Download the Food Law and Policy Clinic brochure here.
The Food Law and Policy Clinic of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (formerly the Health Law and Policy Clinic) was established in 2010 in order to link Harvard Law students with opportunities to provide pro bono legal assistance to individuals and communities on various food policy issues. The Clinic aims to increase access to healthy foods, prevent diet-related diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and assist small farmers and producers in participating in local food markets.
Each semester, 6-10 law students are involved in the Food Law and Policy Clinic through enrollment in our seminar, entitled “Food: A Health Law and Policy Seminar,” co-taught by Professor Robert Greenwald and Senior Clinical Fellow Emily Broad Leib. Another 20-30 students work on food projects through the Harvard Food Law Society, Harvard Law School Mississippi Delta Project, and other pro bono opportunities overseen by the Food Law and Policy Clinic.
The Food Law and Policy Clinic is engaged in a range of food law and policy project areas, including:
- Analyzing and recommending ways to increase access to healthy produce for low-income individuals, recipients of food benefit programs, and those living in “food deserts” or areas with limited food access
- Identifying and eliminating legal and non-legal barriers inhibiting small producers from going beyond direct farm-to-consumer sales to sell at grocery stores, restaurants, and Farm to School programs
- Assisting with the development and legal research needs of state and local food policy councils, which are groups of community stakeholders working to promote policies that increase access to healthy food
- Assessing food safety rules to inform law and policy changes that would increase economic opportunities for small local producers, including working with state governments to allow for the in-home production of certain low-risk food products
- Establishing and supporting rural farmers markets, including breaking down barriers to the use of SNAP (food stamps) and WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program food benefits at markets
- Investigating and recommending best practices to promote healthy school environments
Our projects include helping Mississippi farmers markets access EBT machines to promote SNAP use at markets in Mississippi; analyzing and recommending an overhaul of the Mississippi WIC food distribution program to increase food access for WIC participants; working with various food stakeholders (restaurants, farmers, farmers markets, produce trucks) and the Shelby County Health Department to update the Memphis Food Safety Code; identifying and advocating for legislative changes to protect and promote farmers and farmers markets, rather than food peddlers and resellers, in Arkansas; and assisting with legislative recommendations to reduce food waste and increase food access in Massachusetts.
The Food Law and Policy Clinic currently focuses much of its work in the Delta region, with projects underway in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee; however, our geographic scope is not limited and beginning in fall 2011 we will begin to replicate our work in other regions and communities, using our expertise in food law and policy to build similar federal, state, and local advocacy infrastructure around access to food and assisting small producers.
For the past 20 years, the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation has worked to increase access to health care for vulnerable populations, particularly low-income people with chronic illness, as well as to support legal, regulatory, and policy structures that enable people to make healthy lifestyle choices. The Center’s projects span a variety of federal, state, and local access to care issues, and include building and supporting state advocacy structures through our State Healthcare Access Research Project (SHARP); informing passage and implementation of federal health care reform; and working with state partners to identify and address threats to the Medicaid program.
The Food Law and Policy Clinic draws on the work of the joint Harvard Law School/Mississippi State University Delta Fellowship, which was founded in 2008 and included both grassroots initiatives with local farmers, communities, and schools, as well as state-level advocacy work with the legislature and agencies in Mississippi, to bring about programmatic, legal, and policy change around access to healthy food and sensible policies for small producers.