A Science and Policy Interface in Global Food Governance:

 The High Level Panel of Experts of the World Committee of Food Security

by Hilal Elver*

Global food insecurity is a highly complicated, persistent, and multi-dimensional issue that involves multiple sectors, various players, and policy domains (McKeon 2021). It appears in various ways in the different regions of the world, and it has a vast variety of interdependent underlying structural causes that are also linked to other global issues. In times of massive crises, the international community focuses on establishing effective food governance (McKeon 2015).  The sudden spike of food prices in 2007-2008 created major political uprisings in many developing countries. At that time, improving global food governance became a central focus of international discussions. As a result, in 2009, the Committee of the World Food Security (CFS) (originally created in 1974 as a UN intergovernmental body) was reformed and renewed to serve as a forum for review and follow up for food security policies. Since then, CFS is widely seen as the “foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform”for food security and nutrition globally.

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Dr. Sara Bleich, Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity for the Food and Nutrition Service, USDA, appears on Repast

Repast is the food law and policy podcast produced by the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy. Each month Michael Roberts and Diana Winters interview a thought leader in the field of food law and policy to discuss past achievements, current developments, and future challenges. You can find Repast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

This month , Michael and Diana talk with a very special guest–Dr. Sara Bleich, the Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity for the Food and Nutrition Service, USDA.   Dr. Bleich is leading the department’s work to counter food and nutrition insecurity in the United States.  In this episode, Dr. Bleich discusses the USDA’s Actions on Nutrition Security, the difference between food security and nutrition security, health equity, structural racism, the upcoming historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, and much more.

Dr. Sara Bleich is on leave from her tenured position as a Professor of Public Health Policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  She is a well-regarded public health policy expert specializing in food and nutrition policy and the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications. Her research centers on food insecurity, as well as racial injustice within the social safety net. Dr. Bleich holds a PhD in Health Policy from Harvard University and a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University.

In the first year of the Biden administration, Dr. Bleich served as Senior Advisor for COVID-19 in the Office of the Secretary. In January 2022, she transitioned to her new role as the first Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity at the Food and Nutrition Service at USDA.  She will elaborate more on this role today.  From 2015-2016, she served as a White House Fellow in the Obama Administration, where she worked in USDA as a Senior Policy Advisor for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services and with the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative. 

Michael T. Roberts is the Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy at UCLA Law.

Diana Winters is the Deputy Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy at UCLA Law.

For more on the USDA’s Actions on Nutrition Security, see here.

See here for Secretary Vilsack’s address on the USDA’s Actions on Nutrition Security.

See here for the USDA’s new blog series on nutrition security.

Look here for information about the upcoming White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.

ENVIRONMENT AND HUMAN RIGHTS DURING ARMED CONFLICT: NORMATIVE AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK

Protection of Right to Food and Environment in Times of Armed Conflict

by Hilal Elver*

The following is the keynote address given by Hilal Elver to the Geneva Academy on June 8, 2022. Footnotes at end of article.

Internal and international armed conflicts are one of the major reasons for increased food insecurity and malnutrition. Despite well-established norms of international human rights law and international humanitarian law protecting the right to food, hunger and  malnutrition, as well as famine has skyrocketed in last few years. There is a shocking failure in addressing criminal acts of deliberate starvation and other severe violations of a fundamental human right: the “right to food.” This non-compliance by States and other political actors as well as the reluctance to implement existing international norms to protect human rights and the environment in times of war is a critical failure of international community.

Most recently, the war in Ukraine has elevated catastrophic hunger and malnutrition levels to the top of the global agenda. The war has raised awareness of ongoing widespread hunger and malnutrition even beyond Ukraine, as the parties to the conflict are the major players of global agricultural trade.

Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights specifically recognizes “the fundamental right of everyone to be from hunger,” which further imposes an obligation on States to ensure “the satisfaction of, at the very least, the minimum essential level” of this right under all circumstances, including the times of war. Freedom from hunger is accepted as part of customary international law, rendering it binding for all states regardless of whether they are party to the Covenant. States cannot put aside or postpone the realization of this core component of the body of economic and social rights. According to their international legal obligations, States must continue to take deliberate and targeted steps using all appropriate means to fulfill these rights, even in times of conflict.  Yet, 60% of the people suffering from hunger and malnutrition globally live in conflict-ridden places, mostly in the Middle East and Africa.

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Call for experts – High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition

The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to world food security and nutrition. 

During its 46th plenary session, the Committee on World Food Security requested the HLPE to produce a report on “Reducing inequalities for food security and nutrition”. As part of the report elaboration process, the HLPE is now calling for interested experts to apply to the ad-hoc Project Team for this report.   

Experts wishing to apply to this call shall find all the information here.

The importance of food literacy

by Rose Sarner* (Guest Blogger)

“It’s one thing to provide people with food and it’s another to teach food literacy.” According to Fast Company, in 2021, “54 million Americans do not have access to healthy food,” and according to NPR, “80 percent of Americans fail to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.”  

Healthful food and its many benefits are not an everyday reality for many families in the world. Here in the United States, young kids, teens, and adults have little knowledge about the foods they are putting into their bodies, where the food is coming from, or how different foods affect their overall health. The programs that are in place that are supposed to “educate” Americans are not engaging, clear, or very informative and this failing has contributed to the current health and obesity crisis in the United States. Making health sustainable is a multifaceted issue that has many layers. Many individuals fall short of taking care of their health issues because they do not know how to make a life switch and sustain their progress. 

Our schools can play an important role in changing dietary habits by educating students on food literacy.  According to The Centers for Disease and Prevention, “US students receive less than 8 hours of required nutrition education each school year, which is far below the 40–50 hours that are needed to affect behavior change.” Additionally, educators are encouraged to teach nutritional education classes at schools; however, given the important role a person’s consumption of healthy foods has in preventing chronic diseases and supporting good health, ideally, educators would provide students with more hours of nutritional instruction. Research has proven a connection between healthy diets and one’s emotional well-being, and how emotions may influence eating habits (The Centers for Disease and Prevention). Due to the large number of required classes in many schools across the country, administrators and teachers should consider ways to integrate nutrition education into their existing curriculums.  

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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. 

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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.

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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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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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