New Data Shows Massachusetts’ LGBT Community is Vibrant, but Faces Significant Challenges

This blog post was written by Erin Sclar, a summer legal intern with the Health Law and Policy Clinic of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation.

The LGBT community in Massachusetts is growing, but many LGBT people face discrimination and disproportionately suffer from depression according to a new report from Boston Indicators and The Fenway Institute. The report, Equity and Equality: Advancing the LGBT Community in Massachusetts, was released at a May 24th event, during which LGBT advocates discussed strategies for moving from data collection to action.

According to the report, Massachusetts has the second highest share of population that identifies as LGBT, following Vermont. The Massachusetts LGBT population is young–about 16% of 18 – 24 year olds identify as gay, lesbian, or “something else,” compared to 3% of 65 – 74 year olds. Mason Dunn, executive director of the Massachusetts Trans Political Coalition, commented that these demographics show why it is therefore critical for institutional systems to respond to youth who connect to their identity at a young age.

The Equity and Equality report also described how sexual minority youth are especially diverse. Almost a third identify as people of color, as compared to about a quarter of non-sexual minority youth. Similarly, 10% are recent immigrants, as compared to 5% of non-sexual minority youth. As a result, many LGBT youth face many layers of discrimination. In fact, almost 90% of LGBT youth of color experienced discrimination in the past year. This treatment contributes to increased depressive symptoms. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are more than twice as likely to report feeling sad or helpless and almost half considered attempting suicide.

While Massachusetts has led several advocacy, philanthropic, and social service efforts to support the LGBT community, this report shows there is more to be done. For example, with such a large, strong, and diverse LGBTQI population, we must expand data collection efforts. Kevin Cranston, Assistant Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, commented that sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data is particularly important to learning more about the LGBT population. As such, the Department of Public Health is currently working towards applying SOGI standards in its data collection efforts. 

Fenway Institute and Boston Indicators hope that the report will promote continued engagement around efforts to advance LGBT rights in our community. In light of a federal administration that rolls back LGBT protections, state and local advocates will need to work together to defend these rights and to continue the push forward.

Watch a recording of the event.

 

FLPC Releases RFP for Approaches to Reducing Consumption of Sugar

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), with support from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, is launching a new initiative to identify locally-supported policies that will reduce sugar consumption and build capacity for policy change. Excess consumption of sugar is linked to obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related chronic diseases that have tremendous social and economic costs. Reducing population-level consumption of sugar is one of the most promising strategies for addressing these pressing public health concerns. FLPC is offering pro bono technical assistance (TA) to community organizations, food policy councils, and local and state government entities across the United States interested in implementing innovative sugar-reduction policies. This request for proposals (RFP) application will remain open until July 31, 2018. FLPC anticipates making two TA awards as a result of this RFP. TA grantees will be notified by August 31, 2018.

About FLPC

FLPC was established in 2010 to address growing concerns about the environmental, health, and economic consequences of the laws and policies that structure the food system. FLPC works with community-based organizations, governmental clients, and other food system stakeholders to understand the laws impacting the food system and propose cutting-edge policy solutions.

Overview of the Project

FLPC will provide one year of in-depth capacity-building engagement that includes:

  • nonpartisan research and legal consultation and resources on a variety of sugar-reduction policies tailored to the interests of the TA grantee,
  • early-stage coalition building and community outreach support, and
  • communications materials and media outreach.

To support and provide guidance to communities, FLPC will create and share resources (such as a short report and public presentations) that explain and evaluate various policies to reduce sugar consumption. FLPC will present policy options based on the existing evidence and help communities to identify and research policies that are the best fit for their goals and interests.

Technical Assistance Provided by FLPC

FLPC will conduct the following activities with TA partners: 

Identify and Support Local/State Policy Priorities

  • Present policy options and evidence to partner organizations to offer range of potential policy ideas.
  • Facilitate prioritization amongst policy options with coalition members, ensuring selected policies have grassroots support and coalition buy-in.
  • Research and provide additional support on selected priorities.

Build Local Capacity

  • Build coalitions or enhance the capacity for action of an existing coalition or council.
  • Establish or deepen relationships with key decision-makers and influencers, including legislators, agencies, private employers, health insurers, social service providers, and public health coalitions.
  • Help facilitate and fund convenings of key stakeholders during FLPC’s site visits.

Implement Policy Action Plans

  • Research and write memoranda for partner organizations on the rationale for proposed policies, and relevant legal and policy issues in partner communities.
  • Develop educational materials such as template communications directed to legislators and other government policymakers (e.g. public comment, commitment letters, fact sheets, and leave-behinds).
  • Draft sample legislation and regulations.

Eligibility to Apply for Technical Assistance

Any community-based organization, local, regional, or state food policy council, or local or state government entity (e.g., health department) is welcome to apply. FLPC will select TA sites based on readiness for policy engagement and change regarding sugar consumption policies, feasibility of policy success, potential to impact underserved populations, diversity in location/geography, and diversity of potential policy solutions of interest.

Expectations of Selected Technical Assistance Applicants

FLPC views its role as an advisor and TA provider, supplementing and supporting the work of community-based organizations and other stakeholders on the project. FLPC will work with each selected site to determine how best to assist its individual project. Work plans will be tailored to the needs of TA grantees who will have control over the policies pursued and resources prepared by FLPC. The specific services provided, to whom, and for how long they will be provided will be based on the information in the applicant’s application, conversations between FLPC and the TA recipient, and an initial needs-assessment period. These services will then be described in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between FLPC and the TA recipient.

FLPC will look to partner agencies to provide on-the-ground expertise about the proposed policy interventions. For the partnership to be successful, FLPC will also ask partner agencies to identify a point of contact who will be in regular contact with FLPC, help schedule conference calls and meetings, and support needs on site visits; review draft materials and provide feedback; and connect FLPC to other key stakeholders on the project. 

Timeline

Applications are due July 31, 2018. Throughout August, FLPC will have in-depth conversations with finalists before announcing final decisions by August 31.

Download the RFP 

FBLE Brings Farm Bill Recommendations to Capitol Hill

On May 9th, 25 faculty, students, and fellows descended on Capitol Hill to share FLPC and FBLE’s research and help Congress write a better farm bill.

FBLE timed the trip to coincide with debate over the House farm bill, H.R. 2, which came to the floor this week. As we’ve explained elsewhere on this blog, H.R. 2 contains policy changes that would harm farmers, eaters and the environment.

Over the course of the day, 9 groups held 77 meetings with legislators and staffers on both sides of the House and Senate. During these meetings, organized in conjunction with Food Policy Action, FBLE partners shared research and findings from FBLE’s recently published reports and discussed concerns about policies in the house version of the farm bill that do not align with report recommendations.

Each group honed in on particular areas of concern during their meetings. Some focused on recommendations from FBLE’s report, Food Access, Nutrition, and Public Health, and highlighted the dangers of the proposed expansion of work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The best moment of the trip was a conversation with a conservative member’s staff.  Although we all did not agree on the role of SNAP plays in a person’s life, we came to a consensus that a work requirement, as designed in the current house bill, would hurt and not help people on the program. -Gordon Merrick, Vermont Law School

Others discussed how local food programs touted in FBLE’s report Diversified Agricultural Economies face deep cuts or outright elimination in H.R. 2. If Congress cannot pass a farm bill before the current law expires in September, many of the “tiny but mighty” local foods programs will disappear. If we get to September without a new farm bill, Congress will almost certainly be forced to extend provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill. If this comes to pass, it is critical that these small programs receive special attention since they would not survive under the terms of a simple extension.

It was very interesting to get a window into the political process and see how various offices accepted or denied certain portions of the Farm Bill in order to get small things for their constituencies. My work with FBLE was invaluable to being able to speak competently and confidently on both SNAP and local food programs. -Mary Stottele, Harvard Law School

Still other groups outlined FBLE’s concerns about H.R. 2’s exacerbation of the current system of farm subsidy loopholes and weakening of already lacking conservation programs, as discussed in FBLE’s report, Productivity and Risk Management. We were able to speak directly with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Chairman of the powerful House Freedom Caucus, and share that in North Carolina the largest 3% of farms receive over 80% of farm bill subsidies. Mr. Meadows seemed very concerned with our research showing H.R. 2 would open further loopholes that further increase the subsidy disparities between mega-farms and the great majority of farms in his state.

Finally, several groups focused on educating lawmakers on the Protect Interstate Commerce Act (PICA)–the so-called “King Amendment”–an extraordinary provision included in H.R. 2 that would prohibit states from enforcing their own laws when they set higher standards than other states. As a recent analysis from our colleagues at the Harvard Animal Law and Policy Program shows, no one is able to predict the consequences of this language, which would “fundamentally transform the balance of regulatory authority between the states and the federal government by eliminating virtually all state legislative police powers with respect to any agricultural product entering a state for sale.”

This was direct participatory democracy at its best. Having the chance to engage in these conversations, and especially to have the opportunity to understand where those with differing views were coming from and explore opportunities for bipartisan agreement, was exciting and heartening. -Emilie Aguirre, UCLA Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy

Through all of these meetings, we were able to advance FBLE’s recommendations for creating a more equitable farm bill with better opportunities for all farmers, a better safety net against hunger, and better conservation of the natural resources we share. Stay tuned for more analysis in the coming days!

 

FLPC Welcomes Food Law and Policy Clinic 2018 Summer Interns

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic is pleased to welcome the following interns working in the health clinic for the summer!

 

Amy Hoover

Amy Hoover is a rising 2L at the University of Oregon School of Law. She is a research fellow in the Food Resiliency Project within the law school’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center, and she leads the Good Food Group, a law student organization. Before law school, Amy worked as a community organizer and grant writer addressing rural and farm issues with the Center for Rural Affairs and as a cook and intern instructor in restaurant kitchens. Amy earned a bachelor’s in biology with a focus on neurobiology from Yale University, where she also added many food-related classes and activities. Amy’s favorite days involve shopping at farmers markets, making too-many-course meals, and singing in the kitchen.

 

 

Kyla Kaplan

Kyla is a rising 2L at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.  She became especially interested in the intersection of food law and policy, the environment and broader socio-economic disparities when she studied in Bocas del Toro, Panama and focused on food and waste issues in small island communities. In college, she helped to start a farming reentry program for recently incarcerated men. Simultaneously, Kyla began working in a lab that focused on urban food systems and marketplaces. During her 1L year, Kyla founded the Food Law Society and is helping to bring healthier, safer and more sustainable food options to Baltimore communities.  Kyla is excited to continue developing her passion for improving the way food is grown and distributed during her summer at FLPC!

 

Tess Pocock

Tess is a rising 3L at Drake University Law School, where she is enrolled in the Food and Agricultural Law Program. The child of restauranteurs, her interest in food policy was shaped by early mornings at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market, and sharing a love of food from the family stand. Prior to law school, Tess completed her Master’s in Gender Studies at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. During her time at Drake, Tess has been an intern for the Iowa Supreme Court, President of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, and participant in the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition. As a 3L, she looks forward to serving as food law liaison to the Drake Agricultural and Environmental Law Association, Managing Editor of the Drake Law Review, and Intern for the ACLU of Iowa. In her spare time, Tess enjoys developing vegan baking recipes, working at a jazz club, and exploring Iowa on bike.

 

Gabriel Wildgen

Gabriel Wildgen is a Harvard Law School J.D. Candidate. He is passionate about transforming our unsustainable and inhumane food system, in particular by replacing industrial animal agriculture with clean meat (cultured animal protein grown in bioreactors) and plant-based protein. He is the incoming co-president of the Harvard Law School Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, an HLS Sustainable Associate, a research assistant for Prof. Emily Broad Leib at the HLS Food Law and Policy Clinic,  and participated in thMississippipi Delta Project’s Food Policy Team. Prior to law school, Gabriel was a campaign manager with Humane Society International/Canada, where he led and participated in several animal protection campaigns and food policy initiatives pertaining to factory farming. Most recently, he has collaborated with institutions and major food service companies to reduce animal product consumption, including launching Canada’s first plant-based culinary training program for university and hospital cafeteria chefs. Gabriel holds a Combined Honors degree in Journalism and Political Science from Carleton University.

 

CHLPI Welcomes Health Law and Policy Clinic 2018 Summer Interns

The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School is pleased to welcome the following interns working in the health clinic for the summer!

Elaine Hsieh

Elaine Hsieh is a rising 3L at the University of Oklahoma Law School. Hsieh (Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2004) is also a full professor of Health Communication at the University of Oklahoma. She has received NIH funding to examine challenges to quality care when providers and patients do not share the same language. As a 2015-2016 Fulbright Scholar, she explored health disparities faced by South East Asian immigrants in Taiwan. She has over 80 research publications, including a single-authored book published by Routledge in 2016, on health disparities and inequalities experienced by immigrants and marginalized populations. As a faculty member, she frequently led undergraduate students to provide health interventions in local communities, including homeless shelters and elderly homes. Recognizing that public policy and health laws are essential to improving individuals’ access, process, and quality of care, she aims to build synergy of her expertise in health communication and legal research/advocacy to address challenges faced by minority and marginalized populations. She hopes to continue and expand her career in providing meaningful solutions in health practices and health policies through evidence-based investigations.

 

Nur Kara 

Nur Kara is a rising 2L at the University of North Carolina School of Law. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2014 with a B.A. in Political Science, spending her summers interning in the human rights and global health spaces. Thereafter, she worked as Program Coordinator at the University of Chicago Center for Global Health and went on to conduct a survey-based study on menstrual hygiene management among adolescent schoolgirls in New Delhi, India as a Fulbright Student Researcher. In 2017, Nur graduated with a dual MSc. in Health Policy, Planning & Financing from the London School of Economics and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Now at UNC, Nur serves as the President of the Carolina Health Law Organization and continues her passion for public service via healthcare, family law, and Title IX pro bono projects. Post-graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in international health law through litigation, regulatory, and/or policy-advocacy work.

 

Matthew Stephen Reynolds

Matt is finishing up his MPH at Tufts this summer before continuing on in the MD program in the fall. Matt will be joining us to work on the Food is Medicine State Plan for his capstone project- a near perfect intersection of Matt’s interests in using public health and nutrition approaches to complement our standard healthcare efforts and improve patient outcomes. Matt was raised in New England, but prior to attending Tufts he received a degree in Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

 

 

 
Erin Sclar

Erin is a rising 2L at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Prior to law school, Erin founded Community Partners Consulting Services, a consulting firm that worked with health care organizations on advocacy projects. Erin focused on issues related to access to health care, Medicaid, and health equity. Erin also worked in Legislative Affairs at America’s Essential Hospitals in Washington, DC, an organization representing more than 300 hospitals that care for low-income patients. Her work included managing The Partnership for Medicaid, a coalition of more than 20 health care providers, plans, and local government officials committed to supporting Medicaid access and quality.

Erin earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis, where she focused on social and economic development and health care policy. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame.

After law school, Erin hopes to continue working in health policy and advocacy, focusing on improving health care access and health equity.

 

What is the Farm Bill? From Food Stamps to Conservation Efforts, a Look at the Massive Legislation

Originally published on May 14, 2018 by Fox News. Written by Kaitlyn Schallhorn.

 

House Republicans are gearing up for their next project: the farm bill.

From food stamps to conservation issues, the farm bill is a huge piece of legislation that needs to be updated by Congress about every 5 years. It influences everything about agriculture production — from how food is grown to how its distributed, including on an international level.

The farm bill’s massive size and undertaking gives way to various critiques from those who think its too costly or doesn’t do quite enough. House Republicans are reportedly just short of the 218 votes it needs to pass it; President Trump will threaten to veto the legislation if it doesn’t include tight enough work requirements for people on food stamps, sources told Fox News.

Read on for a brief overview of what’s in the bill and why it’s so important.

What is the farm bill?

A complicated omnibus package, the farm bill, at its core, regulates agriculture production in the U.S. In particular, it tackles how produce is grown, what it costs and how American agriculture exists in the international food arena, Dr. Marion Nestle, a well-known New York University food nutritionist, told Fox News.

The goals of the farm bill have changed over time, from having more of a focus on a safety net for farmers to including protection from hunger, said Margot Pollans, a Pace University law professor and member of the Farm Bill Enterprise.

What’s in it?

The nearly 700-page bill covers a myriad of agriculture-related regulations and programs, including conservation issues, commodity subsidies and crop insurance.

Among some items included in the massive bill are: a $100 million feral swine control pilot program, $450 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to identify animal disease outbreaks, incentives for beginning farmers, resources to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic and $50 million to assist disadvantaged farmers and military veterans in agriculture, according to a fact sheet.

Ferd Hoefner, senior strategic advisor for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, says programs that promote fresh products into the food system should not be overlooked — even if, he said, lawmakers do.

“If you put more emphasis on things that relate to organic produce or new farmers or renewable energy on farms, then there might be more public support for a bill that otherwise, in broad strokes, the general public thinks of as having big subsidies for big farms,” Hoefner told Fox News.

Aren’t food stamps in this bill?

The farm bill includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) under the nutrition component of the massive legislation.

It’s the SNAP portion of the bill that dominates the conversation, Nestle said, even though the legislation covers so much more.

The House bill, as it stands now, would tighten already existing work requirements for the SNAP program. It would require all “work capable adults” between the ages of 18 and 59 to work or participate in work training programs for at least 20 hours per week, meaning a greater number of people would have to work or enroll in work training to receive food assistance.

Seniors, disabled people, those caring for children under the age of 6 and pregnant women would be exempt from these requirements, according to a committee fact sheet.

Democrats have objected to the inclusion of new requirements for SNAP in the House bill, saying it could throw as many as two million people off the program. Those opposed also say the bill does not provide enough funding for job training and would create bulky bureaucracies to keep up with extensive rule keeping.

“It makes no sense to put the farmers and rural communities who rely on the farm bill’s safety net programs at risk in pursuit of partisan ideology on SNAP,” House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said in an April statement, adding that the bill “attempts to change SNAP from a feeding program to a work program.”

Pollans told Fox News the inclusion of the SNAP program in the farm bill is an “exciting opportunity to bridge the urban and rural divide.” However, she called the additional work requirements added to the House bill “a threat to working families,” especially for those who have “less formal employment or an hourly schedule by bosses they don’t have any control over.”

“I think the requirements are coming from a real misunderstanding of how SNAP benefits are used and families who are using them,” she said.

How much does it cost?

For the 2014 farm bill, which is currently in place, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) originally predicted the total cost of mandatory programs — which typically operate as entitlements — would be $489 billion. About 99 percent of the predicted mandatory program outlays were taken by four out of 12 titles, according to the CBO: conservation, crop insurance, farm commodity support and nutrition.

SNAP is included under the nutrition umbrella, which makes up about 80 percent of the total mandatory funding.

So what are the problems with bill?

Because it’s so large, there are a wide array of complaints from economic and agriculture-focused think tanks and policymakers.

“What there’s no sign of — and there hasn’t been for a while — people who are involved in agriculture policy sitting down and thinking what kind of an agriculture policy we need in a situation where we’re dealing with climate change,” Nestle said. “If you’re doing rational agriculture policy, you want to have enough food to feed the people, farmers to be able to make a living, and an agriculture system that will promote public health and do the least possible harm to the environment.”

“If you’re doing rational agriculture policy, you want to have enough food to feed the people, farmers to be able to make a living, and an agriculture system that will promote public health and do the least possible harm to the environment.”

– Dr. Marion Nestle

Caroline Kitchens, a policy analyst at the conservative R Street Institute who has a focus on agriculture issues, called the legislation a “bloated bill” and “even more wasteful and full of cronyism than previous iterations,” in a blog post.

“We have limited funds, and when we’re facing a big deficit, we should make sure that we’re spending money on people who really need it,” Kitchens told Fox News, criticizing the increases in commodity subsidies for farms.

“If we’re going to have work requirements for recipients of welfare, we should have requirements for farmers, too. If you’re not working on the farm, it’s ridiculous to get handouts,” she said.

If this is a House bill, what is the Senate doing?

While the Senate version of this bill has not yet been released, Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told the Wall Street Journal it would not be as far-reaching as the House legislation.

A committee aide has told Fox News that the Senate version would not contain “revolutionary reforms” to programs, but added it’s premature to say just what will be included.

What has Trump said about it?

Trump has warned senior lawmakers that he will veto the bill if it doesn’t include tighter work requirements for people who have food stamps, a source familiar with the discussions told Fox News.

In April, Trump highlighted what he called a “great” statistic showing the number of people on food stamps has fallen since January 2017.

“The American people are finally back to work!” he tweeted.

 

2018 Farm Bill Must Prioritize Small Farmers and Food Insecure Communities

Originally published by Food Tank on May 4, 2018. Written by Katherine Walla.

As the reauthorization of the Farm Bill approaches, three newly released reports urge Congress to address the long-term needs of small farmers and food insecure communities in the the 2018 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill Law Enterprise (FBLE) applies a justice lens to the farm bill debate, outlining policy steps necessary for building a reliable and nutritious food supply, an honest living for farmers, a healthy environment, and a strong safety net against hunger.

“For most Americans, and even for Congress, there is a gulf between caring about these goals and understanding how to pass solutions through the farm bill,” says Lee Miller, author at FBLE; “making the farm bill more intentional and efficient requires policymakers to analyze each farm bill program and assess whether it’s contributing to larger public values and goals.”

FBLE, a national partnership of law school programs, gathered food, public health, and environmental law research to analyze each component of the Farm Bill and develop three reports. Each report addresses a particular weakness of the current Farm Bill, focusing on a specific theme: Diversified Agricultural Economies; Food Access, Nutrition and Public Health; and Productivity and Risk Management. FBLE notes that their recommendations are particularly important as the the draft of the 2018 Farm Bill, H. R. 2 Agriculture and Nutrition Act, excludes farm bill stakeholders.

FBLE acknowledged small and mid-sized farmers contribute significantly to rural economies and agricultural sustainability, yet “structural changes in American agriculture have shifted the benefits of farm bill programs toward fewer, larger operations.” Furthermore, lack of diversity continues to hinder diverse small and mid-sized farmers from creating lasting impacts in their communities. While white farmers receive 98 percent of federal farm program payments, the report notes that diverse farmers—whose agricultural production makes up a significant portion of their and their community’s livelihoods—lack support.

To diversify farms, farming techniques, and farmer demographics, FBLE recommends Congress redistributes funding to small and mid-sized farmers and increase access to markets, insurance, credit, and land.

The report notes that the Farm Bill’s programs for food access, nutrition, and public health, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), have proven successful for low-income communities. However, as healthier food costs about US$1.50 more per day, FBLE recommends Congress increase funding for assistance programs so that poor households can not only achieve food security, but also maintain healthy diets.

To address productivity and risk management, FBLE calls upon Congress to increase fair practices and conservation efforts in crop insurance programs. According to the report, the largest 15 percent of farm operations receive as much as 90 percent of all crop insurance subsidies; FBLE suggests Congress reform current programs and invest in pilot programs to spread benefits of crop insurance evenly.

To better meet the needs of producers, protect natural resources, and boost productivity, FBLE recommends that Congress enforces conservation laws and research programs that improve risk management, with a focus on investments in soil health, resilient agronomic systems and natural resources conservation.

Click here to read the full reports and track the Farm Bill’s progress.

 

Making the Case to Clarify Safety Procedures for Food Donation

Written by Molly Malavey, student in the Spring 2018 Food Law and Policy Clinic.

Members of FLPC’s food waste team had the exciting opportunity to attend April 2018’s Conference for Food Protection’s (CFP) Biennial Meeting in Richmond, VA, bringing the issue of food donation for the Council’s consideration. CFP is a wholly unique non-profit organization that gives food regulators, industry, academia, consumers, and professional organizations an opportunity to engage in a formal process to provide input into influential food safety guidance, such as the FDA Food Code. The FDA Food Code includes model food safety standards for the food retail and food service industries, and a version of the Food Code has been adopted by all 50 states.

The CFP’s model for deliberating and accepting issues is both fascinating and exceedingly particular. Any interested party can submit an issue—often a specific change to the FDA Food Code—for consideration. At the Council sessions, submitters briefly make their case to the designated Council, and the Council formally deliberates the issue using a process governed by parliamentary rules. The Council has broad discretion to accept, amend, or deny submissions. Once the Councils makes their recommendations, an Assembly of State Delegates votes to either accept the recommendations or to extract issues for deliberation by the CFP Executive Board. When issues are accepted, either as submitted or as amended, the CFP will take actions such as forming a committee to study a topic or sending a letter to FDA recommending a change to the FDA Food Code.

FLPC presented on food safety for food donation in Council I, Laws and Regulations with the recommendation that the FDA Food Code clarify food safety procedures that apply to food establishments when they donate food to food recovery organizations.

Nothing in the current FDA Food Code prevents the donation of food, but restaurants and retailers are often unsure about the specific safety procedures they need to follow when making donations. Since the FDA Food Code, and most state laws, don’t specifically address which food safety laws apply to food donation, potential donors are left wondering what procedures they must follow to donate safely and in compliance with the law. This confusion and lack of clarity causes potential donors to err on the side of caution and decide not to donate at all, contributing to food waste. Model language in the FDA Food Code affirming that food donation is lawful and specifying food safety procedures for food donations would go a long way toward facilitating food recovery, and would ensure that food is donated safely.

Council I, made up of twenty-two representatives from regulatory agencies, industry, academia, and consumer groups, heard our issue on Day 3 of the Conference. Prior to our presentation, we spoke with several Councilmembers who expressed support for the concept of food donation.  Yet we could not predict how our issue would be received by the Council, as our proposal would add an entirely new section on this topic to the FDA Food Code.

The Council’s ultimate resolution was positive.

After a long deliberation at the initial hearing on whether the FDA Food Code is the proper medium for food safety guidance for donations (and FLPC believes it is), the Council tabled our recommendation.

Upon rehearing, the Council determined two things. First, it accepted that language be added to the FDA Food Code to clarify that it does not preclude food donations. Second, it determined that a committee should be created to evaluate existing food safety guidance and recommend specific language to be added to the FDA Food Code at the next CFP meeting in 2020. Overall, this was a big step forward for food recovery at the CFP!

This major step for food recovery was the icing on the cake of a great week at the CFP, which proved to be an exciting event for anyone interested in the food system and policy making. While at first the rigorously-procedural nature of the CFP seemed tedious, I grew to love it. It doesn’t take long to see that Councilmembers deeply care about the exercise, and consistently give patient and respectful consideration to every matter that comes before them. Ultimately, these procedures facilitated interesting conversation, especially given the wide array of industry and regulatory interests and viewpoints. At the end of the day, all opinions were welcome at the table.