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The Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) at Harvard Law School is the oldest food law clinical program in the United States. The FLPC was established in 2010 as a division of the Harvard Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation to address growing concerns about the health, environmental, and economic consequences of the laws and policies that structure the current U.S. food system. Under the supervision of FLPC attorneys, Harvard Law students get hands-on learning experience by conducting legal and policy research for individual and organizational clients working to increase access to healthy foods, prevent diet-related diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and assist small and sustainable farmers in breaking into new commercial markets. Students have the opportunity to develop a range of problem-solving, policy analysis, research and writing, oral communication, and leadership skills.
In its first few years of operation, the FLPC has already trained more than 50 clinical students; served 25 clients and partners; and produced 15 major policy reports, along with many shorter legal briefs, fact sheets, and trainings. Another 20-30 Harvard students work on food law and policy projects each year under the supervision of the FLPC through the Harvard Food Law Society, Harvard Law School Mississippi Delta Project, and various independent research projects. In addition, students from law schools and other degree programs across the country intern at the Clinic each summer.
The FLPC also works closely with the joint Harvard Law School/Mississippi State University Delta Fellow, an attorney working in Mississippi on both grassroots and state-level advocacy and policy work aiming to improve public health and foster economic development, with a focus on the food system access to healthy food and sensible policies for small producers.
Scope of Our Work:
The FLPC is constantly expanding its scope, and thus far has worked in the following issue areas:
- Increasing access to healthy produce for low-income individuals, recipients of food benefit programs, and those living in “food deserts”;
- Fostering small-scale producer’ sales to grocery stores, restaurants, schools, state agencies, and institutions by identifying and eliminating legal and non-legal barriers;
- Advising state, local, and tribal food policy councils through legal and policy research to help these advocates expand their influence on community, state, or regional food systems;
- Assessing food safety laws and policies at all levels of government and recommending reform that would increase economic opportunities for small-scale local producers, including working with state governments to allow for the in-home production of certain low-risk food products;
- Analyzing laws and policies that impact the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes at the federal and state level, with particular focus on access to healthcare, the food environment, and opportunities for physical activity;
- Supporting farmers markets in rural or low-income areas, including breaking down barriers to the use of SNAP (food stamps) and WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program food benefits at markets;
- Identifying and recommending changes to state and local administration of food benefit programs, such as SNAP, WIC, school meals programs, and USDA Foods, to help increase food security and ensure efficient use of these programs;
- Promoting healthy school environments by investigating and recommending best practices regarding school food, nutrition education, and physical activity; and
- Analyzing causes of food waste in the U.S. and internationally and pushing for legal and policy reforms that would decrease the high rates of unnecessary food waste in U.S. grocery stores and homes.