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Episode 68: Exploring Hunger, Waste & Covid’s Impact on the Food Chain

This article was originally written by Liz Bothwell and published by Waste 360 on July 20, 2020.


In our latest episode of NothingWasted!, we chat with Emily Broad Leib, Clinical Professor & Director, Food Law & Policy Clinic (FLPC), Harvard Law School.

The Food Law & Policy Clinic provides legal advice to nonprofits and government agencies seeking to increase access to healthy foods, prevent diet-related diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and reduce barriers to market entry for small-scale and sustainable food producers, while educating law students about ways to use law and policy to impact the food system.

We spoke with Emily about global food bank trends and laws; organic waste bans; and food waste as it relates to COVID-19, climate change and more.

Here’s a glimpse into Emily’s observations.

On the effects of COVID-19 on hunger:

At the end of 2019 in the U.S., about 11 percent of the population was food insecure. And now that number is 38 percent – people saying they’re not sure they are going to be able to provide all the meals they need in the next few months. And the UN has reported that hunger might double due to COVID-19.

On how COVID-19 has brought to light the importance of food workers:

Workers in the food chain are often invisible, and people don’t think about where food comes from, and all the hands that had to be working in the fields and processing and stocking shelves…this has become a lot more visible. So far, however, we haven’t seen measurable changes that align with that at the federal level. But my hope is now that it’s more in the public consciousness that we’ll see policy changes follow.

On FLPC’s Global Food Donation Policy Atlas:

The last year and a half we’ve been working with the Global FoodBanking Network.They asked us to help analyze and compare laws regarding food donation across countries. The genesis was really that, as concerns about food waste are growing…one big reason food is being wasted is because of policies and laws and government regulations.

So we selected 15 countries and just launched all the materials and maps online for the first five countries—the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Argentina and India. For each country, there is a guide, recommendations, and a map that shows how food safety and labeling laws, liability protection, tax incentives, and more are impacting donations in each place.

On what’s next:

Anyone working in any part of the food system right now is probably seeing rapid changes. As for what’s on my radar…we anticipate that there are going to be some additional pandemic-related stimulus bills at the federal level, so we’ve been focused on the opportunities there. And we’ve been trying to get some changes on the margins to liability protection to make it easier to protect the types of food donation we’ve been seeing during the pandemic.

We’ve also been pushing for additions to the tax incentives for food donations — most notably to create an incentive better suited to farmers. The other piece we’re pushing would be a tax benefit for companies involved in the logistics and transpiration of getting food waste from point A to point B. Another thing that’s important is remembering that this is going to be a marathon, so we have to take the long view. There will be a need and opportunities for those with expertise in different parts of the food system to give input.

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