Upcycled Food Is Officially Defined, With a Goal of Paving the Way for Industry Food-Waste Reduction

This article was written by Jared Kaufman, and was originally published by Food Tank.


Upcycled food is now an officially defined term, which advocates say will encourage broader consumer and industry support for products that help reduce food waste. Upcycling—transforming ingredients that would have been wasted into edible food products—has been gaining ground in alternative food movements for several years but had never been officially defined.

The Upcycled Food Association announced on May 19 that they define upcycled foods as ones that “use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.”

The definition was drafted by a working group convened by the Upcycled Food Association, which included representatives from Harvard University, Drexel University, Natural Resources Defense CouncilWorld Wildlife Fund, and ReFED, a nonprofit that analyzes solutions to food waste. The Upcycled Food Association is a member-based industry non-profit that aims to boost the profile of upcycled foods. The association’s working group hopes that such a definition will make it easier for food companies to show how their products contribute to food waste reduction.

The definition is “putting some teeth into a trend that is doing the right thing for our food supply, our environment, consumers, and businesses,” Jonathan Deutsch, a professor at Drexel University and the director of the Drexel Food Lab, says in a statement.

Standardizing the term is also a first step toward legislation that supports upcycling, according to Emily Broad Leib, a Harvard University law professor and the director of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. “Further research can be done to identify and leverage policy incentives to support upcycled foods as a model to reduce food waste and support a more sustainable food system,” she says in a statement.

Upcycling has emerged in recent years as a way for food producers to add value to byproducts or surplus ingredients that might otherwise have been wasted. Already, food companies such as Philabundance and Treasure8 are repurposing safely edible ingredients, like excess milk or “ugly” vegetables, into nutritious cheeses and chips.

“We can take these very large waste streams and we can upcycle them into safe, tasty, healthy products and ingredients that can work at large scale distribution,” Treasure8 co-founder Timothy Childs told Food Tank in 2018.

Food waste is a significant plague on both the food system and the climate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that between 30–40 percent of the food supply is lost or wasted—about 133 billion pounds a year. The impact is magnified by the water, energy, and land resources that went into producing food that was never consumed. Project Drawdown, an organization that advocates cutting greenhouse gas emissions, has identified reducing food waste as the No. 1 solution to keep warming below 2ºC.

And research shows that consumers not only understand the term “upcycled” as a distinct category, but also see added value in it. According to a benchmark study conducted by Deutsch’s team at Drexel University in 2017, customers surveyed viewed “value-added surplus foods” as being significantly different from conventional products and preferred the term “upcycled” over eight alternatives. The results suggest that many customers might find the benefit of upcycled food to be on par with organic certification, meaning they assign value to—and may be willing to pay more for—truly sustainable upcycled products.

The Upcycled Food Association hopes to use the new definition as a way to signal to consumers that food waste reduction claims on products are consistent and verifiable. To follow up on the definition, Upcycled Food Association COO Ben Gray says the association is planning to launch a product certification program for upcycled foods later this year.

“We want to give people the ability to participate in the solution every time they visit a grocery store,” Gray says in a statement. “We envision a future in which many products in every aisle and around the perimeter proudly display the upcycled certification, giving consumers the opportunity to vote to reduce food waste with their dollars.”

COVID-19 While Colored—Police Departments Have a New Profiling Tool Health Departments Provide Police with Addresses of Those Who Test Positive for COVID-19

This article was written boriginally published by Black Voice News on May 22, 2020.


Even as Black and Brown communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, officials appear to be working at cross purposes to a national movement to ensure members of minority communities have access to testing by sharing the names and address of those who test positive with first responders—including sheriffs and police.

In the push to accelerate testing, many in the public believe information about their test and its outcome is protected under HIPAA laws—the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996—which states personal, private health information would remain confidential.

It is very probable the more than 11 million people who have tested positive for the virus to date, tested largely with the misunderstanding their test results were confidential.  

Yet, we now learn approximately 33 states are sharing address information of those who tested positive with first responders. In addition, according to an Associated Press report, among the various states sharing the information, at least ten of those states also provide the name of the person who tested positive.

Although officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claim sharing the information does not violate medical privacy laws and police officials have claimed the information will be destroyed over time, there is growing concern by civil liberty activists, civil rights groups and others this is just another way for police to profile people of color.  

There are also concerns such information could be used by police to “red-line” communities where people are sick and as a result, police and other first responders may seek to avoid addresses where individuals have tested positive out of fear of contracting the virus themselves.

The strained, historic relationship between communities of color and the police make the policy of sharing medical information a red flag to those who have borne witness to police profiling and abuse. This sharing of positive COVID-19 test information is ripe for police exploitation. For those who might argue this would never happen need only ask members of the gay community who suffered during the AIDS pandemic.  

The revelation COVID-19 test results are not protected by HIPAA, and positive results are being shared with police in so many states across the country, is more than concerning for civil liberty and civil rights activists. However, Roger Severinoto, Director of the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services told NPR in late April, HIPAA sets a national standard, but it is the floor, not the ceiling. “Where state laws require certain disclosures, HIPAA moves to the side,” he says. And HIPAA itself allows for the disclosure of medical information under certain conditions. “The safety of first responders and the people they interact with can be taken into account in a limited fashion, just for that purpose, to make sure people’s safety is protected.”

But, Black and Brown people who represent a significant percent of those on the frontlines performing essential jobs during the pandemic are more at risk; and as a result, are among those with the greatest need for testing; yet, this policy could deter them from seeking a test and in the process risk further spread of COVID-19. It may also discourage other Black and Brown people from being tested.

The Faculty Director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School Robert Greenwald expressed similar sentiment in a letter sent to the Governor of Massachusetts in late March he expressed the following concern about revealing the address of those who test positive to first responders. “I am writing to point out one emergency order that was recently issued that is misguided and will, in fact, undermine both individual and public health. Requiring local boards of health to disclose the addresses of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to officials administering the response to emergency calls and, in turn, to first responders, is not sound public health policy.”

Greenwald further expressed his belief first responders should treat every call as if the person potentially already has COVID-19. This makes the need for address information of those who test positive unnecessary. This is an appropriate response to those who argue knowing who has tested positive is necessary to protect first responders.

Greenwald argued, “There will be no effective “list” as the overwhelming majority of people who are infected with COVID-19 do not know it [because they are asymptomatic]. And sadly, over time, more than half the addresses in our state will likely end up on the list.” 

In discussing the policy with National Public Radio, former director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tom Frieden appeared to agree with Greenwald when he declared, “There could be a misguided sense of security from that,” he says. “You wouldn’t want a policeman or fireman to think, ‘Well, since that address isn’t on the list, it’s safe.’ With COVID spreading, we have to assume it could be anywhere.”

The IE Voice/Black Voice News questioned the California Department of Public Health regarding whether the state was sharing personal and specific COVID-19 test information with first responders including the police and/or whether it was aware of any counties sharing such information.

The department replied, “The California Department of Public Health is unaware of any sharing of patient identifying information with either first responders or law enforcement.”

Similar inquiries were made of the public health departments in both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

Riverside County Department of Public Health spokesperson Jose Arballo acknowledged, “We provide information to first responders (at least name and address) of those who have tested positive. The information is entered into the system used by first responders. If there is a call at a coronavirus confirmed address, the system flags the call and lets responders know.”

Arballo continued, “The information is allowed to be forwarded because of a change in law due to the coronavirus epidemic that allows for the confidential information to be shared.”

San Bernardino County has yet to respond to the inquiry. 

Machteld van Egmond LL.M. ’20: A physician-researcher with a curious mind turns to the practice of law

This article was written by Audrey Kunycky,, and was originally published by Harvard Law Today on May 24, 2020.


For Machteld van Egmond LL.M. ’20, “one of the best things about HLS is that everybody here is so interested, motivated, and passionate. And the energy that you get inside the classroom when that happens, that’s just amazing.”

When she talks about the courses that she took this year, and her work in the law school’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, her enthusiasm is infectious. In one session of the Health Law, Policy, Bioethics and Biotechnology Workshop, with Professor Glenn Cohen ’03, for example, the discussion focused on the possibility that a patient’s participation in a study might expose their family or their neighbors to risk. Even though the participant might agree to be exposed to a disease, and give informed consent, these “bystanders” might not be asked to do so. “It becomes more urgent when the patient decides to drop out of the trial or not follow up for some reason,” van Egmond explains. “Would it be possible legally or ethically to force [that participant] to continue with the trial and get the proper treatment? It’s an excellent question, and I had never thought of it before.”

Or there’s the course on Behavioral Economics, Law and Public Policy, with Professor Cass Sunstein, offered in conjunction with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Kennedy School. “It was clear to me that there were [students] with a lot of different backgrounds and perspectives. And that’s what I like best, because it challenges your ideas,” she notes.

After high school, when many students in the Netherlands begin pursuing professional degrees, van Egmond chose to study medicine at Radboud University. “It’s as much about the mind as it is about the body, and the way the mind and body work is so beautiful,” she observes. “I continue to be amazed by it.”

As she explored different specialties, she was drawn to ear, nose, and throat surgery, because she could work with patients of all ages and treat many different ailments, and a clinical study that she encountered during medical school inspired her to begin her career as a physician-researcher, examining the efficacy of surgery in treating a deviated nasal septum. In the Netherlands, she explains, focusing on research first, and completing a residency later, “is a very common path, but it was also a great fit for my personality, because I like going into details and just getting to the bottom of something.”

It was this love of learning that led to van Egmond’s first studies in law. As she pursued her medical research, her supervisors encouraged her to undertake a master’s in epidemiology. “That was really helpful for me, because it gave me a more theoretical basis in statistics, data analysis, and study design,” she recalls. “And when that finished, I felt like, well, why stop learning now?” When her university opened two introductory law courses to students who had already obtained a graduate degree in a different field, she decided to enroll. “What struck me most was the way lawyers think, and how different this was from the way in which I was used to thinking,” she recalls. “For example, the concept of causation is known in epidemiology as well as in law, but it refers to somewhat different things. Because I was so fascinated by that, it got me hooked.”

Van Egmond came to HLS to continue exploring the intersections among empirical science, law, and medicine. For her LL.M. paper, she examined the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, under Sunstein’s supervision.  “It’s a very timely topic,” she explains. In the U.S., some foods with GMO ingredients are now packaged with a label reading “bioengineered,” but the government’s label looks very similar to a food industry label promoting non-GMO products.  “The non-GMO label has a butterfly and a little plant, and the bioengineered label has a little plant and the sun. That made me wonder, what does that signal to consumers?” Her research involved an empirical survey comparing the two labels, as well as control labels that van Egmond designed herself. Among other conclusions, she found that respondents who viewed a “more explicit” GMO label that she created expressed more “stereotypical” concerns about environmental and health risks and less awareness of benefits, such as affordability.

Looking back at her time at HLS, “even knowing what I know now about the pandemic, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I just know I will take this with me for the rest of my life,” van Egmond says. “Once you find your niche, it really does feel like a family.” That sense of community was even more pronounced when the campus began to close due to Covid 19. “As much uncertainty as there was, people really did come together and show their best selves.”

After graduation, van Egmond will join Covington & Burling, working with pharmaceutical, food, and health care companies as a member of the life sciences team in the firm’s Brussels office. When she spoke to the lawyers she will be working with, “they told me a lot about what cases can look like, and the work is so intricate, so complicated. There is a lot of opportunity there to delve deep, just how I like it.”

Forget expiration dates. Spoilage sensors could tell us when food actually goes bad

This article was written by Manny I. Fox Morone, and was originally published by C&EN on May 17, 2020.


These tools might one day help shoppers avoid throwing out millions of tons of food because of confusing expiration dates


Use by.” “Best by.” “Best if used by.” “Enjoy by.” Food companies in the US began dating their products with this patchwork of labels during the 1970s—often with little, if any, scientific basis or uniformity. In the decades prior, packaged products had become increasingly popular as fewer and fewer people grew their own food.

Naturally, concern arose that inconsistent date labels would make it difficult to tell if food was still fresh—and whether consumers were being swindled. In 1973, the US Congress considered a bill that would have required food manufacturers to list a date that their perishable foods should be sold by. It would also have kept retail distributors from selling food after that date had passed, punishable by a $5,000 fine and 1 year in prison.

But that bill failed to make it into law. So did the next one. And the next. All told, the 1970s saw no fewer than 10 food-dating bills without significant federal legislation passed. Meanwhile, states came up with their own regulatory systems, and today, they dictate how foods in the US should be labeled. But the trouble is that no two states have identical laws in place with respect to food labeling. The wording and enforcement of an expiration date on a certain product in Arkansas isn’t necessarily the same as the wording and enforcement used in New York, even though the labels in question are on similar products packaged at similar times.

All this leads to food waste. Hundreds of millions of metric tons of food go uneaten in the US each year. Globally, that number tops 1 billion metric tons, and it has a carbon footprint equivalent to 87% of all road-transportation emissions.

Consumers view expiration dates as indicators that say “This is no longer edible.” In reality, the dates are set by manufacturers, which use a variety of criteria and analytical techniques to determine a label they deem appropriate for a product. And the dates don’t reflect how people store a particular product in their homes. The various wordings can profoundly confuse consumers. In 2015, the Food Marketing Institute (now called Food Marketplace Inc.) found that 83% of US shoppers had discarded food on the basis of the sell-by date, a label that isn’t related to whether a food is still edible but rather is meant to tell retailers to pull inventory from their shelves. In the European Union, where wording on labels is more uniform, consulting firm ICF estimates that 9.5–12% of all household food waste can still be attributed to date-marking issues.

In the face of these inconsistencies and without better regulations, food and sensor scientists would like to put diagnostics in the hands of consumers. They envision user-friendly devices that could give us a definitive readout: “This food should no longer be eaten.”

CONFUSED CONSUMERS

“So much of our food safety guidance has been ‘When in doubt, throw it out.’ ” says Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic. “We’re just throwing away so much food, and I find that to be a really unsatisfying heuristic.” Broad Leib supports a labeling system that’s standardized and easier to understand. The latest food labeling bill in the US, H.R. 3981, was introduced last year and would require expiration labels to use only two wordings: “BEST If Used By” for quality-related dates or “USE By” for discard dates, which is similar to the EU’s system.

More straightforward labels like these could cut down on food waste, experts say. But labels still can’t tell consumers about a food’s quality in real time. When determining a label date, food companies first choose a quality or safety attribute—for example, microbe growth, loss of nutritional value due to oxidation, or texture changes due to water migrating through the food. Then they measure how it changes over time for a particular food product and calculate a date according to models they build from their data. But that assumes the food is kept under the recommended storage conditions from farm to fork. “If that food has been exposed to conditions that are not the ones that you recommended, you have no way to know it, and now that label doesn’t mean anything,” says Maria Corradini, a food scientist at the University of Guelph who formerly conducted food aging studies in industry.

Corradini is searching for new ways to gauge food quality as products move through the supply chain. One way her lab analyzes food is by looking at fluorescence fingerprints, which involves tracking changes in the fluorescence signal of food as it ages and comparing those changes with shifts in nutrient levels and other food quality parameters. Such measurements can give you information about that specific vegetable you’re debating throwing out, meaning you don’t have to rely on a static benchmark from a food company. Also, fluorescence fingerprints let you monitor several attributes of the food simultaneously.

The downside, though, is that most households don’t have equipment for collecting fluorescence fingerprints. Corradini recognizes that in the short term, the technique will be easier to incorporate into food processing plants.

Other emerging solutions that measure food aging are package based, like a sticker that changes color in stages and a milk cap that gets bumpy after a certain amount of time when they’re exposed to elevated temperatures. But these souped-up labels are just a proxy for food spoilage and don’t sense the state of the food inside the package. The question remains, Can consumers bypass the dating game while making sure they’re reliably eating fresh food?

SPOILAGE IN THE AIR

One of the first forays that Firat Güder made into food spoilage analysis involved some detective work. Güder started visiting grocery stores around his home in Boston and asking employees how much food they threw out each week. “Interestingly, many of them didn’t want to talk to me,” he says.

But after forming relationships with the store managers, who kicked his questions up the chain, Güder eventually got some answers: “On average, for example, they would easily throw away a couple of thousand dollars’ worth of meat every week.” In a low-margin business like food sales, he says, that money adds up.

That’s why Güder, an engineer now at Imperial College London, has since developed a low-cost cellulose-paper-based gas sensor for tracking food quality (ACS Sens. 2019, DOI: 10.1021/acssensors.9b00555). Certain microbes that grow on top of meat and fish break down the fish’s amino acids and release gases such as ammonia, other amines, and sulfur compounds as their colonies multiply. Güder’s sensor measures how well electrical current flows through the paper, and as the paper absorbs gases from inside a food container, the flow of current changes, signaling microbe growth.

Güder’s sensors are responsive: if you were to put them in a sealed container with ammonia inside, they would register a signal in mere minutes. So consumers could theoretically install them inside a product’s wrapping after purchase. Because Güder’s sensors use an electrical signal as a readout, they would offer a more precise reading than existing color-changing labels that a consumer has to interpret as being yellow, orange, or red, he contends. Users can even tap their phones to get readings from the sensor through an integrated radio-frequency tag, Güder says.

Most homes already come equipped with a gas sensor: the human nose. While we’ve all sniffed the milk or fish in our refrigerator and thought that measurement was reasonably precise, lab-made sensors can be significantly more sensitive than our noses. Thus, they can signal not just when food has exceeded a particular level of spoilage and needs to be thrown out, which isn’t particularly helpful for reducing food waste, but also when it’s almost bad and needs to be eaten. Güder’s sensors track levels of ammonia over a wide range, picking up concentrations from 0.2 ppm—about 100 times as sensitive as the nose—up to 1,000 ppm.

Ken Suslick at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign also builds sensors that can track food spoilage. Suslick points out that simple sensors like Güder’s don’t have specificity. In other words, the paper sensor gives a signal for all water-soluble gases that are absorbed, but it can’t piece apart how much each gas is contributing to the sensor’s signal. Also, Suslick says, the paper sensors in their current form would be too sensitive to changes in humidity to be usable for sensing ammonia in real-world spoilage applications. Güder’s team is looking into how it can use chemical modifications of the paper to distinguish between different gases, and it claims that changes in humidity aren’t such a big concern in an atmosphere like the inside of a package of meat, where the relative humidity is constantly close to 100%.

To get around the problems that Suslick points to, his lab at Illinois has come up with what it thinks is a more fine-tuned approach. Rather than use a single measurement, like electrical conductivity through paper, Suslick’s sensors stream air across a series of different sensors to generate a complex signal that can be processed and classified. This mimics the way our noses sense and identify gases: they hold about 400 receptors that can each bind to various molecules, creating a signal pattern that our brains interpret as a particular smell. Aptly, Suslick calls his sensor an electronic nose—a term adopted across the globe for analytical instruments that use this type of detection scheme.

In the case of Suslick’s meat spoilage sensor, a disposable plastic or paper strip with an array of chemically responsive dyes printed onto it is loaded into a handheld “sniffing machine” (ACS Sens. 2016, DOI: 10.1021/acssensors.6b00492). As air is drawn into the machine across the sensor strip, the dyes change color as they react with volatile compounds in the air sample. For instance, some dyes will change color if they’re exposed to basic compounds. The device takes a photo of the color pattern generated, compares it with a library of patterns created by known compounds at defined concentrations, and statistically groups the new pattern with similar responses that correspond to different states of freshness. Suslick’s group has also shown that a similar device can sense ethylene—a gas that fruits release when they ripen and that causes nearby fruit to ripen as well (Anal. Chem. 2018, DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.8b04321).

Meanwhile, Aryballe, a French digital olfaction company that raised about $7 million in series B funding last year, is also making devices that mimic the nose. In France, where it’s common to buy meat from a local butcher, a baguette from a bakery, or cheese from a fromager rather than all those from a supermarket, expiration dates aren’t the norm. “You have this fresh material that’s coming from a local store, and there’s no notion of expiration dates,” says Fanny Turlure, global product manager at Aryballe. The company thinks its technology could provide a way to track spoilage of these unmarked foods.

Aryballe’s e-nose relies on pattern recognition as well, but instead of using an array of dyes, it uses an array of immobilized peptides integrated onto the branches of a photonic chip, creating a series of mini bio­sensors. The peptides grab onto volatile chemicals from an air sample pulled into the device. Every sensor binds the volatile chemicals to some degree and changes the way light travels through its branch of the chip. So the sensors’ various binding strengths collectively create a pattern that the e-nose can read and send to the cloud to be matched with patterns in a database corresponding to volatile-chemical profiles. With a database that’s large enough, Aryballe’s device might one day tell whether food is fresh, already spoiled, or starting to flip, Turlure says.

FINDING A WAY HOME

For all their merits, food sensors like these still haven’t arrived in households. One obstacle to their arrival is price.

E-noses like Aryballe’s can be expensive. For instance, the company has an older handheld device, the NeOse Pro, that can detect food spoilage. Sold for $12,500, the NeOse Pro was marketed to firms carrying out R&D for new product development. Aryballe hopes to lower the price of its new technology by integrating the sensor into devices consumers already spend their money on. Turlure says the company is approaching appliance makers to integrate the sensor into, for example, the meat drawer of refrigerators.

When it comes to consumer-friendly food spoilage detectors making it to market, though, Arun Ramesh, a research manager at the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, is betting on simple sensors like the paper ones made by Imperial College’s Güder. The sensors cost about 2 cents to make, “which is incomparably cheap compared to others in the market,” Ramesh says. Güder’s team is able to keep the price down because it makes the sensors by drawing electronics on paper with a simple ballpoint pen loaded with commercially available conductive carbon ink.

Güder has cofounded the company BlakBear, named for the animal’s keen sense of smell, to commercialize this technology. The firm is weighing its options on how to enter the market. It hopes to have scannable tags in select grocery stores by the end of this year, and it’s prototyping consumer products like scannable stickers that shoppers could apply to the inside of a food package, and “smart Tupperware” that could monitor problematic foods.

A separate problem for consumer diagnostics is data. BlakBear and the industry as a whole need to figure out when consumers tend to throw away various types of food so that they can develop devices that can slash that waste. For instance, if consumers find products that track the spoilage of chicken most useful, firms would focus on sensors for that type of spoilage. “Where the data stream stops is as soon as a food product is sold,” Güder says. “As soon as a customer buys it, we have no idea how they use the product.”

Meanwhile, companies like Aryballe need to build up their databases to boost devices’ predictive power. For instance, Aryballe wants databases that include as many spoilage odor profiles for as many food products as possible to teach its technology how to work in various situations. “We are a start-up,” Turlure says, “and we don’t have unlimited resources. So we have to rely on our customers to help us build databases.”

On that front, Tellspec, a company that specializes in rapid, affordable, and portable analysis of samples using spectroscopic sensors, has been creating databases of spectra from food samples, which can then be fed to the firm’s machine-learning framework to determine a food’s quality and nutritional value. The company sells a handheld near-infrared scanner to food regulators, food retailers, and some restaurants for spotting food fraud and contaminants, especially in fish. While Tellspec has done spoilage studies on fruit, fish, and meat, CEO Isabel Hoffmann says her small company is not aiming to market food spoilage devices to consumers. She sees an avenue for food spoilage sensors in smartphones, which may eventually incorporate near-infrared detectors and provide consumers with access to the technology. “It’s going to be the large smartphone companies that are already manufacturing and distributing smartphones,” Hoffmann says.

In the meantime, she adds, Tellspec can build databases for food spoilage, quality, and contamination data, and once smartphones make the transition, “we can help people make informed decisions on everything.” Similarly, versions of Suslick’s e-nose work though a smartphone-based platform, and the University of Guelph’s Corradini thinks phones could collect a simplified version of fluorescence fingerprint data in the future too.

Standardized food spoilage sensors will be easier to incorporate into the in-line and large-batch processes that happen in food production plants before they make it to consumers. But as long as we’re stuck with static, and often confusing, expiration labels placed on food that’s been packaged and shipped around the globe, the use case remains for sensor companies to gather data and make new tools for monitoring food in the home.

“I’m old enough to like Star Trek,” Corradini says, so a scanner like the fictional tricorder that might one day analyze the food we eat has long been on her radar. “A lot of things that seem to be sci-fi, they’re coming to realization, so why not this one?”

Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic Releases 8 Policy Solutions to Improve Food System During COVID-19 Pandemic

Congress can address food access, public health, and the economy with these food laws and policies recommended for the next congressional stimulus package.

Today, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) released policy recommendations to address major food system issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The recommendations were published as Congress debates a fourth stimulus package to curb the mounting food, health, and economic crises.

Despite the enactment of three stimulus bills since the pandemic began, support for the food system remains inadequate. Food supply chains for the hospitality sector have dried up and some avenues of processing and distribution have slowed due to closures from illness and social distancing rules. As a result, many producers are unable to sell their products. This trend contributes heavily toward food waste, even though this food could instead support emergency food assistance programs (e.g., food banks). At the same time, estimates are showing that up to 38% of people in the U.S. could be food insecure due to the pandemic, up from 11% in 2019. FLPC’s food policy recommendations outline opportunities to address gaps in the federal government’s response to the crisis, and leverage funds that Congress has already appropriated to meet the needs of food producers, workers, and consumers. The broad policy categories of FLPC’s recommendations include:

  1. Increase SNAP Benefits, Expand Online SNAP, and Ensure Online Expenditures Support Small Vendors. SNAP is the nation’s largest food assistance program. In addition to providing dollars for food insecure individuals, every $1 in SNAP benefits creates a $1.79 economic return in the community. FLPC recommends that Congress increase SNAP benefits to help the growing number of families in need and better support the economy. Congress should also support the roll out of online SNAP in all states and ensure that small vendors can benefit from online SNAP redemption.
  2. Increase WIC Benefits and Make Them More Accessible. WIC reduces food insecurity, alleviates poverty, supports economic stability, and improves health outcomes for women and children. FLPC’s policy recommendations suggest that the program could be even more effective with increased funding, a rollout of online benefits redemption, and additional flexibility in WIC food packages.
  3. Increase Support for School Meals and Boost Direct Sales Opportunities that Benefit Farmers. FLPC recommends several policies to ensure students have access to the food they need during the pandemic. Solutions include increasing reimbursement rates for school meal providers to account for increased transportation and administrative costs, expanding and increasing food benefits (P-EBT) to reimburse families for the cost of school breakfast and lunch, and supporting more school purchases from local and regional farmers.
  4. Incentivize Increased Food Donation for Surplus Food That Would Otherwise Go to Waste. An estimated 63 million tons of food goes to waste in the U.S. each year. Building more flexibility into existing tax incentives and liability protections for food donations could ensure that more safe, wholesome food that cannot get sold is donated to those in need.
  5. Increase Support for Food Producers Who Have Lost Markets, with a Focus on Small-Scale and Direct Market Producers. Congress should provide additional funding to enable small-scale farmers and local and regional food producers to develop online sales portals, and to connect surplus food to emergency food organizations. These solutions put money in the hands of producers whose markets have evaporated while helping to alleviate food insecurity.
  6. Support and Protect Essential Workers Throughout the Food System. The COVID-19 crisis has shown what many working in food policy already know: that those working in the fields, food processing plants, and grocery stores are “essential workers.” Robust national support is needed to ensure the health and safety and economic security of workers throughout the food system.
  7. Expand Coverage for the Health Care System to Better Support Nutrition and Improved Dietary Quality. COVID-19 has underscored the crucial connection between food and health. FLPC outlines policy opportunities to support the integration of nutrition services in the health care system, including requiring Medicare and Medicaid to cover nutrition interventions.
  8. Develop a U.S. National Food Strategy to Better Coordinate and Set Priorities Across the Food System. COVID-19 has shed light on our fractured food system. At the federal level, more than 15 different U.S. agencies have authority over aspects of food system safety and supports. The U.S. could develop a coordinated federal approach to food and agricultural law and policy that prioritizes, coordinates, and charts a course for long-term food system development for COVID-19 and beyond.

“Through the past three stimulus bills, Congress and federal agencies have demonstrated that they support food producers and vulnerable individuals impacted during this time of growing economic strain and food insecurity,” said Professor Emily Broad Leib, Faculty Director of FLPC and Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. “However, several gaps remain in the federal government’s response. We implore policymakers and government officials to consider our policy recommendations as critical solutions to keeping people safe, healthy, and nourished during this unprecedented crisis.”

FLPC’s food policy recommendations are available at: https://www.chlpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/FLPC-Policies-v4.pdf.

How ‘Upcycled’ Ingredients Can Help Reduce The $940 Billion Global Food Waste Problem

This article was written by Robin D. Schatz, and was originally published by Forbes on May 19, 2020.


Jam made with bacon scraps; fish jerky that turns unwanted fish into something delicious; granola bars and snack puffs crafted from spent brewing grams.

These are just a few examples of how entrepreneurial ingenuity is transforming food byproducts and scraps into novel and often very nutritious products for human consumption, creating new sources of protein, other nutrients and fiber in the process—and keeping it all out of landfills.

“Upcycling,” the new term of art, is one way to reduce reduce food waste and help the environment. But until now, there hasn’t been a single standard definition of upcycling, even as the number of startups tackling food waste grows and consumers show more interest in buying products made with upcycled ingredients.

Today, May 19, a task force comprised of food industry players, academic researchers an1d nonprofits is unveiling the first formal definition of the term upcycling. The group says the adoption of a single term and definition by the industry will lead to a powerful new product category that will encourage both the food industry and consumers to embrace products with upcycled ingredients. A 2019 report from Future Market Insights estimated the current value of the upcycled food industry at more than $46 million and projected a 5 percent compounded annual growth rate.

Food waste and loss cost the global economy more than $940 billion a year, according to a study by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Proponents of upcycling say the practice could help reduce the more than 70 billion tons of greenhouse gases generated by food loss and waste, while creating new jobs and innovative products.

The Upcycled Food Association, a Denver-based nonprofit with about 70 member companies, formed just six months ago. Its members, mostly in the U.S., produce some 400 upcycled food products. Realizing a need for clarity, the group immediately established a task force to define upcycled food. Participants included researchers from Harvard University and Drexel University, along with representatives of nonprofits such as ReFed, which aims to reduce food waste, the World Wildlife Fund and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

Here’s the definition the task force came up with: Upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.

Upcycled ingredients must add value to a product and help to reduce food waste. Hot dogs and baby carrots don’t count, Turner Wyatt, CEO of the Upcycled Food Association, told me. The group doesn’t want to see big food companies engage in “greenwashing” by rebranding products that won’t mitigate the food waste problem and have been around for years.

“The main goal is to get them to adopt upcycled food ingredients into their food products, putting it all to use and making sure it goes to feed people,” Wyatt added. “We want upcycled to be a word with integrity in the food system.”

Upcycling is clearly gaining momentum. In 2019, Future Market Insights estimated the upcycled food industry was worth more than $46 billion, with a predicted 5% compound annual growth rate. A study from the food product consultancy Mattson said that more than half of consumers want to buy more upcycled foods. And a 2017 study from Drexel University found that consumers view upcycled food as having similar environmental benefits to organics.

“Upcycled food needs a clear definition in order to be meaningful and relevant,” Jonathon Deutsch, co-author of the 2017 Drexel study and a member of the task force, said in a statement.

Another task force member, Emily Broad Leib, clinical professor of law, director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, and deputy director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, said in a statement that scaling up the use of upcycled foods would help make the food supply chain more efficient and resilient. “This upcycled foods definition serves as a strong starting place to help businesses, consumers, and other users align around a common meaning and usage of the term.”

Later this year, the Upcycled Food Association will use its new definition as jumping-off point to develop a product certification program. To learn more about the definition of upcycling and the industry’s future, you can sign up for the association’s free public webinar on May 27. You can also find the full infographic and the task force’s report on the Upcycled Food Association’s website.

The Upcycled Foods Definition Task Force and FLPC Release New Definition of “Upcycled Foods”

This blog post was written by Food Law and Policy Clinic student Allison Kolberg.

Today, the Upcycled Foods Definition Task Force and task force member Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic have published the first comprehensive definition of upcycled foods. “Upcycling” is a process by which items that would have otherwise been discarded or wasted are transformed into a product of higher quality or greater value than the original item. Unlike recycling, upcycling adds value to the supply chain, reducing overall waste by removing discarded items from the waste stream. Upcycled foods are a growing sector of the circular economy that looks to find new, environmentally-beneficial uses for discarded material. The market value of upcycled food has been estimated at $46.7 billion in 2019.

The mission of the upcycled foods movement is to reduce food loss and waste, thereby decreasing the negative impact on the environment of overproduction and waste while increasing access to safe, sustainable food sources for people around the world. The annual market value of food that is lost or wasted globally is roughly $940 billion. Despite this surplus of food, last year over 820 million people across the globe were undernourished, and one in nine suffered from food insecurity. In the United States alone, food waste has been estimated to be 62.5 million tons annually. Of that amount, 52.4 million tons end up in landfills or other incinerators and 10.1 million tons are lost as on-farm waste. Much of this food is safe and edible, and often it is wasted because it is imperfectly shaped, the by-product of another type of food production, or just merely surplus. Upcycled foods are part of a sustainable, environmentally-friendly solution to this food waste problem.

Upcycled foods are typically made using ingredients that would not be considered marketable food products, whether they are sub-grade produce, by-products of other manufacturing, or scraps from food preparation, each of which normally exits the food supply chain. By diverting these food components from their traditional end-of-life destinations and incorporating them as safe and nutritious ingredients in new food products, upcycled foods can contribute to the reduction of food waste in ways that go beyond a pure landfill-reduction strategy and start conceptualizing food surplus and byproducts as valuable raw materials. Some examples of upcycled foods include banana chips made from off-grade bananas, or pickles that use produce that would otherwise have gone to waste.

As the upcycled food sector expands, having a common definition of the term can help producers, companies, marketing professionals, policymakers, and researchers exploring the potential of upcycled foods to have a shared understanding of the appropriate use of the term. Upcycled food companies looking to use the term on food labels could use this definition as a guide and to reduce confusion among consumers about upcycled foods. Researchers could begin to quantify the effect of upcycling on our food system, using the definition to refine datasets and structure research projects. Policymakers could use this definition to expand sustainability policies to include new tools for waste management and prevention and offer incentives to support use of upcycled foods. The definition is designed to be used by a wide variety of stakeholders and to serve as a foundational document for the industry moving forward.

The summary paper and accompanying infographic (below), published today, provide a succinct definition of upcycled foods along with five definitional elements to provide a common language for companies, policymakers, researchers.

Definition: Upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.

Elements:

  1. Upcycled foods are made from ingredients that would otherwise have ended up in any food waste destination.
  2. Upcycled foods are value-added products.
  3. Upcycled foods are for human consumption.
  4. Upcycled foods have an auditable supply chain.
  5. Upcycled foods indicate which ingredients are upcycled on their labels.

The summary paper is the result of a six-month collaborative process involving input from the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and an ad hoc group of experts from the fields of food waste, sustainability, marketing, law and regulation, government, and the nonprofit sector. It includes an overview of the Task Force process, discussions of the background and intent behind the definition and each definitional element, and resources and additional considerations discussed by the Task Force during the drafting process. The definition process was coordinated by the Upcycled Food Association, a trade organization based in Denver, Colorado whose members are companies working in the upcycling industry to produce new food products.

How Etsy Became America’s Unlikeliest Breadbasket

This article was written by Christopher Mims, and was originally published by The Wall Street Journal on May 16, 2020.


Homebound consumers are flocking to the site for scones, biscuits, breads, muffins, doughnuts and…alkaline tahini spelt cookies. Homebound chefs are eager to satisfy this newfound hunger for baked goods.


Just about every morning since America went on coronavirus lockdown, Suzanne McMinn has risen at 2 a.m. to bake in her home kitchen. She’s working there up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week.

But she’s not cooking for herself, mostly. She’s cranking out dozens of orders daily for people all over the U.S.—people who found her on Etsy. ETSY -0.32%

Yes, she sells bread on the site best known for knitted hats and topical greeting cards and, lately, hand-sewn masks.

On her farm in Roane County, W.Va., Ms. McMinn has cows, a dozen chickens and a kitchen in which she bakes cookies, scones, biscuits, muffins and breads. She works alone but is hardly singular. Thousands of her peers all across the country do what she does, every day: sell the products of their humble home kitchens on the internet.

For most of America’s history, people’s food came from no more than a few miles away, the distance a farmer could travel in a horse-drawn wagon. During the Great Depression, rural farms were an important source of food security for the country, a way for people to feed themselves despite their poverty.

In these uncertain times, Americans are once again taking solace in food. But the horse-drawn wagons have been replaced by FedEx jets and trucks, and the “penny restaurants” of yore have been replaced by internet-savvy entrepreneurs who have discovered they can still eke out a living, even while stuck at home.

Etsy is no longer the company it once was. It was born in Brooklyn in 2005 as a market for individual craftspeople and artisans to sell unique handmade gifts, including jewelry, screen-printed T-shirts and literally anything you can fashion out of distressed wood. Having gone public in 2015, it’s fast becoming, as Chief Executive Josh Silvermansaid in the company’s most recent earnings call, a place for “everyday essentials that you need.”

Mr. Silverman, previously at eBay, was installed in 2017 by a board under pressure from activist investors. Many of the changes he has instituted have been controversial with both the company’s employees and its millions of sellers. They include cutting costs through layoffs, mandatory off-site advertising of individual sellers’ goods, which can cut into their margins, and a general realignment of the company’s mission: fewer crunchy-granola values, more shareholder value.

Nevertheless, the changes seem to be working. Revenue in the latest quarter was double the level three years earlier, right before Mr. Silverman took over, and Etsy has gone from steady red ink to consistent profits. Its share price is up about 90% so far this year.

In Etsy’s earnings call this month, Mr. Silverman said business continued to surge in April, driven by the sale of fabric face masks—Etsy sold about $133 million of them in the month, the result of mass seller mobilization—and of the sorts of items homebound shoppers want for their nests or to send to loved ones.

“We are seeing very strong growth in brand-new buyers, and we’re excited by that,” he added.

In 2017 when Mr. Silverman took over, the company’s revenue was growing, but its expenses were growing faster, and its board had become convinced that its then-CEO, Chad Dickerson, had to go. Mr. Silverman soon ended Etsy’s Values-Aligned Business team, responsible for its environmental and social initiatives. The company also ceased being a certified B Corp, a designation given to companies that are “using business as a force for good.” Mr. Silverman initiated a number of experiments at the company, many of which he later admitted didn’t work, including an attempt to get sellers to offer “free” shipping by rolling its cost into the price of items.

Mr. Silverman has “changed things radically,” says Abby Glassenberg, president of the Craft Industry Alliance, a professional group that represents craft makers and sellers of every kind. She’s also been an Etsy seller since its very beginning, back in 2005, and has paid close attention to its evolution.

“He knows how to run a public company and increase shareholder value. If that’s the goal, it’s undeniably working, and it’s working during a pandemic,” she says.

Far from the Etsy corporate headquarters, other changes have swept across the U.S., making home-baked goods more commercially viable. From 2013 to 2018, 10 states passed so-called “cottage food laws” allowing home bakers to legally sell their goods in a variety of venues, including online, says Emily Broad Leib, faculty director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic. Many other states amended existing food laws.

While this wave of legislation was driven by, and has enabled, a grass-roots movement of professional home bakers who have found a natural home on Etsy, the company itself hasn’t done much to encourage this category above others. Those who have been selling baked goods on the site for years feel like the lack of promotion of Etsy’s many bakers shows the company’s interests lie elsewhere. “I really hate feeling like the people selling baked goods are the ugly stepchild,” says Ms. McMinn.

Nevertheless, the category has exploded. The half-dozen bakers I talked to all reported increases in orders of between 200% and 450% in the past two months, compared with a year ago. A company spokeswoman said searches on Etsy for terms like “baked goods” and “brownies” have roughly doubled in the past two months, compared with a year ago. Searches on the site for related terms yield tens of thousands of items from nearly as many sellers, everything from sourdough bread and gourmet doughnuts to Keto-friendly waffles and alkaline tahini spelt cookies. The company declined to offer numbers on the sale of food items.

Like just about every e-commerce company on this pandemic-stricken space rock, Etsy is benefiting from the fact that people still want to buy stuff but, for the past couple of months at least, are unable to visit conventional retail outlets. The e-commerce divisions of Amazon and Walmart have been overwhelmed by record demand, Instacart has pledged to hire hundreds of thousands of new personal shoppers, and FedEx has had to cap shipments from stores.

But Etsy has proved to have strengths that would have been difficult to anticipate, says Ms. Glassenberg. For one, its suppliers generally already work at home, so lockdown didn’t affect their ability to be productive, as long as they were able to get raw materials. For another, while both eBay and Amazon offer handmade goods, sellers who have sold at all three of these outlets say Etsy is their preferred marketplace. Etsy customers are willing to accept higher prices than eBay customers, and Amazon prioritizes sellers who can ship goods quickly, which isn’t always possible for solopreneurs producing on demand.

Besides, shoppers find comfort in buying food from producers who seem like real people they can relate to and trust—which Etsy does better than Amazon, for one.

The Etsy bakers I’ve spoken with are tired but, to a person, glad to have a marketplace for their goods. And in a time of pandemic, it’s not just the ability to make a living they are grateful for. On a site that encourages customers to message sellers, bakers say they’re chatting with buyers more than ever.

“One lady ordered scones and put a note on her order to please put nothing on the outside of the box that revealed there was food inside,” says Ms. McMinn. “She said, ‘Life is hard right now and I don’t want to share.’”

The coronavirus broke the food supply chain. Here’s how to fix it.

This article was written by Sierra Garcia and Emily Pontecorvo, and was originally published by Grist on May 14, 2020. 


On a recent Wednesday morning, Sean Daniels pulled a large van up to the parking lot of a community center in Newark, New Jersey. There, volunteers were busy packing potatoes, mushrooms, onions, green beans, and other produce items that had been donated by the meal kit company HelloFresh into dozens of bags to be delivered to local senior centers and affordable housing complexes.

This was not Daniels’ usual gig — he was a parts-and-service worker at an Audi dealership in northern New Jersey. But that day, he was acting as a volunteer for the Do-Good Auto Coalition, an organization that had sprung up in the few weeks since the start of the coronavirus pandemic with the goal of recruiting car dealerships and automakers to help shuttle supplies and food to those in need. Together with the food waste-reducing nonprofit Table To Table, which acted as the middleman between HelloFresh and the community center, the volunteer packers and drivers served more than 800 families that day.

Food waste might seem like an odd problem to have during a pandemic, but the shuttering of restaurants, arenas, schools, and other public institutions has created a glut of fresh produce stuck on farms with no buyers. Those producers operate within a completely separate supply chain to those who supply direct-to-consumer markets like grocery stores and food banks.

“Products that depend heavily on the food service market are clearly going to waste in much higher quantities right now. That’s things like seafood, specialized products like broccolini that, you know, you probably buy more in a restaurant than you would at home,” said Dana Gunders, the executive director of the national food waste-reducing non-profit Re-Fed. “Even more standard products like onions and tomatoes that we do buy and use in our homes [are not being used] in nearly the quantity that they are used in food service.”

The number of people in need of food assistance is also ballooning. The U.S. had about 40 million food-insecure people in pre-pandemic times, and now with unemployment rising to the highest level in nearly a century, demand for food assistance has outpaced supply.

Local organizations all over the country like Table to Table are trying to redirect excess food to families, but it’s unclear how much of a dent they can make to bridge the current disconnect in the food supply chain. Despite the general outcry against reports of fresh food being destroyed across the country while an estimated 1 in 5 American children goes hungry, the scramble for solutions to the food system’s collapse has been piecemeal. As governments, nonprofits, individual farmers, and even startup-spirited college students attempt to address the dual problems of too much food on farms and not enough in fridges, experts and advocates are cautioning that we’ll need a coordinated, long-haul set of solutions.

One of the main challenges right now, Gunders said, is a lack of good data. Even though the media is flooded with images of produce rotting in the fields, it’s unclear how much food is actually being produced and left to rot as retailers, consumers, and government agencies shift their buying habits in response to the pandemic.

Another challenge is that the programs springing up in response to the food crises may not be flexible enough for the food system to efficiently take advantage of them. In mid-April, for example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, under which the agency will buy up to $3 billion in fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meat from farmers and redistribute it to families in need. But the plan tasks distributors with packing the goods in variety boxes ready to hand directly to families, rather than shipping the food to pantries and food banks in bulk — a requirement that many smaller distributors are not prepared to fulfill.

“You’re hearing a lot of ‘I could save 15 truckloads of broccoli right now, but I can’t necessarily get them all into their own boxes,’” said Gunders.

Another challenge is getting food from one place to another. Farmers who try and donate their doomed harvests also face untenable out-of-pocket costs for transporting their crops to areas where it can be distributed. “Right now, if you donate food, you receive an enhanced tax deduction for that donation,” explained Gunders. “But if you donate the service of transporting donated food, you don’t … It’s a key hurdle, especially for getting fresh, perishable healthy products to the food rescue system.”

Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic director Emily Leib agreed that restructuring tax incentives for farmers could be an easy way to reduce food waste. But there’s no quick fix for the massive amount of coordination required between various government agencies and food system stakeholders.

Leib recommended encouraging states and localities to buy farmers’ excess food as much as possible. And more importantly, she said the government should expand the reach of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, including for online food orders. Leib points out that because every dollar spent on SNAP generates about $1.50 in GDP growth, increasing access to SNAP could also bolster local economies — especially if Americans could easily use the vouchers to buy food from local markets and farmers as well as large supermarket chains.

“We have a food system that has a lot of challenges, even in good times,” said Leib. “This pandemic has really shown those frayed edges.”

Despite pandemic, Trump and Republican governors still trying to repeal Affordable Care Act

This article was written boriginally published by the Wisconsin Gazette on May 9, 2020.


Despite the once-in-a-century challenge caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration and 18 states are still pushing for the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, which would repeal the decade-old health law.

Kids Forward joined with Harvard’s Center for Law and Policy Innovation and more than 100 other organizations to ask the U.S. Justice Department and state officials to withdraw their lawsuits to topple the ACA.

Wisconsin was a party to the lawsuit while former Gov. Scott Walker was in office, but the state withdrew the suit after Tony Evers was elected governor and Josh Kaul was elected attorney general. Both are Democrats.

 

States throughout the country are grappling with unprecedented health care crises, economic downturns, and widespread surges in unemployment. Those challenges have caused millions of Americans to lose their health insurance. While not going nearly far enough, the ACA and Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program offer viable options for many people who’ve lost their health care plans. Kids Forward has posted a fact sheet summarizing health insurance options for people losing coverage.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to review the case, California v. Texas, later this year.

The U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general are asking the court to strike down the entire law. If they succeed, the ACA would in effect be repealed without anything to replace it. That would worsen the pandemic by leaving 22 million more Americans without health insurance.

The pandemic has already killed more than 77,000 people across the nation and 374 in Wisconsin (as of 1 p.m. on May 8).

Adult children who are on their parents’ insurance plans and tens of millions of people with pre-existing health conditions could find coverage out of their reach. The loss of the ACA would inequitably impact Black and Latinx residents. Wisconsin and the rest of the country would be in a far more precarious situation without the health care reform law.

Even with the ACA, more than 100,000 people in Wisconsin will likely become uninsured due to job losses caused by the pandemic. According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study conducted by the Urban Institute, between 350,000 and a million Wisconsinites could lose their employer-sponsored health insurance along with their jobs.

Right now, many of those losing coverage qualify for BadgerCare. Adults with family incomes above the poverty level can enroll in an ACA Marketplace plan. The RWJ study estimates that the number of Wisconsinites covered in the Marketplace — currently about 195,000 — will jump by at least 50 percent and possibly as much as 150 percent or 289,000.  

But a court ruling striking down the ACA would end the ACA Marketplace, leaving those people who rely on it without any insurance.

The demise of the ACA would take us back to the bad old days when, even if you had employer-sponsored coverage, insurers could bar coverage for treatment of “pre-existing conditions” for a year or more. It would also bring back “job lock,” forcing people to stay in jobs for fear that their health conditions might not be covered if they switched jobs or started a business.

Eliminating the ACA now would be catastrophic. We cannot risk destabilizing our already-strained, patchwork health care system by destroying a law that is deeply entrenched in almost all aspects of health systems and the lives of millions of families. Under normal circumstances, access to affordable, effective health care can mean the difference between life and death.

Of course, health coverage is more important now than ever. Everyone needs access to testing and treatment for COVID-19, as well as access to necessary routine medical care. The federal government should be working to ensure that everyone has coverage instead of asking the Supreme Court to endanger the lives of millions by ripping up the ACA.

Wisconsin and the rest of the nation have so much as stake.

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