Meat Production and Covid-19 – Shortages Coming?

by Diana R. H. Winters

One of the country’s largest pork processing facilities announced that it is closing indefinitely.  The Smithfields Foods, Inc. plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota will close after almost 300 of its workers tested positive for coronavirus.  The plant employs 3700 workers and produces about four percent of the pork production in the United States.

Other major meat producers, including JBS USA and Tyson, have closed facilities after workers tested positive, and in some instances, died.

These closures illuminate significant worker safety problems at meat production plants.  Manufacturers have been slow to provide protective equipment to low-wage workers standing close together to process meat and have pressured employees to remain working even if sick.

Moreover, these closures are one of many Covid-19 food supply chain issues resulting from the shutdown, which also include the inability of food producers to repackage food meant for institutional or restaurant use for retail use.  The New York Times reported on the resulting massive food waste this past weekend.

All of the articles linked in this post can be found in the Resnick Center’s and the UCLA Law Library’s resource guide to Covid-19 and food law.  Here in the blog we will occasionally highlight important trends and stories we see emerging.  Please explore our guide, and forward relevant material for inclusion in the guide.

 

Is Pizza Still a Vegetable?

by Stephanie Teuber – 2L, UCLA Law

 

Many K-12 students in Los Angeles, as well as throughout the U.S., rely on public schools for at least one meal each day. Although school lunch programs serve an important purpose, they are often left out of legal conversations. On February 27, with the support of a grant from the Semel Healthy Campus Initiative, the Food Law Society and Education Law Society at UCLA Law teamed up to host Is Pizza Still a Vegetable? What’s Next for School Lunch.

Through a panel conversation, moderated by Dr. Wendy Slusser, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Child Health Policy, Pediatrics, and Health Equity at the UCLA Geffen School of Medicine, students learned about the history of school lunch programs, their current state, and (of course) whether pizza qualifies as a vegetable.

Each panelist contributed a unique perspective to the conversation. Following Dr. Slusser’s historical overview of these programs and a short video, Diana Winters, Assistant Director of Scholarship at the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, provided background on the trajectory of school lunch programs under the Trump administration, and the role of the federal government in administering these programs. Ivy Marx, a Senior Nutrition Specialist with LAUSD, explained how school lunch programs are administered in Los Angeles, and voiced the challenges presented by both budget constraints and picky children. Paula Sirola, the Executive Director of Seeds to Plate, stressed the impact of nutrition education on a child’s overall well-being, and how Seeds to Plate’s interactive gardening program helps foster a more holistic learning experience. Cheryl Leahy, General Counsel at Compassion Over Killing (COK), explained COK’s animal-welfare focused approach to school lunch reform, articulating concerns regarding the role of industrial agriculture interests in school lunch policy, and highlighting the organization’s efforts to reduce meat consumption in schools through legal and policy advocacy.

Over 100 students RSVP’d for the panel, and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Law students appreciated that they were exposed to the diverse perspectives of the panelists, and found the conversation both lively and productive. As finals season approaches and meal-prep takes the backseat, the most reassuring news of the day was perhaps at the close of the event, when Ivy Marx answered the most obvious outstanding question: yes, pizza is still a vegetable.*

*LAUSD pizza has whole wheat crust and no added sugar.

Panel

The Economist on Gleaning

Happy New Year!  Apologies for the long holiday hiatus.  More soon, but for now, enjoy this fantastically interesting Economist article on the practice of gleaning:

https://www.economist.com/christmas-specials/2018/12/22/the-return-of-gleaning-in-the-modern-world

“The scale of the practice may have changed out of all recognition, but the philosophy—almost a theology—of gleaning remains the same. It completes and expands the harvest, so that the greatest possible number can share in it, especially the poor.”

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