FOOD POLICY COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT INITIATIVE
FOOD ACCESS & OBESITY PREVENTION INITIATIVE
FOOD WASTE INITIATIVE
SUSTAINABLE FOOD PRODUCTION INITIATIVE
FOOD POLICY COUNCILS COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT INITIATIVE
Blueprint for a National Food Strategy
In the fall of 2015, FLPC launched a new initiative, in partnership with The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School, to examine the potential role for a national food strategy in ensuring a healthful, equitable and environmentally and economically sustainable food system. This project takes an in-depth look at the benefits and critiques of a national food strategy, the legal mechanisms that could be employed to develop such a strategy, and the means by which stakeholder engagement could ensure that such a strategy is effective and inclusive. Our research will analyze how other countries have developed national food strategies while also considering how the U.S. has created national strategies for other issue areas. In addition, we will engage stakeholders about the benefits and critiques of a national food strategy, their insights on how to best develop and implement such a strategy, and their opinions on what food system issues should be prioritized.
La Paz, Bolivia
In 2014, FLPC began a partnership with its first international client, Fundacion Alternativas (Alternativas), a non-profit organization based in La Paz, Bolivia which focuses on increasing urban food security. Alternativas is leading an effort to enact food policy changes in several cities in Bolivia and raise the issue of food security to the national stage. Through a year-long series of monthly food policy council meetings in 2014, Alternativas developed and successfully advocated for La Paz’s first food security policy. FLPC helped with this effort by providing research and case studies on municipal food policy efforts in comparable cities in developing countries around the world. FLPC is now assisting Alternativas in beginning food policy discussions in another Bolivian city, Tarija. In addition, FLPC will support Alternativas’ efforts to unite several municipal governments in the La Paz region to advocate for food policies at the state level. Students working on this project gain valuable experience in community organizing, policy analysis and training, cross-cultural work, and urban food security.
Local Food Policy: Updates to Toolkit and Presentation Preparation
In the summer of 2012, FLPC published Good Laws, Good Food: Putting Local Food Policy to Work for Our Communities, a comprehensive toolkit that helps advocates across the country identify and pursue food policy priorities at a local level. This toolkit has been disseminated broadly – it was posted on the CDC’s website and has been used by food policy councils across the country. FLPC used the toolkit as the basis for local food policy workshops, introducing advocates to various food policy topics and building basic advocacy skills. A second toolkit in the series focuses on state food policy. FLPC is now working to update the local toolkit to reflect new policy areas and add recent food policy examples. The updated toolkit will be published in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in 2016.
FLPC has worked for the past three years with the Navajo Department of Health and the Community Outreach & Patient Empowerment (COPE) Project to identify ways in which food policy changes can improve health and increase food sovereignty within the Navajo Nation. In the summer of 2013, FLPC staff attended and presented at the Navajo Nation Food and Wellness Summit, helping Navajo leaders and community members begin to identify a set of policy issues they could address through legislation and other measures. To inform ongoing decision-making and policy development in this area, FLPC worked to create a toolkit (similar to the Clinic’s “Good Laws, Good Food” Food Policy Toolkits) that is tailored to the issues facing Navajo Nation, and which was launched in May 2015 by a team of FLPC staff and students that traveled to Navajo Nation. FLPC continues to work with COPE and its partner organizations in Navajo Nation as part of a coalition to improve food insecurity in the Navajo Nation and implement some of the policy ideas in the “Good Laws, Good Food” toolkit.
Chesapeake Food Policy Leadership Project
For the past two years, FLPC has partnered with the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins to support the Chesapeake Food Policy Leadership Network. This network includes food policy councils and coalitions from across the Chesapeake region. In addition to presenting at their annual conference and at other in-person and online trainings and webinars, this project includes intensive work with one state-level food policy council and one local food policy council within the Chesapeake region.
In summer 2015, FLPC began working with the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition (WV FFC) to assist the Council in identifying their top policy priorities and in conducting detailed research to help the Coalition advocate for legislative changes in those areas. In June, FLPC led an advocacy training at a public meeting in Summersville, WV, where participants learned about different areas of food policy and identified several potential policy priorities. The WV FFC asked FLPC for research and guidance on two identified priorities: (1) increasing local food procurement by public institutions in the state, or “farm to institution” policy; and (2) creating tax incentives for food donations by local farms. Using FLPC’s research, WV FFC developed and advocated for two bills related to these two topics in the state legislature during the 2016 session. While neither bill passed, both received bipartisan support and the WV FFC plans to reintroduce them in the next session.
In the spring 2016, FLPC began work with the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council which brings together a diverse set of stakeholders to address food equity and sustainability issues in the Pittsburgh region. FLPC is conducting research for the Council on strategies to improve school foods in the Pittsburgh School District, focusing on improving the quality of school meals, snacks, and after-school events, as well as increasing the amount of school gardens and farm-to-school programs.
FOOD ACCESS & OBESITY PREVENTION INITIATIVE
PATHS (Providing Access to Healthy Solutions)
Providing Access to Healthy Solutions (PATHS) works to improve type 2 diabetes treatment and prevention by helping to develop and implement strategic law and policy reform initiatives that can bolster these efforts. PATHS is a collaborative project with the Harvard Health Law and Policy Clinic. The project started in fall 2012 and to date has included state level work in North Carolina and New Jersey, the publication of federal policy recommendations to prevent and improve outcomes for type 2 diabetes, the provision of targeted technical assistance on a range of issues to organizations working to implement the policy changes identified through the project and the launch of a dedicated website, diabetespolicy.org. In order to help other states benefit from the detailed research and reports we prepared for North Carolina and New Jersey, the next component of the project is to develop best practices for policy changes that can be implemented at the state level in order to strengthen efforts to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes. This project is supported by Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Together on Diabetes Initiative, and aims to support the intervention-based work that BMS Foundation has been supporting in North Carolina, New Jersey, and other states.
School Food Intervention Toolkit
School food programs provide more than 50% of the daily calorie intake for many low-income children in the U.S. Recent years have brought positive changes in federal regulations governing foods served in schools. However, these school food advances have led some to the mistaken belief that challenges in school food have been met. In order to foster awareness and understanding of the ongoing need for improvement in school food policy and implementation at the state and local level, FLPC has been preparing a toolkit recommending high-impact areas of intervention to improve access to and quality of food in schools; to encourage the promotion of food literacy and opportunities to acquire a taste for nutritious foods; and to support the creation within schools of a just, healthful, and sustainable food culture. The clinic is working in partnership with Project Bread, a leading anti-hunger organization in Massachusetts focused on developing and scaling impactful food-access solutions.
Food is Medicine
The Food is Medicine Initiative identifies key legal and policy levers to help increase access to healthy food as part of both prevention and treatment of chronic disease. The Initiative lies at the intersection of FLPC and the Harvard Health Law and Policy Clinic, involving frequent collaboration between the clinics’ attorneys and students. The concept of food is medicine is still novel, but is quickly gaining traction among a variety of stakeholders, including food advocates, public health researchers, medical insurers, and others. Research has been done on how a variety of nutrition services (e.g., medically-tailored home-delivered meals, disease-specific food boxes, and fruit and vegetable “prescriptions”) can improve patient outcomes and lower healthcare costs. FLPC and the Health Law and Policy Clinic are compiling and evaluating the research in this fast-growing field in order to help community partners make key decisions about how to best define Food is Medicine, and using technical assistance to providers as well as policy advocacy to promote its effective integration into health care policy.
FOOD WASTE INITIATIVE
Expiration Date Policy
More than 40% of the food supply in America ends up in landfills rather than being consumed. FLPC has been working on the topic of food waste for the past few years, including publishing a major policy report with the Natural Resources Defense Council in September 2013 that examines the legal and policy regime surrounding expiration dates on foods, and how unclear and unregulated date labeling on food contributes to an alarming amount of unnecessary food waste. FLPC is continuing to work at the state and federal level to increase awareness about the policy changes needed to reform the expiration date system and decrease food waste. FLPC is drafting legislation and working with members of Congress to reform the expiration date system, as well as providing presentations and policy analysis to advocates, government agencies and food industry leaders that are working to reform the expiration date system through voluntary initiatives. On February 11, 2015, FLPC in collaboration with Racing Horse Productions released a short film, Expired? Food Waste in America, which profiles the waste of milk in Montana to illustrate the issue of misleading food labels as a leading cause of food waste in America and calls for a unified labeling system as a solution. To watch the film and learn more about date labels visit our website http://notreallyexpired.com/.
To read media coverage about “The Dating Game,” please click here.
Federal Policy Changes to Increase Food Recovery
FLPC has identified several key areas, in addition to misleading expiration date labels, where current laws create barriers to reducing food waste. Over the past few years, FLPC has conducted research on these issues, focusing on tax incentives and liability protections for food donations. The current tax incentives available for food donations are outdated and prevent donors who donate to non-traditional food recovery and distribution organizations from receiving tax incentives. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritans Food Donation Act protects several types of food donors and recipient organizations from liability. However, due to limits placed in the Act and a lack of clarity in its provisions, many well-intentioned food donors and recipient organizations are not protected under this Act or may not understand the protections available. FLPC has partnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council to produce a national policy paper analyzing these and other key areas of policy change that can help to increase food donation nationally.
Developing Food Recovery Best Practices for States and Cities
As FLPC has become a leader in the laws and policies surrounding food waste, it has received multiple requests from state-level advocates working to reform their laws to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste. For example, last year, FLPC students developed fact sheets on date labeling, tax incentives, and liability protections for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP) and Recycling Works as it rolled out its organic waste ban across the state. FLPC is now working with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which aims to encourage more food recovery in the state. Over the past year, FLPC has worked actively in nearly ten states on various food recovery bills and policies.
One way to assist with the proliferation of better food recovery policy is by providing information to all states regarding methods of increasing food recovery. In order to make such information more widely available, FLPC is creating a toolkit for state and local policymakers interested in reducing food waste. This toolkit, to be released in 2016, will bring together lessons from our research and policy work in date labeling, tax incentives, liability protections, as well as other food waste policies, to provide policy makers with a comprehensive menu of policy options.
Using Food Waste as Animal Feed
The use of food waste as animal feed has been a common practice worldwide for centuries. Yet the practice of feeding food waste to animals has declined precipitously since the 1980s, when several disease outbreaks were linked to animal products in livestock feed. By 2007, just three percent of U.S. hog farms, which produced a mere 0.12 percent of the swine brought to market, fed excess human food to their livestock. Recently, however, there has been renewed and rising interest in the practice of using safe, properly-treated excess food – including unsold retail food and post-consumer food waste – as supplemental animal feed. FLPC is working in partnership with the University of Arkansas Food Recovery Project to create a legal guide that outlines what laws must be met in each state to feed leftover food to animals, aiming to dispel confusion about these laws and encourage this practice when done safely and responsibly.
SUSTAINABLE FOOD PRODUCTION INITIATIVE
Mobile Food Vending
Food trucks and mobile markets are low-cost businesses that offer opportunities for food entrepreneurs to serve good, often healthy food wherever they find a need. They are vehicles for both entrepreneurship and increasing food access. FLPC is analyzing healthy mobile retail food vending programs across the country, from the NYC Green Carts program to Fruteros in Oakland, to build a national best practices report for municipalities that see mobile retail vending as an opportunity to eliminate food deserts. This policy paper grew from previous work the Clinic did with the Boston Office of Food Initiatives in order to better support the development of new food trucks in the City of Boston.
Cottage Foods Report Update and Expansion
In August 2013, FLPC published a policy report on the wave of new state level laws that allow for the production of low-risk food items in home kitchens. This type of food production, called “cottage food production,” has increased in popularity in recent years. The policy paper has been widely used by communities around the country, and is one of the most frequently raised topics on which entrepreneur and community groups solicit FLPC for guidance. The research in this report is now several years old, and there are many state and local policies, as well as innovative examples of success, that have emerged since its initial publication. FLPC is working on updating the Cottage Foods Report to include up-to-date research, and expand the report to include case studies and think more about the next steps for allowing direct sales of food with lower barriers to entry.
Shared Use of School Kitchens
Shared use—also called joint use or community use—occurs when government entities, or sometimes private organizations, agree to open or broaden access to their facilities for community use. Over the past several years, shared use has emerged as a promising strategy for creating opportunities for physical activity, particularly on school grounds. More recently, there has been increased attention on the sharing of school kitchen facilities to foster healthier communities. School kitchens can provide community members, non-profit organizations, educators, and small-scale food entrepreneurs a convenient location to engage in a variety of health-promoting strategies. These can include: increasing food literacy among children and adults, educating students and the larger community about nutrition and cooking, and creating and selling healthy foods to support small businesses or school activities. FLPC has partnered with ChangeLab Solutions to research and analyze federal and state laws and policies (with a focus on 4-5 select states) that facilitate or impede the shared use of school kitchens. The findings will be included in a report that will make recommendations on potential policy options for overcoming barriers and identifying financial opportunities for utilizing school kitchens through a shared use partnership.
Cultured and Plant-Based Meat, Dairy and Egg Products
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that in the next 40 years the demand for meat will increase by more than two-thirds and current production methods are not sustainable. Plant-based and cultured meat, eggs and dairy products have been introduced as sustainable alternatives to their nature derived counterparts. However, there are a number of federal laws and policies that impact production and sale of these products. FLPC will assist the Good Food Institute, whose goal is to disrupt animal agriculture by supporting plant and culture-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs, to research and identify the federal laws and policies that facilitate or impede plant and culture-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs.
Click here to read our publications in the food law library.