Welcome!

Welcome to On Food Law, a food law and policy blog administered by the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at UCLA Law.  This blog will be a forum for food law scholars, policymakers, media, the food industry, and the interested public to engage with and discuss research in and ideas about food law and policy.

Food is, at once, the most personal and the most political.  Food affects all of us and the law affects all of food.  The things we eat, from morning coffee to late night snack, come to us as they are as the result of an elaborate web of legal regulations.  On Food Law’s goal is to build an understanding of the law of food, and ultimately improve both the law and our food.

We hope to foster and amplify the conversation among the many stakeholders, including industry, activists, academics, and politicians. Our authors will include members of the Food Law Lab, Resnick Center, Harvard Law, and UCLA Law faculty, staff, and students, as well as other scholars, policymakers, and individuals with ideas that may affect the food system.  We will also cross post to other blogs and relevant publications.

We would like for this blog to be a place of thoughtful discussion, and although our default is no comments, we will consider opening specific posts to comments or publishing responses.  Please see our policies.

Finally, please join the discussion, share what you see here, and stay in touch.  Follow us on Twitter at @UCLAFoodLaw and @thefoodlawlab, or email us at resnickprogram@law.ucla.edu, info@foodlawlab.com, or winters@law.ucla.edu.

Featured post

Commentary – It is Time for the United States to Learn About the Right to Food.

by Hilal ElverMichael T. RobertsDiana R.H. Winters, and Melissa Shapiro

Cross-posted on HilalElver.org

On US Election Day 2021, the state of Maine voted in favor of a constitutional “right to food”—a historic development for a country that has long refused to recognize the human right to food.

Will the US finally acknowledge that this right actually exists?

Maine is officially the first US state to recognize a right to food. On Election Day this year, more than 60% of voters agreed that Maine should amend the state constitution “to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being.” Put simply, those in Maine will have agency over how they procure their food within the bounds of food safety laws and quality controls. The “right to food” amendment, which was proposed by Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) and received bipartisan support, was welcomed by a diverse constituency comprising small farmers, libertarians, liberals and those who believe that local producers should not have to compete with corporate food interests.

 Observing how Maine practically applies the “right to food” amendment in furtherance of the stated objective is critical. It will be necessary for Maine legislators to work closely with other state agencies to ensure that emerging programs and policies do not violate federal and state laws. It is also important for future decision-making to involve open consultation and participation from civil society and private sector. Being a trailblazer means that the path forward is not always clear; but those who have already dismissed the historic amendment as an empty promise or inoperable language are missing the point: Maine’s constitutional amendment is a transformative step towards the United States’ formal recognition of the human right to food.

Continue reading “Commentary – It is Time for the United States to Learn About the Right to Food.”

Service with FoodCorps

by Lucy Weiss*

With a background in Food Studies, an interest in food law and policy, and a belief in the power of education, I was searching for ways to combine my passions when a professor recommended FoodCorps to me. FoodCorps is an AmeriCorps service fellowship program focusing on student access to healthy food in schools that partners with local community organizations and school districts around the U.S. Service members participate in three primary activities: providing hands-on lessons, encouraging healthy school meals, and promoting a schoolwide culture of health. For example, members teach gardening and cooking and facilitate taste tests of new and different foods, although the COVID-19 pandemic limits some of what we are able to do. A number of service members also work with the cafeteria staff and school districts to ensure healthy food options are available and promoted at school lunches. Each state and site partner have different needs and therefore service varies from position to position. 

Continue reading “Service with FoodCorps”

Addressing Student Food Insecurity with a SNAP

by Kyle Winterboer*

As students return to in-person school, it is an important time to revisit the issue of food insecurity across America’s educational system. Particularly in Higher Education, recent studies suggest student food insecurity levels had reached as high as 38% in Spring 2020 and 5.8 of every 10 students experienced some form of basic needs insecurity. These rates have dramatically increased throughout the duration of the pandemic because students sent home for lock-down no longer had access to the already limited forms of support available in person on campuses.

A common tool used to fight food insecurity is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Despite its successes in reducing hunger and the economic benefits the program introduces to stimulate local economies, SNAP has many limitations and needs reform to better address food insecurity. One such limitation is that policy makers have long denied students access to SNAP. While the past decade has brought some expansions to grant students access, significant barriers remain. Barriers include restrictive student eligibility criteria and mixed messaging that leaves students misinformed of their eligibility. This policy failure leaves students hungry, many of whom would otherwise be eligible for aid if they were not pursuing higher education.

To show the real human impacts of these policy failings, journalist Alejandra Salgado details student stories in an article that appeared in CalMatters and was shared by Civil Eats: Colleges Rush to Sign Students Up for Food Aid, as Pandemic Rules Make More Eligible | Civil Eats

To provide additional context to the policies described in Salgado’s reporting, the below contains insights from Resnick Center Research Assistant Kyle Winterboer in this policy area. This research comes from his time with the student led research advocacy group “unBox”, the assistance of the UCLA CalFresh Initiative, his own application process amidst the pandemic, and from his time implementing a little known policy solution across UCLA departments to better support students in their SNAP applications.

The Resnick Center thanks the unBox Project and the UCLA CalFresh Initiative for readily sharing information for this report, and their continued dedication to the mission of ensuring equitable access to food for all.

Continue reading “Addressing Student Food Insecurity with a SNAP”

Community Gardens and Urban Farm: Land Acquisition

by Lucy Weiss*

Community gardens and urban farms are often thought of in conjunction with one another. After all, they share similarities; both are places where people, typically small-scale producers, come together to grow fruits and vegetables, and both provide consumers access to local produce. Both community gardens and urban farms benefit those who grow/purchase fresh produce, and the environment more generally. They recharge groundwater, prevent erosion, and mitigate dust impacts to cities. Community gardens and urban farms also face similar challenges including land acquisition, rising water rates, and climate change. Despite their overlaps, it is worth noting the distinctions between community gardens and urban farms, because these differences can  affect how they function. Urban farms typically have the goal of turning a profit whereas community gardens, which are run by residents and non profit organizations, tend to orient themselves toward education and facilitating relationships between people and nature. These divergent goals result in different models of operation. For instance, urban farms have fewer people doing more of the labor and getting paid for it. In community gardens, however, individuals often have their own plots of land and pay a membership fee to garden. Produce grown at community gardens is also eaten by individuals rather than sold for profit. Land acquisition also functions differently for urban farms and community gardens, which I will discuss in this post. 

Continue reading “Community Gardens and Urban Farm: Land Acquisition”

Changelab Solutions Webinar on Food Systems and Health Inequity

by Kyle Winterboer*

ChangeLab Solutions works nationwide to bring about healthier and equitable communities through law and policy. Their ongoing six-part virtual engagement series “Uprooting the Structural Drivers of Health Inequity” is focused on ways that organizations and advocates are addressing inequity in their efforts to improve outcomes. Their recent webinar was the fifth installations of the series, was focused on food systems, and featured an expert panel discussing Policy Solutions for a Values-Based Food System.

Previous episodes can be found on their website, and a recording of Monday’s Panel will be made available at: https://www.changelabsolutions.org/product/food-systems

Below find a list of the expert panelists. Additionally, find a summary by one of the Resnick Center’s Summer Research Assistants, Kyle Winterboer, who attended the webinar on Monday, June 28, 2021.

Expert Panel:

  • Jose Oliva, campaigns director, HEAL Food Alliance
  • Karen Bassarab, senior program officer, Food Communities & Public Health, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
  • Vinny Eng, community organizer and founding member, SF New Deal 
  • Abbey Piner, project lead, Community Food Strategies, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina State University
  • LaShauna Austria, Founder, Kindred Seedlings Farm, and Racial Equity Coach, Community Food Strategies
  • Nessia Berner Wong, senior policy analyst, ChangeLab Solutions (moderator)
Continue reading “Changelab Solutions Webinar on Food Systems and Health Inequity”

Further Solutions to the Honey Fraud Problem

This is the fourth of four posts by students in the UCLA Law Food Law and Policy Clinic on honey adulteration, honey litigation, and potential policy solutions to the problem of honey fraud.

By Terra Duchene, Aris Prince, Victoria Russell, Candace Yamanishi*

This post outlines the actors who can make a significant impact to the honey fraud problem and suggests potential starting points for solutions.

Beekeepers like Chris Hiatt are desperate for a solution. Honey adulteration is a threat to the survival of U.S. bees and beekeepers, which in turn, is a threat to food growing in the U.S., since 1/3 of the food grown in the U.S. depends directly or indirectly on bees. Just as the bee is endangered, so too is the U.S. beekeeper. The livelihood of essential beekeepers, the well-being and survival of honeybees, and, ultimately, the success of crops that are essential to our agricultural system, are being severely endangered by the relatively unknown but extremely large-scale adulteration of honey. Ultimately, putting a stop to honey fraud is vital to our environment and those who dedicate their lives to cultivating it. We must end honey adulteration in all its forms. 

Continue reading “Further Solutions to the Honey Fraud Problem”

Legal Recourse for Self-Regulation in the Honey Industry

This is the third of four posts by students in the UCLA Law Food Law and Policy Clinic on honey adulteration, honey litigation, and potential policy solutions to the problem of honey fraud.

By Terra Duchene, Aris Prince, Victoria Russell, Candace Yamanishi*

The American honey industry has been aware of the honey fraud problem for a long time. This post outlines fraudulent conduct in the honey certification space and describes a new California lawsuit that tackles honey adulteration.

 In 2010, four North American honey packers and importers set up a certification program called True Source to guarantee the origin, safety, and purity of honey. Since the program’s creation, True Source participation has flourished. True Source representatives told the UCLA Food Law & Policy Clinic (“the Clinic”) that as of January 2021, 40% of honey sold in the USA and Canada is True Source Certified, and there are 820 participating companies: 22 packers, 23 importers, 95 exporters, and 680 beekeepers.

The True Source concept is simple. In theory, honey certified by the organization is regularly tested by third party laboratories for authenticity and is designed to allow honey to be tracked from the consumer, back through the supply chain, to the country of origin and the beekeeper who harvested the honey from the beehive. (True Source Standard; Complaint). The True Source participants are supposedly required to comply with specific standards (the “True Source Certified Standard”) to ensure the traceability and authenticity of honey at each stage in the supply chain.

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Upcoming Webinar

By Diana Winters

Please let me draw your attention to this exciting upcoming webinar in the Faegre Drinker Food Webinar series, to be held at 10am PT on June 15, 2021:

Litigation Considerations Arising From the Pandemic – This presentation will explore litigation trends in the food practice area arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Covered topics include types of litigated claims, state and federal defenses, and jurisdictional questions, among others.

The webinar will be led by Molly Flynn, a partner at Faegre Drinker, and Rita Mansuryan, an associate at Faegre Drinker and a Research Affiliate with the Resnick Center, as well as an Advisory Board member.

I am sure it will be terrific. You can register for the webinar here.

What is Adulteration?

This is the second of four posts by students in the UCLA Law Food Law and Policy Clinic on honey adulteration, honey litigation, and potential policy solutions to the problem of honey fraud.

By Terra Duchene, Aris Prince, Victoria Russell, Candace Yamanishi*

Honey is made when the nectar and sweet deposits from flowering plants are gathered, stored, and dehydrated in honeycomb by honeybees. By definition, honey is a pure, single ingredient natural substance free of other substances or sweeteners. Honey adulteration occurs when real honey is added to or altered in such a way that it modifies its natural composition and integrity.

Adulteration occurs in a variety of forms, the most common being dilution with cheap fillers, sugary syrups, or other additives. This dilution increases the sugar content as well as changes the color and texture of the honey. Some honey producers extract the honey from the honeycomb prematurely[R(1] , or even substitute the nectar usually used to feed honeybees with sugar water to increase honey production and enhance their honey’s sweetness. Other common forms of adulteration include super heating and ultrafiltration or “resin stripping,” which remove pollen and naturally occurring enzymes to “improve” taste and smell and prevent the crystallization that retailers and consumers often find unattractive. Pollen removal is also an effective way to obfuscate efforts to track honey by adding local pollen after removing the foreign source pollen so that adulterators can circumvent labeling laws. Honey blending is another non-obvious form of adulteration where different honeys are blended in varying amounts and often misrepresented as a single type of honey. According to Amina Harris, Director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the UC Davis Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, a honey that has been labeled “Orange Blossom Honey” may be composed of only 28% orange blossom so long as that is the highest percentage present. The other 73% can be composed of any random mixture of various types of honey.

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On Food Law News!

Hello! On Food Law is celebrating its approximate three-and-a-half year birthday! Please send (healthy) cake.

We would like to celebrate this milestone with some news. The blog is no longer jointly administered with Harvard’s Food Law Lab, but is now solely a Resnick Center at UCLA Law operation. Nothing has, or will change. We welcome posts from students, faculty, and others from any school and any state, and look forward to many more years of providing cutting edge food law and policy news, scholarship, and commentary.

Thanks for your time, your attention, and your food law wisdom. Please email Diana Winters at winters@law.ucla.edu with questions, comments, and/or blog post ideas.

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