”

Food recovery entrepreneurs, farmers, business persons, academics, government officials and many others converged at Harvard Law School for two days of learning, strategizing, and networking to address the growing issue of food waste.

The conference, “Reduce and Recover: Save Food for People,” held June 28 and 29, was sponsored by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), with support from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts.

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FLPC Director Testifies in Front of House Agriculture Committee

Via Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

On Wednesday, May 26, 2016, the Director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, Emily Broad Leib, provided testimony at House Agriculture Committee Hearing on Food Waste from Field to Table. Members of the House Agriculture Committee heard from a variety of witnesses from industry, academia and the private sector who shared their efforts and initiatives in place to address the issue of food waste across the food chain.

View video of the hearing:

Read the full text of Emily Broad Leib’s testimony here.

Tommy Tobin, channeling a passion for food into service and scholarship

Via HLS News


Credit: Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Growing up in the South, Tommy Tobin was part of a family that loved food.

“We liked to eat a lot,” said Tobin, who graduates in May with degrees from Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School and a plan to build his career around food law and policy.

When a severe speech impediment left him struggling to be understood, food became a way for Tobin to connect with others. In high school he volunteered at a food bank and with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and watched his actions speak volumes.

“I didn’t need to speak, I could just do,” said Tobin. “And speaking through service became a theme for me.”

That commitment to service continued in college. At Stanford University he led the Stanford Project on Hunger to help reduce food waste in the dining halls and to support a nearby homeless shelter. After graduating, in 2010, he served as an intern with the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, working on reducing food waste around the country.

Tobin spent a year in Ireland doing graduate work in food business. Back in the United States, he applied to the Master in Public Policy program at HKS.

“Harvard’s a wonderful place to go to study food,” Tobin said. “People all over this University work on food issues.” Not least at the Law School, which has a clinic devoted to food law and policy. Before long, Tobin was cross-registered in HLS classes. Then he was applying. Then he was accepted.

“To actually get in was incredible.”

Tobin’s passion for food justice is matched by his fascination with language, which developed in part when his speech issues forced him to scour the thesaurus for word substitutes. “I became really interested in the phrasing of things,” he said.

His passions merged at Harvard, where he led the Harvard Food Law Society, joined the Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, and held editing posts with both the Harvard Journal on Legislation and the Harvard Law and Policy Review.

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FLPC Releases Report on Consumer Perceptions of Food Date Labels

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Date Labels Survey Infographic-01

Today, at the Food Waste Summit hosted by the National Consumers League (NCL) and Keystone Policy Center, FLPC, NCL, and Johns Hopkins University Center for Livable Future released their findings from a national survey on consumer perception of date labels in the report Consumer Perceptions of Date Labels: National Survey.  The survey aimed to understand the extent to which consumers are confused about date labels, whether they throw away food after the date passes, perceptions about whether labels are federally regulated, and which labels most clearly communicate quality and safety, for purposes of standardizing the language Many people throw away food once the date passes because they think the date is an indicator of safety, but in fact for most foods the date is a manufacturer’s best guess as to how long the product will be at its peak quality. With only a few exceptions, food will remain wholesome and safe to eat long past its expiration date. The survey, and subsequent report, confirms widespread consumer confusion over food date labeling and how it likely contributes to to the 40% of food wasted in the U.S. each year.

Excerpt from the report:

“More than one third of the population (37%) says they always or usually throw away food because it is close to or past the date that appears on the package. 84% of consumers throw out food based on date labels at least occasionally.”

As efforts are underway in Congress to standardize date labels that indicate quality versus safety, the reports also provides useful data on which date labels consumers perceive most strongly as communicating quality and which most strongly communicate food safety.

Read Consumer Perceptions of Date Labels: National Survey in full.

FLPC, in partnership with the Food Recovery Project, Launches Updated Legal Guide on the Federal Enhanced Tax Deduction for Food Donations

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Tax Deduction for Food Donation coverThe Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, in partnership with the Food Recovery Project at the University of Arkansas, is pleased to published an updated version of “Federal Enhanced Tax Deduction for Food Donation: A Legal Guide,” to reflect the significant changes Congress made as part of the fiscal year 2016 omnibus budget that increase tax incentives for food donations and prevent food waste. This guide, originally published in November 2015, provides an important resource for food businesses and food recovery organizations to determine whether a food donor is eligible to receive the enhanced deduction.

An estimated 40 percent of food produced in the United States goes uneaten; at the same time, more than 14 percent of U.S. households are food insecure at some point during the year. Diverting a fraction of the wholesome food that currently goes to waste in this country could effectively end food insecurity for all Americans.

The extension and modification of the charitable deduction for contributions of food inventory included in the 2016 omnibus budget contains four significant changes: 1) a permanent extension of the enhanced tax deduction for food donations; 2) increases the deduction’s cap to 15% of the donor’s net income; 3) provides certain taxpayers a new optional formula for calculating the enhanced deduction; and 4) provides a formula for determining the fair market value (FMV) of food inventory. Each of these are reflected in the updated legal guide and explained in detail in FLPC’s previous blog post.

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EXPIRED in Washington, D.C.

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

By Katie Sandson,  J.D. ’17


Image provided by Senator Richard Blumenthal’s office

I have been a clinical student in the Food Law and Policy clinic since January 2016. As a continuing clinical student this semester, I have been working on FLPC’s food waste and food recovery initiatives, including work on the clinic’s expiration date project. As part of its efforts to standardize date labels at the federal level, FLPC has drawn attention to this problem through the creation and promotion of a short film, EXPIRED? Food Waste in America. The film tells the story of how a restrictive date labeling rule in Montana has required countless gallons of wholesome milk to be needlessly discarded once the milk reaches a labeled date that has no basis in safety or science. Montana’s rule is just one example of similarly restrictive rules in place throughout the country.

Throughout the semester, I have worked to promote the film and raise awareness about the connection between date labels and food waste. Two weeks ago, I traveled to Washington, D.C. with the clinic to attend a number of events related to our date labeling projects, including two screenings of the EXPIRED film in two very different settings. On Sunday, I helped give a presentation on date labels at the National Food Recovery Dialogue hosted by the Food Recovery Network. On Tuesday, FLPC’s director Emily Broad Leib and clinical fellow Christina Rice participated in a panel on date labels hosted by Senator Richard Blumenthal’s Office. Senator Blumenthal has announced plans to introduce legislation to standardize date labels at the federal level, an effort FLPC has supported throughout the process.

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The Importance of Food Policy Councils

A conversation with Emily Broad Leib of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic.

Via Lucky Peach

Emily Broad Leib is the co-founder and director of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. The clinic pairs Harvard law students with nonprofits and government agencies working to increase access to healthy food and assist farmers engaged in sustainable agriculture.

Emily’s work began in Mississippi, which has one of the highest rates of poverty and obesity in the country. While a fellow in the Mississippi Delta, Emily worked on simplifying and clarifying laws that prevented small-scale farmers from selling their produce in farmers’ markets and helped start the Mississippi Food Policy Council. I spoke with her about food-policy councils, small farmers, food waste, and using food as a lens for understanding a community’s wider health problems.

Why do you focus on food?

When I was in law school, my main focus was in human rights. I didn’t know anything about food, really, before I went on my fellowship to Mississippi. There, I realized that there are two major social issues facing this country where food is closely linked. One is health. We have a huge issue with obesity and diet-related disease.

The other is environment and climate change. We know that food and agriculture both contribute to climate change and we will need to have really clear mitigation plans for how to address this.

How does a food-policy council address those issues?

A food-policy council is a group of individuals from diverse backgrounds—government officials, parents, doctors, teachers, and nonprofit organizations—coming together to try to figure out how they can make local food laws better for local food systems, health, or environment. There are actually more than two hundred in North America now.

Most of them are formed when people come together and say, Our government isn’t prioritizing this but we have a lot of ideas about what needs to change. If we come together as a coalition to make decisions and set our priorities, then we can have an impact. With theMississippi Food Policy Council, for example, we changed six laws in four years . We were able to work with a food-policy council and other nonprofits to get the sales tax eliminated at farmers’ markets. Most states have eliminated sales tax on groceries, but Mississippi still has that tax. At a grocery store, it’s easy to collect that sales tax, but for farmers it was a huge barrier to entry.

Beyond Mississippi, we’ve worked with the Navajo Nation, which has a host of food-related issues: diabetes, diet-related diseases, and minimal access to healthy food. As lawyers, the project is interesting because finding a solution requires navigating legal challenges related to Navajo sovereignty. There’s been a push for a Navajo farm-to-school program, for example, but it’s been held up by the different agencies—state governments, the federal government, and the Board of Indian Affairs—that run different schools. That makes it is hard to set one general policy.

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