Projects are a great way for students to get involved and gain first-hand experience doing food policy work. If you are interested in working on a project, please contact Projects Chair Morgan Mallory Menchaca at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Navajo Nation Food Policy Overhaul
The Navajo tribe has procured the assistance of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic to draft a new comprehensive food and nutrition policy for its community. The tribe is spread across parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah and has historically been plagued with high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The Food Law Society will assist the Clinic with research and preparation to draft the new policy. We will examine what other Native American tribes have done in formulating their own nutrition policies, as well as research potential jurisdictional issues involved in implementing a policy for a tribe that is spread out across three states.
Legal Issues Involved in Food (Mis)Labeling
The Food Law Society will also assist the Clinic by researching legal issues surrounding food labeling. More specifically, we will analyze legal issues with labels that reference certain methods of production—such as organic labeling or other sustainability labels—that may mischaracterize elements of production. We will also examine the enforcement agencies responsible for monitoring food labeling at the state and federal level, as well as possible avenues to address the issue of mislabeling.
Local Food Procurement
In recent years there has been increasing interest in local food consumption, and many states have enacted legislation to promote the use of food grown within the state. Under Massachusetts law, state agencies and institutions of higher learning are required to give preference to locally-grown foods in their procurement practices. In spring 2012, the Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic prepared a report analyzing the law and its implementation by state colleges and universities. The Clinic also created a list of recommendations to increase the purchasing of local foods by these institutions. In fall 2012, the Clinic conducted a similar project with regard to local purchases by state agencies, and student volunteers assisted with a fifty-state survey of agency local procurement efforts. Our goal was to identify states that have significantly increased local food purchases to serve as models when we considered potential policy recommendations for Massachusetts.
These days, most food products we buy are produced or packaged by a company that stamps on the food items a “sell by,” “use by,” or “best by” date. These dates are solely managed by industry with no federal laws setting the length of time between when a food can be produced/packaged and the date placed on the package (though some states and localities have passed laws requiring that such a date be placed on food items). Thus, these code dates are not necessarily linked to the time by which the food must be eaten in order to be safe. However, these dates can have a major impact, as states and municipalities regulate the sale or use of food after its code date. Students working on this project analyzed the code date rules for food products in various states and localities and helped make policy suggestions to amend these laws to reduce food waste.
Our research was incorporated into a comprehensive report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, “The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America.”