Current Projects

Current Food Law and Policy Projects







Appalachian Diabetes Coalitions
Over the past few years, the Food Law and Policy Clinic 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 presentation was well-received, and many coalitions were interested in learning more about particular areas food policy.

At the request of Marshall University, the Food Law and Policy Clinic created a toolkit and training materials specifically for the Appalachian region and traveled through the region in spring 2013 to host a series of one-day trainings on local food policy. The feedback was incredibly positive, and following the trainings the Food Law and Policy Clinic attended a fall conference of all the ADC coalitions and presented an abridged version of the same training on one day and an advanced version that covered new topics on the second day.

As follow up to these presentations, Marshall University asked the Food Law and Policy Clinic to provide more advanced technical assistance to some of the Coalitions this spring.

La Paz, Bolivia
In 2014, the Food Law and Policy Clinic began working with its first international client, Alternativas, a non-profit organization based in Bolivia which focuses on increasing urban food security. Alternativas is leading an effort to create a food policy council and identify and enact food policy changes in the city of La Paz, Bolivia. Through a year-long series of monthly food policy council meetings, Alternativas hopes to create a comprehensive policy response to the needs of La Paz’s residents. This year, the Food Law and Policy Clinic assisted with this process by helping the council (made up of half high-level local government officials and half community and nonprofit leaders) identify the most pressing food issues in La Paz, and conducted legal and policy research to help inform their policy development.

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, we published a report that included a list of recommendations to increase the purchasing of local foods by these institutions.

In early 2013, the Food Law and Policy Clinic 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 Food Law and Policy Clinic 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 Food Law and Policy Clinic’s work on farm to institution in Massachusetts, the Food Law and Policy Clinic 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.


Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund in Mississippi
The Food Law and Policy Clinic works closely with the Mississippi Food Policy Council to identify and pursue legislative goals that will further the interests of the Council. This year, the Council is interested in learning more about agricultural revolving loan funds, which exist in many states in order to provide low interest loans to farmers. Mississippi currently has a form of revolving loan fund, called the Emerging Crops Fund, but it is unclear whether this program is sufficient to support small- and mid-sized farming operations in the state. The Food Law and Policy Clinic, working in partnership with the Harvard Mississippi Delta Project, is preparing a policy brief that will describe existing agricultural revolving loan funds in various states and analyze Mississippi’s Emerging Crops Fund in order to make recommendations about how the state could strengthen the existing Emerging Crop Fund or create a new agricultural revolving loan fund to support more small farmers and innovative food entrepreneurs.

Encouraging Farm to Institution in Mississippi
Farm to institution policies and programs have been increasing in popularity over the past few years as more farmers seek to access larger, more stable markets, and institutions (such as state agencies, hospitals, schools, and prisons) seek to provide fresh, healthy food to their consumers. The Food Law and Policy Clinic, in conjunction with the Harvard Mississippi Delta Project, is working with the Mississippi Food Policy Council to write a report identifying the benefits of increasing farm to institution in the state and recommending ways to promote local purchasing by state agencies, colleges, and universities.

Navajo Nation
The Food Law and Policy Clinic is working with Navajo Nation to identify how food policy changes can improve health and increase food sovereignty within Navajo Nation. After presenting at the Navajo Nation Food and Wellness Summit in summer 2013, the Food Law and Policy Clinic was asked to continue researching specific food policy issues of DSC_0021interest identified by the Navajo Nation Division of Health (NDOH) to help the NDOH craft legislation to present to the Navajo Nation Council. In addition, the Food Law and Policy Clinic is working on creating a toolkit (similar to the Clinic’s “Good Laws, Good Food” State Food Policy Toolkit) specific to issues facing Navajo Nation.

Rhode Island
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 Food Law and Policy Clinic is working closely with the RIFPC to assist in the identification, development, and implementation of these policy priorities.

Local Food Policy Trainings
As part of our work with the Appalachian Diabetes Coalitions (discussed above), the Food Law and Policy Clinic developed a set of food policy training materials, covering issues such as policy advocacy basics, consumer access, school food, and physical activity. The Food Law and Policy Clinic plans to turn the tailored local 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.


Providing Access to Healthy Solutions (Type 2 Diabetes Policy Recommendations)
Providing Access to Healthy Solutions (PATHS) works to strengthen state-based efforts to improve type 2 diabetes treatment and prevention through working with communities to identify and recommend strategic law and policy reform initiatives. This project strives to improve health outcomes for those with type 2 diabetes and reduce the incidence of the disease by undertaking 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 education programs, increased access to healthy foods and improved physical activity; and (3) to reduce the incidence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other diet-related chronic diseases.

NJ PATHS Cover Page

The project began in summer 2012 with work in both North Carolina and New Jersey. It is a cross-clinic project, working in conjunction with students and staff from the Harvard Health Law and Policy Clinic. The team combines both primary and secondary research to identify barriers to access to healthy foods and physical activity for those with type 2 diabetes. The project will analyze state statutory, regulatory and policy frameworks to understand where challenges and barriers exist; propose law and policy reform to improve access to care and to healthy foods; and collaborate with state-based stakeholders to advocate for and implement change. The PATHS teams wrote comprehensive policy reports for each state, which will be launched in spring 2014. The PATHS work will then turn its focus on to researching federal recommendations for the prevention and maintenance of 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.


  • New Jersey State Report: Providing Access to Healthy Solutions (PATHS) Full Report and Executive Summary
  • North Carolina State Report: Providing Access to Healthy Solutions (PATHS): The Diabetes Epidemic in North Carolina: Policies for Moving Forward: Full Report

Public Healthcare and Food Program Funding for “Food as Medicine”
Proper nutrition is a key component of disease management and treatment. However, patients with illnesses such as HIV and cancer are often so weak that they are unable to maintain proper nutrition independently. Organizations like Community Servings in Boston fill the gap by home-delivering medically-tailored meals to critically ill clients. To Community Servings and its clients, food is as essential to health as drugs or doctors, and so food is medicine. In fall 2012, the Food Law and Policy Clinic and Health Law and Policy Clinic partnered with Community Servings to develop a report on the funding opportunities for Community Servings and similar organizations through public healthcare and food programs, such as Medicaid and SNAP. The clinics are now working to turn our research into a national report that can assist similar organizations throughout the country.


Joint Use of School and Municipal Facilities in Massachusetts
Children across the state of Massachusetts, especially those who reside in low-income communities, often lack safe indoor and outdoor spaces that are conducive to engaging in exercise and otherwise maintaining a physically active lifestyle. The Food Law and Policy Clinic is working with the Health Law and Policy Clinic, in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Harvard School of Public Health, to investigate and facilitate “joint use” of school and other recreation facilities during non-school hours, with the aim of increasing leisure time physical activity and reducing rates of childhood obesity. During spring 2013, the Clinic worked with stakeholders in three Massachusetts communities to design and implement effective Joint Use Agreements (“JUAs”) between schools and municipalities. Based on the findings from these local projects, the team then published a joint use toolkit and conducted a training to guide other communities across the state of Massachusetts in replicating best practices as they develop their own joint use initiatives. In late fall 2013, the team drafted model regulations and statutes that will facilitate community use of school and other facilities during non-school hours. The Food Law and Policy Clinic will continue to evaluate and promote the joint use materials.

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. Luckily, the past few years have seen huge improvements in federal regulations governing the foods served in K-12 schools. Many states have also worked to improve food made available to children in school. However, all of the overhauls in the area of school food have led some schools and communities to the mistaken belief that challenges in school food have been resolved.

In order to help those working within schools and at the state level to appreciate the ongoing need for change in this realm, the FLPC is preparing a toolkit recommending high-impact areas of intervention to improve the quality and availability of healthy food in schools, to encourage the teaching of food literacy throughout schools, and to support the creation within schools and school districts of a healthy, empowered, and sustainable food culture. The toolkit will be published nationally to support states, school districts and individual activists by featuring examples of districts that have made changes worth imitating, highlighting resources available to facilitate making such changes at the school or district level, and identifying policy advocacy action items.

The FLPC is working 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.


Expiration Dates
These days, most food products we buy are produced or packaged by a company that stamps on the food items a “sell by,” “use by,” or “best by” date. These 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. These dates are not necessarily linked to the time by which the food must be eaten in order to be safe; however, these dates can have a major impact, as states and municipalities regulate the sale or use of food after its code date. During the 2011-12 school year, the Food Law and Policy Clinic worked with a local food entrepreneur to analyze the laws in Massachusetts and around the nation regarding the use of food items past their code date. Our client was the former president of a major national food retailer who now wants to use his knowledge of the retail food industry to reduce food waste and bring high quality, excess food into food deserts through a new type of retail store that would utilize these food items.

Through this work, the Food Law and Policy Clinic learned a lot about the lack of sound policy surrounding expiration dates, and the ways in which the current regulatory gaps lead to increased food waste (40% of the food prepared for consumption in the U.S. is wasted). The Food Law and Policy Clinic created a national policy report that analyzes the current food code dating system and discusses the ways in which the current regime leads to increased food waste. The report lays out policy recommendations for national and state governments around what can be done to reduce food waste and ensure that good food is utilized. The report, “The Dating Game: How Confusing Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America,” was published by the Food Law and Policy Clinic in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in September 2013.

To read media coverage about “The Dating Game,” please click here.



Boston Mobile Vending
Food trucks are low-barrier businesses that 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. More importantly, food trucks and other mobile vendors often fail to increase healthy food access in the poor neighborhoods that most need better options. The Food Law and Policy Clinic is taking a three-pronged approach to solving these problems. First, the Food Law and Policy Clinic 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 Food Law and Policy Clinic teamed up with the Harvard Transactional Law Clinic to produce a Food Truck Legal Toolkit, a comprehensive guide to the food truck regulatory system and to the broader business law questions every new vendor must face before she sells her first meal. Third, the Food Law and Policy Clinic is analyzing healthy mobile 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 vending as an opportunity to eliminate food deserts. Together, we hope these efforts help make Boston a world-class mobile food city free of food deserts, and help cities across the country lay the groundwork for their own mobile food revolutions.


Boston Urban Agriculture Initiative
In December 2013, the Boston Zoning Commission passed a new article to the City’s Zoning Code (Article 89), with the purpose of facilitating the development of urban agriculture within city limits. The City had been working on the urban agriculture initiative for over eighteen months, during which time the City hosted a series of neighborhood meetings to discuss the proposal and solicit feedback. The Food Law and Policy Clinic is working with the Office of Food Initiatives and the Boston Redevelopment Authority to research and create a series of user-friendly guides for potential urban farmers to use in navigating the both the zoning and non-zoning processes raised by starting an urban farm. The Food Law and Policy Clinic is researching and creating guides for the main types of urban farms that Article 89 will allow—ground-level farms, rooftop farms, and shipping container farms—as well as for other activities associated with those farm operations, such as hydroponics, aquaponics, aquaculture, farm stands, farmers markets, and the backyard keeping of bees and hens.


Department of Labor and Agriculture
Agriculture is subject to a number of exceptions in a variety of federal laws. Agricultural operations, for example, are exempt from many federal labor laws. The exceptions partly hinge on the definition of agriculture. Unfortunately, the various agencies that regulate agriculture at the federal level have different definitions and understandings of what counts as agriculture. The practice of agriculture has changed and evolved over recent years, and some of these agricultural practices have come to the attention of the Department of Labor (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. The Food Law and Policy Clinic is researching the various definitions of agriculture, as well as the DOL laws and regulations that are impacted by the definition, 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 outbreaks.  Under the act, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed two pertinent rules, the Produce Safety Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule.  The Food Law and Policy Clinic researched the coverage and exemption provisions of each rule, assessing their legal and policy ramifications, in preparation for our client’s participation in the notice and comment proceedings of the rule promulgation process. In the fall of 2013, the Food Law and Policy Clinic wrote its own comments to submit to FDA on the proposed regulations. The Food Law and Policy Clinic’s comments were submitted to FDA in mid-November 2013.

The FDA issued a press release in December indicating that it will release revised language for the Produce Safety Rule and Preventive Controls Rule in summer 2014.