FOOD POLICY COUNCILS & FOOD SYSTEMS PLANNING INITIATIVE
FOOD ACCESS & OBESITY PREVENTION INITIATIVE
FOOD WASTE INITIATIVE
SUSTAINABLE FOOD PRODUCTION INITIATIVE
FOOD POLICY COUNCILS & FOOD SYSTEMS PLANNING INITIATIVE
Appalachian Diabetes Coalitions
Over the past few years, the FLPC has been working to provide support and technical assistance to the Appalachian Diabetes Coalitions. These Coalitions are county-level committees located throughout the Appalachian region (OH, WV, VA, KY, TN, MS, AL, NC, SC, GA, PA) that were created to help respond to the growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes. These coalitions were created by a project at Marshall University that has been funded through a variety of resources. The FLPC introduced the ADCs to food policy through a series of day-long trainings throughout the region (see Local Food Policy Trainings), and now is providing more advanced technical assistance to some of the Coalitions, focused on a few counties in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. The technical assistance includes helping the participating Coalitions identify priority food policy topics, creating materials, and leading workshops to assist the Coalitions in moving forward in achieving their food policy goals.
La Paz, Bolivia
In January 2014, FLPC partnered with its first international client, Alternativas, a non-profit organization based in Bolivia which focuses on increasing urban food security. Alternativas has coordinated with the mayor’s office in La Paz to assemble a Municipal Council on Food Security that is in the process of developing a policy to address food insecurity in the city of La Paz. Through a year-long series of monthly Council meetings, Alternativas is working to create a comprehensive policy responsive to the needs of La Paz’s residents. FLPC has assisted this process by providing the Council (made up of half local government officials and half community and nonprofit leaders) case studies and analyses of policies from other cities and regions around the world that are tackling food insecurity issues. Ultimately, FLPC will help identify the specific strategies to be included in the law that will improve access to healthy foods, opportunities for urban agriculture, and distribution systems, among other issues. 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 Trainings
Over the past few years, the FLPC has had several opportunities to conduct local and state food policy trainings, based on our “Good Laws, Good Food” toolkits. For example, as part of our work with the Appalachian Diabetes Coalitions, the FLPC developed a day-long food policy training, covering the basics of policy advocacy and the food system, as well as specific topics such as consumer access, school food, and physical activity. Because of increasing requests for technical assistance, the FLPC is working to turn its tailored food policy trainings into more generalized materials so they can be used across the country, as well as design more advanced food policy technical assistance materials.
Local Procurement by Massachusetts State Agencies, Colleges, and Universities
In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in local food consumption, and many states have enacted legislation to promote the use of food grown within the state. Under Massachusetts law, state agencies and institutions of higher learning are required to prefer locally-grown foods in their procurement practices. In spring 2012, we prepared a report for the Massachusetts Farm to School Project and the Massachusetts Food Policy Alliance to analyze the law and its implementation by state colleges and universities. After conducting interviews with several of the state college and university dining services programs and food management companies in the state, the FLPC published a report that included a list of recommendations to increase the purchasing of local foods by these institutions.
In 2013, the FLPC conducted a similar project with regard to local purchases by state agencies. Massachusetts law requires state agencies—but not state colleges or universities—to implement a 10 percent price preference for foods grown or processed in the commonwealth. The FLPC conducted research and prepared a report detailing this legal regime, discussing the agencies that are bound by this rule, identifying the barriers to local purchasing on either the agency or farmer side, and proposing both policy and non-policy recommendations for increasing local procurement by state agencies in Massachusetts.
As part of the FLPC’s work on farm to institution in Massachusetts, the FLPC published a four-page handout for advocates across the country to use in their efforts to increase local procurement by state agencies, colleges, and universities.
Since its inception, the FLPC has worked closely with the Mississippi Food Policy Council (MFPC) to identify and pursue legislative goals that will further the interests of the Council. FLPC has helped the Council pass several laws, including two laws based on FLPC’s Legislative Recommendations for Increasing Farm to School Programs in Mississippi. These laws (1) established an annual statewide Farm to School Week, when schools are encouraged to purchase locally grown produce to serve in school meals; and (2) created an Interagency Farm to School Council, tasked with increasing and expanding Farm to School programs in the state. To help further the Council’s work to promote farm to school programs, FLPC also created two step-by-step legal guides to purchasing and selling Mississippi produce for schools and other public institutions. FLPC has also helped the Council pass laws that (1) break down barriers to the cottage food industry; (2) exempt Mississippi farmers selling food products at farmers markets from the sales tax; and (3) permit local governments to support farmers markets from city/county revenue.
Currently, FLPC is working on two other central issues of interest to the Council. First, FLPC has researched agricultural loan programs in other states and is developing recommendations for a Mississippi agricultural lending program tailored to provide capital for small and beginning farms in the state. Second, FLPC has conducted policy research and is developing recommendations for incentivizing public institutions such as agencies, hospitals and prisons to purchase more Mississippi-grown food. Both of these measures would help to both improve public health in the state and strengthen local economies by making small-scale food farming more economically viable. FLPC also provides on-going policy research and assistance for smaller projects for the MFPC. These include developing an advocacy tool that makes the connection between building a robust local food system and strengthening the state economy; researching the rights of heirs who inherit farmland; and providing further recommendations and technical assistance for strengthening farm to school programs in the state.
The Memphis and Shelby County Food Advisory Council is a group of community advocates and government employees working to ensure that all Memphis and Shelby County residents have adequate healthy food available, and to promote the development of sustainable local food in their community. In 2011, FLPC helped the Advisory Council recommend an overhaul of the Memphis Food Code. In 2014, FLPC prepared a policy brief for the Council recommending best practices for designing and implementing a healthy corner store ordinance. In addition to policy research, the brief is based on phone interviews with individuals in various cities that have implemented healthy corner store policies to gain a better understanding of how to successfully design and implement this type of policy. FLPC will continue to work with the Council to use this research to design a successful healthy corner store policy for Memphis.
The FLPC has been working for the past year with the Navajo Division of Health around how food policy changes can improve health and increase food sovereignty within the Navajo Nation. In summer 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. The FLPC team then prepared a memo that assisted the Navajo Division of Health in drafting legislation that aims to provide a framework for efforts to make short and long-term changes to the food system. To inform ongoing decision-making and policy development in this area, the FLPC has been researching food law and policy questions of interest to the Navajo Nation Division of Health, and working to create a toolkit (similar to the Clinic’s “Good Laws, Good Food” State Food Policy Toolkit) that is tailored to the issues facing Navajo Nation.
The Rhode Island Food Policy Council (RIFPC) was created in October 2011 to improve the local food system by increasing and expanding the local food system’s capacity, visibility, and sustainability. In the past two years, the RIFPC has already taken on issues of nutrition standards and nutrition education, composting regulations, state raw milk regulations, among other legislative efforts. In 2014, the RIFPC is continuing their advocacy work by identifying a list of policy priorities to improve Rhode Island’s food system. The FLPC is working closely with the RIFPC to assist in the identification, development, and implementation of these policy priorities.
FOOD ACCESS & OBESITY PREVENTION INITIATIVE
Providing Access to Healthy Solutions (Type 2 Diabetes Policy Recommendations)
Providing Access to Healthy Solutions (PATHS) works to strengthen efforts 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 strives to achieve three main goals: (1) to increase access to care for people living with type 2 diabetes; (2) to improve systems for diabetes self-management, including educational programs as well as opportunities for increased access to affordable healthy foods and physical fitness; and (3) to reduce the incidence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other diet-related chronic diseases. PATHS is a cross-clinic project combining students and staff from both the FLPC and the Health Law and Policy Clinic. The project started in fall 2012, and in spring 2014 the PATHS team published state-level policy reports for both North Carolina and New Jersey. The project team is now conducting ongoing work on those states with state-based coalitions, aimed at implementing some of the policies suggested in the reports. The other components of the project include federal diabetes policy recommendations, national best practices for other states, and targeted technical assistance on a range of issues to organizations working to implement the policy changes identified in the project.
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 Project
One of the prime areas for change in the food system is the food in schools. School meals provide more than 50% of the daily calorie intake for many low-income children in the U.S. Fortunately, the past few years have brought great improvements in federal and state regulations governing the foods served in K-12 schools. However, these upgrades have led some schools and communities to the mistaken belief that the challenges in school food have been met. In fact, the changing regulatory landscape presents many opportunities for making changes still necessary at the state and local level. In order to help those working with schools at the state and local level to better understand the ongoing need for change in this realm and to determine where to begin making it, the FLPC is preparing a toolkit recommending high-impact areas of intervention to improve access to quality food in schools, to encourage the teaching of food literacy and awareness throughout schools, and to support the creation within schools of a just, healthful and sustainable food culture. The toolkit will be published nationally to support states, school districts and individual activists by identifying policy advocacy action items, featuring examples of districts that have made changes worth imitating, and highlighting resources available to facilitate making such changes at the school or district level.
The FLPC is working on this project in partnership with Project Bread, a leading anti-hunger organization in Massachusetts focused on ending hunger by developing and scaling impactful food-access solutions. Project Bread has experience working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, as well as school lunch programs across the Commonwealth, to increase daily access to and consumption of healthier school meals.
Nudge: Behavioral Economics and Food Law and Policy
Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein’s book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness helped begin a discussion about the many ways that “choice architects” can help nudge people to make better choices for themselves without forcing certain outcomes. The FLPC is working to identify ways for local governments to implement policy changes that use these principles to successfully promote healthier lifestyles.
FOOD WASTE INITIATIVE
Expiration Date Policy
More than 40% of the food supply in America ends up in landfills rather than being consumed. The 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 proposes policy recommendations for federal and state governments to improve regulation of expiration dates. Currently, expiration dates are solely managed by industry with no federal or state laws setting the length of time between when a food can be produced/packaged and the date placed on the package. Thus, these code dates are largely not linked to issues of food safety. Yet many consumers throw away food based on these dates, and some states have even restricted the sale or use of food after the labeled date.
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 food industry leaders that are working to reform the expiration date system through voluntary initiatives.
To read media coverage about “The Dating Game,” please click here.
Tax Incentives and Liability Protections
In the process of researching and drafting our expiration date report, FLPC discovered several other areas where the legal regime serves as a barrier to reducing food waste. First, the current tax incentives available for food donations are outdated and restrict the opportunity for food donors to receive tax benefits when they donate to some non-traditional food recovery and distribution organizations. Second, the “Good Samaritan” liability protections for food donors are similarly too narrow and do not clearly cover many innovative models for reducing food waste. FLPC, in partnership with the Conservation Law Foundation, is beginning to research how these policies could be reformed to encourage innovation and reduce food waste. This work includes interviews and meetings with a range of players in the food waste/food recovery arena in order to learn about their primary legal and policy barriers and hone our recommendations related to tax incentives and liability protections.
Recognizing that there are likely many other policy barriers preventing safe, nutritious food from making it to humans for consumption, FLPC is also constantly working to identify other potential policy levers that could decrease the amount of food that winds up in the waste stream.
SUSTAINABLE FOOD PRODUCTION INITIATIVE
Boston Urban Agriculture Initiative
In December 2013, Boston approved a new article of the City’s Zoning Code (Article 89) to facilitate the development of urban agriculture within city limits. The FLPC has been working with the Boston Office of Food Initiatives and the Boston Redevelopment Authority to research and create a series of guides for potential urban farmers to use in navigating the both the zoning and non-zoning permitting processes raised by starting an urban farm. In July 2014, the FLPC published a guide for ground-level farms that are less than one acre in size. The FLPC is currently working to finalize a guide for ground level farms that are greater than one acre and a guide for the keeping of hens and bees in the City. The FLPC also plans to create a guide for roof-level farms and a guide for freight container farms.
Department of Labor and Agriculture
Agriculture is subject to a number of exceptions in a variety of federal laws, including many of the federal labor laws. In particular, agriculture receives an exemption from overtime pay. This exemption hinges on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) definition and understanding of agriculture. The practice of agriculture has changed and evolved over recent years, and some of these agricultural practices used by many smaller and diversified operations have come to the attention of the DOL. The DOL has concluded that some of these activities do not, in fact, qualify as “agricultural activities,” thus subjecting the farmer to many wage and hour regulations. FLPC is researching this issue and will write a report with the findings and recommendations for federal policy change.
Food Safety Modernization Act, Proposed Rules
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) represents a major effort by the U.S. government to regulate food production and processing to better manage its capacity to prevent, monitor, and respond to food safety risks and food adulteration. Under the act, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed two pertinent rules, the Produce Safety Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule. In response to a request from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the FLPC researched the coverage and exemption provisions of each rule, assessing their legal and policy ramifications, in preparation for NSAC’s participation in the notice and comment proceedings of the rule promulgation process. In addition to this work for NSAC, the FLPC wrote its own comments to submit to FDA on the proposed regulations. In response to these and other comments, the FDA issued a press release in December 2013 indicating that it will release revised language for the Produce Safety Rule and Preventive Controls Rule in summer 2014. FLPC continues to monitor this ongoing rulemaking and will respond once revised language is released.
Land Use Incentives
One of the challenges facing the food system and impeding healthy food access is that private land developers do not necessarily see a benefit to providing food access, and thus do not plan for food production or sales as part of their developments. FLPC is currently analyzing some of the opportunities to encourage land developers to support a healthier and more sustainable food system by linking practices such as offering more urban and community gardens, farmers markets, and other fresh, healthy food vending to zoning, land use, or financial incentives. FLPC is creating a policy brief recommending ways that state and local policymakers can include such incentives in their land use planning policies in order to foster a better food environment.
Massachusetts Farm and Food Pro Bono Lawyer Training Guide
Many farmers and food producers hoping to launch or scale up their businesses are in need of legal assistance. In June 2014, the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) launched a pro bono legal services network of attorneys in the New England region who will provide pro bono legal assistance to farmers, food entrepreneurs, and community groups whose mission is to address social justice issues related to the food system. This network, called the Legal Services Food Hub (LSFH), will match eligible participants with skilled attorneys who are willing to provide their legal services for free. However, interested attorneys may be unfamiliar with the agricultural and food laws and policies that impact farmers and food producers on a daily basis. In order to facilitate the provision of legal services by these attorneys, the FLPC created a Farm & Food Law Guide: A Guide for Lawyers in the Legal Services Food Hub Network to introduce LSFH attorneys to the issues and special laws and policies that exist in the practice of food and agricultural law. The first version of the Guide includes the following chapters: Massachusetts Farming and Local Food Economy; Business Structures; Food Safety; and, Farm Transitions. The FLPC will continue working on this project by adding other sections to the guide as well as conducting more in-depth trainings on selected topics.
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. However, food trucks’ combination of professional kitchens, high speeds and enormous popularity wherever they park can make them tricky to regulate, and the resulting regulations frequently befuddle vendors. Over the past two years, the FLPC has taken a three-pronged approach to solving these problems. First, the FLPC worked with the Boston Office of Food Initiatives to complete an in-depth review of Boston’s food truck regulatory system. The review identified opportunities to streamline the regulatory system and minimize unnecessary cost on both the City of Boston and on food truck vendors. Second, the FLPC teamed up with the Community Enterprise Project of the Harvard Transactional Law Clinics to produce a Food Truck Legal Toolkit, a comprehensive guide to the food truck regulatory system in Boston and to the broader business law questions every new vendor must face before she sells her first meal. Third, the 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. Together, we hope these efforts help make Boston a world-class mobile food city free, and help cities across the country lay the groundwork for their own mobile food revolutions.
Harvard Dean’s Challenge
The Harvard Innovation Lab (i-Lab) is a center for innovation at Harvard that offers great opportunities for interdisciplinary partnerships across Harvard schools and for the development of solutions to some of society’s most pressing problems. One of the premiere programs offered by the i-Lab are the annual “Dean’s Challenges,” which offer opportunities for students from across the university to develop innovative solutions to social or technological issues. Over the spring 2014 the FLPC worked with Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow to develop a proposal for a Dean’s Challenge focused on improving the food system. This proposal was successful, and in the 2014-15 year, the i-Lab will host a Dean’s Challenge, sponsored by the Law School and School of Public Health, focused on “Creating a Healthy and Sustainable Food System for the Future.” The Challenge will include several subchallenge areas under which students would submit proposals. These include: (1) Sustainably Producing Nutritious Food to Feed a Growing Population; (2) Innovation in Distribution and Markets; (3) Improving Our Diet; and (4) Reducing Food Waste.
FLPC will work with an interdisciplinary planning team from Harvard Law School, the Harvard i-Lab, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Business School and other stakeholders to raise awareness in the Harvard student and alumni community about the Challenge and the importance of improving the food system more broadly. We look forward to seeing the innovative, creative ideas that the Harvard student body will develop, and hope this opportunity spurs increase interdisciplinary collaboration on food issues across the University.