Litigation Project Trip to Denver

Written by Hanna Ali, Summer 2017 intern in the Health Law and Policy Clinic.

Welcome to Colorado Image

Iowa. Or rather, “aiwa.” means “yes” in Arabic. It is frequently used in casual speech, carrying undertones of understanding, common ground, and empathy. I use the word often as an Arabic speaker, but I did not expect to do so with a cab driver in Denver, Colorado.

I traveled to Denver as part of CHLPI’s impact litigation efforts to challenge the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing’s refusal to cover hepatitis C medication for all hepatitis C patients. Presently, the Department will only cover the costs of medication for patients with a liver damage score of 2 or higher (on a scale of 0 to 4). This serves as a barrier for patients with a score of 0–2. The purpose of the trip was to attend a case analysis and strategy meeting with co-counsel from other organizations, including the ACLU of Colorado. The meeting was a day-long affair and was a unique opportunity to witness the collaboration that goes into impact litigation cases, as well as the deep intellectualizing of the legal issues and jurisprudence that goes into litigation strategy. I found it to be an incredibly enlightening experience as a rising second-year law student.

Prior to 2011, hepatitis C treatment options had a cure rate less than 50 percent with many painful side effects. New medication approved for use in 2011 promises a 90 percent cure rate without the painful side effects. While over 14 thousand Medicaid members in Colorado are diagnosed with hepatitis C, only a fraction will get coverage for their treatment under the current policy. Impact litigation efforts such as this one are therefore vital to health care enforcement efforts.

On our way back from the meeting, we took a cab with an immigrant from Sudan. I chatted with him in Arabic, discussing my academic goals while learning about his family. I was reminded again of the very privileged situation I find myself in, and how I have an obligation to leave the world just a little better than how I found it.


FLPC Storms Capitol Hill to Advocate for Solutions to Food Waste

Written by Victoria Shoots & Talia Ralph, Summer 2017 interns in the Food Law and Policy Clinic.

l-r: intern Victoria Shoots, FLPC Director Emily Broad Leib, FLPC staff Alyssa Chan, intern Talia Ralph, clinical student Molly Malavey.

During our final week as FLPC interns, we headed to the nation’s Capitol to join with celebrity chefs, Food Policy Action, ReFED, the James Beard Foundation, and The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) to meet with members on both sides of the legislative branch. We were there to present them with the best fixes to the problem of food waste in America, based on the clinic’s extensive research.

For those of you who may have missed NRDC’s initial groundbreaking report, 40% of the food produced in America ends up in the landfill. This waste costs us $218 billion—or 1.3% of our GDP—each year to grow, process, transport, and dispose. Considering that we spend about $100 billion a year through the farm bill, that’s a lot of money (and delicious food) thrown in the trash! We wanted to alert our representatives and senators to this issue, uniting them around what we see as a bipartisan win with triple-bottom line benefits for citizens, the environment, and our economy. But would they listen?

We’d been preparing for weeks, asking each other the toughest questions we could think of, memorizing information about specific states, and finessing our talking points. When we arrived in D.C. on Tuesday, we went right to work, attending a congressional briefing with our very own Emily Broad Leib, JoAnne Berkencamp (NRDC), Chris Hunt (ReFED), and  Meghan Stasz (Grocery Manufacturers Association). It was well-attended, and not just because of the delicious food and drink from Misfit Juicery and Glen’s Garden Market, both of which focus on using food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

That night, we joined the rest of the advocates and chefs for tacos and margaritas at Chef Spike Mendelsohn’s Santa Rosa Taqueria. We broke up into five groups, each a mixture of chefs, policy experts, and food waste advocates; each group would be visiting different senators and representatives the next day. Over dinner, we went over our three main asks of Congress:

  1. Standardize and clarify date labels by implementing a dual date label system that clearly distinguishes between foods that carry a safety risk past the date and those with a freshness concern;
  2. Strengthen liability protections for food donors and nonprofits that distribute donated food by delegating responsibility for the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act to USDA (through a new Office of Food Waste Reduction) and modifying several key provisions of the Act to better align with the current food recovery landscape;
  3. Support food waste research, invest in infrastructure for food waste recycling, and support planning and implementation of state and municipal organic waste recycling plans.

We talked about the chefs’ past experiences with lobbying, and strategized about how to deal with difficult questions from members of Congress and their staffers. Although it was both of our first times on the Hill (as well as a bunch of the chefs’!), we were prepared to serve as policy experts and supports for the chefs. They shared their personal experiences with wasted food in their restaurants and we translated these stories into statistics and policy recommendations—a great team strategy with equal parts emotional, firsthand experience and sound data and policy research. After weeks of prep and a great meal, we headed to sleep, as ready as we could be for our big and hectic day on the Hill.

On Wednesday, the full group met for breakfast, and then we all headed off to our respective meetings—over 60 in all! Time was of the essence, as we only had 30 minutes or less to meet with members of Congress or their staffers. Some meetings got shuffled; others happened in office hallways or common spaces of senators’ offices. We dashed back and forth between Senate and House office buildings. While it was no easy feat—especially in D.C.’s signature summer heat and wearing full business dress—it was all worth it in the name of introducing food waste solutions to congressional staffers, many of whom had never even heard of the issue.

One of the many highlights of the day was a meeting and photo op with Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, who along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, just introduced the Food Recovery Act of 2017, a groundbreaking bill which would implement a lot of the clinic’s top recommendations. They thanked us for our work, and we thanked them for theirs.

FLPC staff and interns with Senator Richard Blumenthal, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, staff from Natural Resources Defense Council, Food Policy Action, legislative staff, and chefs.

We capped off our day of advocacy with an incredible reception at Up Top Acres, a rooftop farm featuring spectacular views of the city and a seemingly never-ending supply of repurposed food hors d’oeuvres by some of D.C.’s top chefs. Even the drinks were an homage to the potential of reducing food waste: the cherries were recycled for a tart, refreshing, and much-needed drink. There, we also got the chance to reunite with some former FLPC fellows and interns who had contributed to the Clinic’s work on food waste before us, and now held government roles. It felt like a true homecoming, and a moment to celebrate all that we’d been able to accomplish so far. To end our night, we had an epic dinner that stretched into early Thursday morning…mostly because our chefs took over the ordering, sampling most of the menu as we swapped stories about our day on the Hill.

Though our meetings weren’t always easy, we received a lot of positive feedback from both sides of the aisle, and some important insight into what we need to keep working on and how to present our arguments. As interns looking forward to careers where we can positively impact our food systems, this experience was once-in-a-lifetime. We got a glimpse of how change happens at the federal level, and working with different stakeholders and partners taught us so much about how policy really happens. Plus, the food was great—what else should we have expected from 48 hours advocating with the nation’s best chefs?


New Jersey Leads the Nation in Fighting Diabetes with Innovative Treatments

On July 21st New Jersey took a critical step forward in its fight against type 2 diabetes when Governor Chris Christie signed Assembly Bill 2993 into law. Under the new law, New Jersey’s Medicaid program will be able to provide low-income residents with access to key diabetes management and prevention services, including diabetes self-management education (DSME), the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP), medical nutrition therapy (MNT), and expenses for related supplies and equipment. Passage of the law establishes New Jersey as a national leader in diabetes prevention by making it one of the first states to provide widespread Medicaid coverage of the diabetes prevention program (a step also taken by Montana, and, just recently, California).

“The financial costs and suffering caused by diabetes are increasing rapidly in New Jersey and nationwide,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr., one of eight lead sponsors on the bill. As of 2015, more than 626,000 New Jersey residents were living with diabetes—roughly 8 percent of the population. As a result, diabetes is the eighth leading cause of death for New Jerseyans.

Under Assembly Bill 2993, state officials are now equipped with important new tools to address these statistics. Research has shown that the NDPP, a multi-week lifestyle change program for individuals at risk for developing diabetes, can reduce the incidence of diabetes among high-risk individuals by as much as 58%. Similarly, DSME teaches diabetics the skills they need to manage their condition. By utilizing these skills, patients are better able to control their blood glucose levels, thereby reducing their risk of dangerous and costly complications.

“The passage of Assembly Bill 2993 is a true victory for individuals living with or at-risk for diabetes in New Jersey,” said Robert Greenwald, Clinical Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School, which worked with New Jersey stakeholders to highlight the need to improve access to these services in The 2014 New Jersey State Report: Providing Access to Healthy Solutions. “By providing access to a more comprehensive package of disease prevention, treatment, and management services, states like New Jersey are raising the bar for diabetes care in state Medicaid programs. It’s an exciting moment for diabetes advocates, and we’re hopeful that it is just the start of a broader trend in coverage across the country.”

To move forward in implementing the bill, the State Commissioner of Human Services is required to seek any necessary Medicaid State Plan Amendments or waivers from the federal government within 180 days.


For more information on CHLPI’s Providing Access to Healthy Solutions (PATHS) initiative, please visit


Senator Richard Blumenthal and Representative Chellie Pingree Introduce Comprehensive Legislation to Curb Food Waste

On Monday, July 31, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the Food Recovery Act of 2017, a comprehensive bill aiming to reduce food waste in stores and restaurants, schools and institutions, on farms, and in American homes.

The Food Recovery Act addresses food waste throughout the food system, representing a comprehensive response to the 40 percent of food wasted in the US each year and a critical first step toward meeting our National Food Waste Reduction Goal to halve food waste by 2030. The Food Recovery Act will help reduce food waste at the consumer level by standardizing confusing food date labels; the proposed standard labels match the dual date label system FLPC has called for since publication of The Dating Game in 2013.

The Act will also reduce food waste in schools by encourage cafeterias to purchase lower-price “ugly” fruits and vegetables and extending educational grant programs that teach students about food waste and recovery. The Act will reduce food ending up in the landfill by including composting as a conservation practice eligible for support under existing USDA conservation programs; supporting food waste-to-energy projects; and creating an infrastructure fund to help construct more large-scale composting and anaerobic digestion facilities.

Finally, the Act strengthens the federal government’s commitment to reducing food waste by establishing a Food Recovery Liaison at USDA; requiring companies that contract with the federal government to donate surplus food; and directing USDA to conduct more research on the amount of food wasted at the farm level and new technologies to increase the shelf life of fresh foods.

“This bill would address inefficiencies that lead to waste across all aspects of the food supply chain–curbing the 62 million tons of food thrown out each year in the United States,” said Senator Blumenthal. Congresswoman Pingree added that “Food waste in America is a growing problem, but it is also an opportunity. We can save money for consumers, create economic opportunity, and feed those in need while keeping perfectly good food out of landfills.”

The Food Recovery Act builds on a growing series of reports and resources by FLPC and partners describing policy changes at various levels that could help reduce food waste, and incorporates recommendations from  Don’t Waste, Donate: Enhancing Food Donations through Federal Policy (March 2017) and Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill (May 2017), which both outline policy changes the federal government can implement to better align our laws with the goal of donating surplus food to those in need.

FLPC is proud to support the Food Recovery Act, which is introduced as a pivotal moment to address the systemic barriers standing in the way of reducing food waste, taking a keen eye toward the food waste problems of today and anticipating the food recovery solutions of tomorrow.

Infographic from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s website.


New Jersey Is Cutting Food Waste to Help the Climate

Originally published by Climate Central on July 25, 2017. Written by Bobby Magill.


new law in New Jersey aims to shrink the state’s climate footprint and feed the hungry by drastically reducing the amount of wasted food that ends up in landfills.

The law requires the state to develop a plan over the next year to cut the state’s food waste by half by 2030. The bipartisan measure, which passed the state legislature without a single dissenting vote and was signed last week by Gov. Chris Christie, mirrors an Environmental Protection Agency goal for the entire country set under the Obama administration in 2015.

“The beauty of the bill is it’s going to get at two long-festering problems — climate and hunger — at the same time,” said Eric Goldstein, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York City. “The states are going to have to take the lead on issues like climate and this new law holds the hope of tackling one piece of that problem.”

Up to 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. ends up uneaten and tossed into the garbage. So much food is thrown away every year that it adds up to the equivalent of about 20 pounds of food per person every month. Discarded food also wastes cropland and energy that are used in the production of food.

Worldwide, processing wasted food generates about 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases annually. That means if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest climate polluter after China and the U.S., according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

When leftovers and rotting fruit and vegetables are tossed out and end up in the dump, they become a major climate problem. Decomposing food pollutes the atmosphere with methane, a greenhouse gas 34 times as powerful in warming the climate as carbon dioxide over the course of a century.

Larry Hajna, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said that while New Jersey has implemented more effective methane emissions controls at its landfills over the past 30 years, much of the state’s garbage is shipped to landfills out of state where New Jersey officials have no control over emissions.

Less methane will be emitted from those landfills and the climate will benefit if the amount of food New Jerseyans discard is cut drastically, he said.

At least five states either ban organic waste from landfills or mandate food waste recycling to some degree, according to the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic.

California mandates organic food waste recycling and requires businesses to cap the amount of food they send to the landfill each year. Connecticut and Rhode Island also require many businesses to cap the amount of food thrown out. Massachusetts and Vermont have a weight limit on food waste both individuals and businesses can throw away.

New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Austin, Texas, also have organic waste recycling or composting mandates for homes or businesses to prevent food waste from ending up in a landfill.

Mark Milstein, director of the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University, said state laws mandating food waste reductions create business opportunities for recyclers, composters and others.

“You’ve exacerbated climate change with a harmful greenhouse gas. There are more productive uses for that (wasted) material,” Milstein said.

“We can compost it, turn it into fuel,” he said. “If you’re going to prevent the waste in the first place, rethink how people buy food, how they utilize food. Those are all potential business opportunities.”

The New Jersey legislature is considering — but has not yet passed — other bills that may help implement the state’s new food waste law.

One bill would require supermarkets, restaurants and other large generators of food waste to separate discarded food from other trash and recycle it. Other proposals would establish new food labeling standards to reduce waste and incentivize food donations.

If New Jersey’s food waste reduction program is successful, it may pave the way for other states to follow, Goldstein said.

“We think the law has real potential,” he said. “It gets the ball rolling, which is a significant thing.”



Massachusetts Food Waste Reduction Policy Priorities: A Legislative Briefing

Written by Ariel Ardura, Summer 2017 intern in the Food Law and Policy Clinic.

Senator Eileen Donoghue stands next to State Representative Hannah Kane, speaking at the podium about eliminating food insecurity and food waste at the State House. Originally posted on Rep. Kane’s Facebook page.

People care deeply about food waste reduction, a fact that was clearly evident at the Massachusetts Statehouse this past Wednesday. State Congressmen and Congresswomen, staffers, and advocates gathered in the House Members’ Lounge for a legislative briefing on Massachusetts food waste reduction policy priorities for this session. The briefing, organized by the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative and scheduled to start at 10:00am, was standing room only by 9:50am. The Clinic was there to advocate for some of its top food waste legislation recommendations for Massachusetts.

After Clinical Fellow Christina Rice presented on food donation tax incentives and liability protection, I had the opportunity to present on issues that have become very important to me over the course of my work on food waste issues throughout the summer: date label reform and school food waste.

I talked about why it’s important for Massachusetts to pass legislation enacting a standardized dual date labeling system, which will help reduce consumer confusion and thus reduce the amount of food being unnecessarily disposed of. I also talked about some of the things Massachusetts should be doing to reduce food waste in schools, including providing funding to school to conduct food waste audits and making the “Offer versus Serve” method mandatory across all grade levels.

I’ve had several opportunities throughout the summer to improve my public speaking and advocacy skills, and I thought that my performance at this briefing was a testament to how far the Clinic has helped me come during my ten weeks here. While I am typically not the biggest fan of public speaking, I felt calm and comfortable speaking about these topics, even without the crutch of a Powerpoint presentation to turn and point to!

2017 Summer Intern Ariel Ardura and FLPC Clinical Fellow Christina Rice.

Additionally, I had the pleasure of listening to the presentations of other interested parties as well as several Congress men and women at the briefing. The presentations ranged in topic from the need to strengthen the Massachusetts organic waste ban to the importance of food waste education. What was a constant throughout the briefing was the clear passion these advocates and policy makers had for these issues. While Massachusetts has already taken a number of steps to reduce food waste in the state, there is still so much more that can be done, and it was inspiring to see how dedicated the briefing attendees and presenters are to making these changes happen.

Probably what I love most about the food law and policy world is the people. While the work is fascinating to me, it’s made times better by the amazing people I get to work alongside/advocate with/learn from. I came to law school to become an advocate for critical changes to our food system. The people I worked with throughout the summer gave me an even deeper appreciation for the power of law to make a positive impact on our communities, and reaffirmed my commitment to public interest food law and policy. I am particularly grateful for the support and guidance of Professor Broad Leib, the Clinical staff, and especially the other interns this summer—they’ve certainly set the bar high for my next internship!


‘Skinny repeal’ fails, next steps uncertain

Originally published on July 28, 2017 by Written by Alaina Tedesco


Twenty hours of tense debate among the U.S. senators ended with the rejection of the “skinny repeal” bill—a major setback to President Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, sided with Democrats to oppose the legislation, which failed by a vote to 49 to 51.

After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed his disappointment in the GOP’s failure to deliver on its longstanding campaign pledge.

“It’s time to move on,” he said.

Healio Internal Medicine spoke with health care policy analysts about the next steps for health care legislation and what clinicians should be aware of moving forward.

“It remains unclear what will happen next,” Pari Mody, associate of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, said in an interview. “I expect that congressional Republicans will continue messaging the need to repeal and replace the ACA, though after the grueling work in the House and Senate over the past several months, it will be challenging to get leadership to take health care reform back up. In the nearer term, we could see bipartisan efforts to stabilize the markets, as Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has indicated interest in doing so.”

“First indications suggest that the administration is not planning on changing course, even though ACA repeal is less likely in the near-term,” she added.

Soon after the vote, Trump criticized Democrats and the three Republican senators who voted against the repeal and reiterated his call to “let Obamacare implode, then deal,” according to Mody.

“If the administration chooses to go this path, they certainly could,” Mody said. “Options include ending the cost-sharing subsidy payments, cutting off funding for ACA enrollment and education activities, suspending enforcement of the individual and employer mandates, as well as granting state waivers to avoid certain ACA requirements.”

Caitlin McCormick-Brault, associate director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School, suggested that “the appetite for continued health care debate is rather low at this point given what both chambers have been through in this round.”

“During the marathon debate in the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats expressed an interest in having bipartisan discussion about health care,” she said in an interview. “The reality, though, is that they would still need to get the necessary votes to move anything forward, and that is going to continue to be very challenging. Realistically, I suspect Republicans will be very anxious to change the conversation and turn to another topic where they believe they can get a win, for the administration’s credibility and their own.”

Whether the ACA regains stability or begins to fall apart in the coming months will be determined by two critical questions, both of which depend on what constitutes as the president leaving the ACA “alone,” McCormick-Brault said.

“First, the ACA needs the administration to continue funding the cost-sharing reduction subsidies for insurer selling plans in the state marketplaces,” she said. “If the president declines to continue these payments, we will see premiums go up and many insurers will pull out from the marketplaces. Second, there is a robust system of regulations that implemented the ACA and fleshed out its consumer protections. If President Trump begins to proactively roll back these regulations, it would significantly undercut the ACA.”

In response to the Senate vote on the “skinny repeal,” the AMA and ACP issued separate statements urging Congress to start a bipartisan effort to tackle the inadequacies in the ACA.

“While we are relieved that the Senate did not adopt legislation that would have harmed patients and critical safety net programs, the status quo is not acceptable,” David O. Barbe, MD, president of AMA, said in the association’s statement.

“The first priority should be to stabilize the individual marketplace to achieve the goal of providing access to quality, affordable health coverage for more Americans,” he said.

ACP applauded the Senate’s rejection of the “skinny repeal,” noting that it had potential to greatly harm patients and would have left tens of millions of Americans without health insurance coverage.

“No version of legislation brought up this year would have achieved the types of reforms that Americans truly need: lower premiums and deductibles, with increased access to care,” Jack Ende, MD, MACP, president of ACP, said. “We need improvements to our health care system that protect the most vulnerable among us — the sick, the poor, the elderly. And we need improvements that stabilize the health insurance market places.”

“We now urge the House and the Senate to move forward in a bipartisan manner, working through ‘regular order,’ to make improvements to the ACA,” he added. “We welcome the opportunity to work together to improve and build on current law in a way that would make health care better and more affordable for our patients.”