Food Law and Policy Clinic students work to inform cutting-edge policy recommendations at the state and national levels in both the legislative and regulatory arenas. Students have, for example, assisted food policy councils in passing legislation supporting local food systems, educated farmers market vendors about the tax rules or food safety requirements they must meet, and recommended state administrative changes that improve access to food assistance programs for those in need. Clinic projects educate law students about using law and policy in creative ways to impact the food system, and students have the opportunity to hone a number of skills, such as researching and writing legal and policy documents, reports, and training materials; conducting statutory interpretation; drafting legislation and regulations; performing interviews and fact-finding with clients, stakeholders, and governmental agencies; and presenting workshops and trainings.
Students wishing to enroll in this clinic must enroll in the Food Law & Policy seminar in the fall or spring semester. This seminar presents an overview of topics in food policy and examines how law and policy shape our food system and what we eat. The seminar begins by looking at the ways in which domestic and international law have contributed to increasing rates of malnutrition and obesity, both in the United States and abroad. Following this overview, we analyze federal agricultural policies and look at the environmental, health, and safety implications of farming in our current food system. We discuss genetically modified crops, the meaning of “organic,” “sustainable,” and “fair trade,” as well as the ongoing debates around food labeling (including labeling for GM, organic, sustainable, and fair trade). We then take a series of weeks to look at the federal government’s role in determining what foods are eaten in the United States—through its food assistance programs, food purchasing programs, and nutrition guidelines—before evaluating potential solutions, including interventions aimed at improving education about healthy foods, changing food advertising and marketing practices, and increasing access to healthy foods. The seminar is intended to spark lively discussion between different sides of these often controversial issues.