Guide to Careers in Public Interest Food Law and Policy Published

By Diana Winters

A food law and policy career, especially for attorneys interested in working in the public interest sector, can take many shapes. Food policy work often intersects with other legal subject matters, such as housing, health care, education, and family law. For this reason, the Resnick Center has put together a digital guide to Careers in Public Interest Food Law and Policy to help law students and graduates understand the varied directions a public interest food law career can go, and how to embark upon such a career path.

Although the guide contains some resources specific to UCLA Law students, it also contains many more general resources, and will be useful to all law students and law school graduates seeking to explore public interest food law and policy careers.

We’re excited about this guide, and hope it can help grow our vibrant field.

By 2030 50% of American adults will be obese, and 25% will be severely obese

by Diana R. H. Winters

If the predictions from a recent New England Journal of Medicine article (pay-walled, but 3 free articles a month available with account creation) come true, the implications–for our nation’s health, for our health care system, and for our economy–are vast.  The study shows that by 2030, almost half of American adults will be obese and a quarter will be severely obese.  The study authors were meticulous in their methods to increase the reliability of their projections.

The study found that there is great variation among states, with over 29 states projected to have higher than 50% obesity, and a large variation in the prevalence of obesity according to income.  Severe obesity will be much more common among low-income adults than higher income adults.

The study also notes that the health consequences of this magnitude of obesity in the population are enormous, and will likely increase socioeconomic disparities.

Although the researchers are light on policy suggestions, the authors do write that, “a range of sustained approaches to maintain a healthy weight over the life course, including policy and environmental interventions at the community level that address upstream social and cultural determinants of obesity, will probably be needed to prevent further weight gain across the BMI distribution.”

In the New York Times, Jane E. Brody notes in covering this study that the United States has done very little to address the food environment that has led to such a marked increase in obesity (since 1990, obesity in the United States has doubled).  Policy interventions such as taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, portion control, and partnering with restaurants and food manufacturers to reformulate food to be more healthy would be a start.

In fact, another article published today in the New York Times shows that multifaceted policy intervention can have a huge effect on consumption.  It is four years since Chile passed a series of sweeping laws to combat obesity including raising taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, and “advertising restrictions on unhealthy foods, bold front-of-package warning labels and a ban on junk food in schools,” and there has been a marked drop in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.  That article cited a public health policy professor from Harvard University who said “the early results suggested that a raft of food policies, not just stand-alone measures like soda taxes, were needed to address a growing obesity crisis that is affecting nations rich and poor.”

As the study and these articles note, time is short.  The costs of obesity at this magnitude are enormous – on quality of life, on health care spending, on the economy, on socioeconomic disparities.  We need these policies, and we need them now.

 

 

Resnick Center Partners with UN on Global Food Initiatives

UPDATE (June 26, 2019): Please see here for the FAO’s press release regarding this partnership: http://www.fao.org/partnerships/academia/news/news-article/en/c/1198206/ 

 

 

Reprinted from UCLA Law News and Events (https://law.ucla.edu/news-and-events/in-the-news/2019/06/resnick-center-partners-with-un-on-global-food-initiatives/)

The Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law has entered into a partnership with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on a series of research and advisory initiatives to confront global food security, nutrition, safety and quality.

The parties signed a memorandum of understanding at an FAO event in Rome on June 10, where leaders in global food policy gathered for a series of talks on the future of food. Michael Roberts, executive director of the Resnick Center, attended and served as a featured participant in a roundtable discussion on academic perspectives of global nutrition policy.

The agreement establishes a working relationship between the Resnick Center and the UN, including an initial project involving food fraud that builds on recent research by UCLA Law scholars. Hilal Elver S.J.D. ’09, who serves as the Resnick Center’s global distinguished fellow and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, was instrumental in building the partnership between the center and the FAO.

“FAO is glad to partner with UCLA, one of the most prestigious academic institutions around the world,” FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said in a statement. “Promoting healthy food systems has become a top priority [in] sustainable development, and this cannot be done with [inadequate] regulation. … UCLA law school expertise, in particular on food law, will surely contribute to address this key challenge.”

The collaboration continues the close relationship between the Resnick Center and the FAO. Graziano da Silva visited UCLA Law in February 2019, where he emphasized that simply providing food to hungry people around the world is not enough. Rather, he said, serving healthy food should be a paramount concern.

“We need to reposition our food systems from feeding people to nourishing people,” Graziano da Silva told an audience of UCLA Law students and professionals in the field. “Obesity and overweight are growing faster than hunger. It is an epidemic. The right to healthy food should be a key dimension for zero hunger and for the right to food itself.”

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New Scholarship: The New Food Safety

by Diana Winters

Emily M. Broad Leib and Margot Pollans recently posted The New Food Safety, forthcoming in the California Law Review, on SSRN.  The article argues for a comprehensive definition of “food safety” that encompasses “acute ingestion-related illness” (narrow food safety), “whole-diet, cumulative ingestion-related risks that accrue over time” (intermediate food safety), and “risks that arise from food production or disposal” (broad food safety).  The articles discusses why our current divided regulatory approach is problematic, and may actually exacerbate food-related harms.  In addition to calling for an expanded definition of “food safety,” the article proposes better interagency coordination and the creation of a single Food System Safety agency.

This compelling work  is applicable outside of the context of food, and will appeal broadly to scholars of the regulatory space.

“Public Values in Conflict with Animal Agribusiness Practices” Conference at UCLA Law

By Michael T. Roberts

 

On February 23, 2019, the Resnick Center for Food Law and the UCLA Animal Law and Policy Program hosted a one-day conference at UCLA Law titled, “Public Values in Conflict with Animal Agribusiness Practices.” The conference featured three panels about subjects relevant to closing the gap between public values and animal agribusiness practices. These three panels addressed  the role and utility of undercover investigations, production method issues and consumer perceptions of labels, and private agreements with corporations as a way to improve business practices that affect workers and animals and to reduce animal products.

This conference was part of a joint Initiative on Animals in Our Food System between the Resnick Center and the UCLA Animal Law and Policy Program and funded by a generous gift from the Animal Welfare Trust. We previously co-hosted with the Animal and Law and Policy Program a Roundtable discussion on the legal and business considerations in how investments are made in plant-based enterprises. We have also incorporated law and policy issues related to animals in the food system in our classes and events. The Center is grateful for its association with the UCLA Animal Law and Policy Program and looks forward to future joint activities.

The Resnick Center and The Promise Institute at UCLA Law Host UN Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General José Graziano da Silva

by Diana R. H. Winters

On February 15, 2019, the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy and The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA Law hosted the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva, who gave a talk titled, “A Global Perspective on Regulating and Promoting Nutrition.”  We were honored to host the Director-General for this important presentation.

In his talk, Graziano da Silva emphasized the critical need for regulation regarding healthy food.  He explained that while there are regulations regarding food safety, global entities have entirely failed to regulate for the nutritional value of food.  The world is grappling with a crisis of malnutrition—a broad concept that includes obesity as well as hunger—and this crisis is exacerbated by the failure of regulation.  Malnutrition costs the world economy between three and five billion dollars a year, which is approximately 3% of the global economy.  This problem must be seen as a public issue, Graziano da Silva said, not an individual one, and it is critical that countries find a way to work together.  This is the foremost challenge the FAO faces.

Graziano da Silva was introduced by Hilal Elver, the Global Distinguished Fellow at the Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.  The video recording of the entire event can be found here.

The foodralist paradigm

by Diana R. H. Winters

Laurie Beyranevand at the Vermont Law School and I wrote a paper about striking a balance between federal and state decision-making in the area of food policy, called Retooling American Foodralismand the University of Pennsylvania’s Regulatory Review wrote a thoughtful analysis of the paper here.  In the article, author Nicholas Bellos writes:

“[F]or an industry as sprawling and complex—and vital—as the nation’s agricultural sector, should states be the principal actors ensuring consumer safety?

In a recent paper, two scholars argue that they should. University of Vermont Law School’s Laurie Beyranevand and University of Indiana Robert H. McKinney School of Law’s* Diana Winters say that more states should take initiative like California to enact food safety regulations of their own, rather than depend on federal regulators to lead the way. The balance between federal and state decision-making—what they call “foodralism”—needs to tilt more toward state governments, they argue. States need to fill the gaps in the current patchwork of U.S. food regulations and serve as laboratories for developing new rules and standards.”

Retooling American Foodralism is forthcoming in the American Journal of Law and Medicine.

 

*Although I used to be at I.U. McKinney, I am now the Assistant Director of Scholarship at the Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy at UCLA Law.

 

MSU Global Food Law Current Issues Conference

by Diana Winters

I was lucky over the last few days to attend and present at the MSU College of Law Global Food Law Program’s fantastic Global Food Law Current Issues Conference. At the conference there was a mix of academics, practitioners, scientists, and industry representatives, and a truly global focus. Wednesday’s discussions of dietary supplement labeling, developments in organic foods, issues regarding animal food labeling were fascinating, and the keynote on food litigation by Bill Marler, was, for a food law aficionado, a dream come true. Thursday’s talk on professional consumers in China and their effect on food safety provided an opportunity to reflect on the absence of a citizen suit provision in the FDCA, and the discussion of new technologies in product supply chains was a chance to engage with blockchain, 3D printing, and other fun stuff. These are only a few highlights of the conference, which also included discussions of intellectual property, food security, and innovation in the food space, as well as opportunities to explore the food and environment of greater Lansing, Michigan. Note: if you find yourself in East Lansing, don’t miss the Zaha Hadid designed Broad Museum of Art—a short walk from campus (picture above).

 

The value of a conference that provides a space for academics, practitioners, and scientists to meet and mingle is immense, and I’m so glad I went.

Nutrition Education in the 2018 Farm Bill

by Julia McCarthy

 

The House Committee on Agriculture recently failed to pass its version of the farm bill, legislation that sets farm and food policy every five years. Despite obesity rates looming at all-time highs, H.R. 2 Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 proposed to weaken the very programs we know improve diets—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), SNAP Education (SNAP-Ed), and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Assistance Program (EFNEP).[1] The changes H.R. 2 proposed would have disrupted local nutrition education services, affecting already vulnerable individuals. Understanding how these changes would have harmed public health and public health infrastructure could prevent the Senate from including these misguided provisions in its version of the farm bill.

Protecting SNAP is and should be advocates’ priority. Preserving programs that enhance food assistance and promote healthy eating is also crucial to our nation’s health. Program participants, media, and advocates have articulately denounced cuts to SNAP.[2] Less has been written about the concerning changes being proposed to our nation’s largest nutrition education program. Below, I explain what the term “nutrition education” means, how the farm bill affects nutrition education, and why the proposed changes are problematic. I also suggest several ways to provide stronger, more effective support for nutrition education.

What is Nutrition Education?

Nutrition promotion; obesity prevention; consumer education; food literacy; food policy, systems, and environmental change—these are just a few of the many names people use to describe nutrition education. Nutrition education has so many names because, as the widely-accepted definition for the term explains, it involves “any combination of educational strategies accompanied by environmental supports” that provide people with the motivation, skills, and knowledge to eat well.[3] Cooking demonstrations, gardening lessons, school wellness policy support, healthy retail projects, and recipe distribution are all examples of nutrition education for which the farm bill provides funding.[4]

In fact, there are at least 26 initiatives that can support nutrition education included in the farm bill. For some initiatives, nutrition education is both the main focus and required. SNAP-Ed, which funds direct education for low-income individuals as well as policy, systems, and environment changes in schools, stores, and other community locations, is an example.[5]

Other initiatives have a main focus distinct from nutrition education, such as providing food, but still require such education. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which provides low-income seniors food and resources such as recipes, is an example of this second type of initiative.[6]

Others still have a broader main focus—such as increasing fruit and vegetable sales—and allow, but do not require nutrition education. The Specialty Crop Block Grant, which states have used to support farm to school programs, is an example of this third kind of initiative.[7] See Table 1 below for a full list of nutrition education initiatives in the farm bill.

Table 1: Nutrition Education in the Farm Bill[8]

McCarthy.table

How the 2018 House Bill Would Have Affected Nutrition Education

The House Bill would have altered the structure of many of these initiatives, but most importantly, it would have combined the two largest nutrition education programs, SNAP-Ed and EFNEP. To combine the programs, H.R. 2 reallocated responsibility for SNAP-Ed from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the agency currently responsible for EFNEP. The bill repealed EFNEP, but maintained funding for the combined program at a level similar to current funding and added $65 million in annual discretionary funding.

At the state level, H.R. 2 shifted primary administrative responsibilities for SNAP-Ed away from state agencies to land grant universities (LGUs). The bill also altered states’ funding formula, basing future funding only on a jurisdiction’s current SNAP population, and not in any part on historical funding levels. Ultimately, merging SNAP-Ed and EFNEP as proposed would have created potential problems while failing to measurably improve either program:

  • Taking SNAP out of SNAP-Ed—Naming NIFA, rather than FNS as the administering agency for SNAP-Ed, would decouple the program from SNAP and other FNS low-income nutrition education programs. At the federal level and through regional offices, FNS coordinates numerous nutrition education initiatives such as SNAP-Ed, Team Nutrition, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Moving SNAP-Ed to NIFA, a research focused sub-agency, would create inefficiencies, not improve coordination.
  • Shifting Administrative Responsibilities to Land Grand UniversitiesGiving LGUs primary administrative responsibility for SNAP-Ed is also problematic. LGUs are one of several important agencies that administer SNAP-Ed; health departments and community-based nonprofits also administer the program. If LGUs were solely responsible for administering SNAP-Ed funds, they could choose not to share funds with other agencies, impacting the diversity and reach of organizations that implement the program.

Even if LGUs were to share funding, sub-contracting would be difficult; LGUs typically do not have contract managers the way state social services and health departments do. Many LGUs would need to create new administrative systems to manage SNAP-Ed, though this infrastructure already exists in other state agencies. And, realistically, LGUs would have trouble spending less than 10% of grant funds on administration, as the bill required.

  • Altering SNAP-Ed’s Funding Formula—R. 2 did maintain mandatory funding for the proposed, combined program, but too abruptly changed how states provide SNAP-Ed. The proposed changes to the funding formula could leave many struggling to provide public health services. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act established a stepped-down formula that considers a state’s funding history and incrementally introduces pro rata distribution based on its current SNAP population.[9] A sudden shift that considers only current SNAP participation would hurt states with a strong record of matching federal funds, as well as less-populated states. Changes to SNAP-Ed funding, when paired with recent cuts to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grants for diet-related disease control, would leave some states reeling with very little funding for nutrition education and obesity prevention.

Nutrition Education Recommendations for the 2018 Farm Bill

Nutrition education helps to prevent obesity and encourages individuals to eat healthy foods American farmers grow.[10] The 2018 Farm Bill should ensure not only that these programs receive adequate funding, but that they are structured to succeed. The Senate bill should:

  • Preserve SNAP-Ed and EFNEP’s Strengths—Combining SNAP-Ed and EFNEP, as the House Bill proposed, may be politically inevitable. Whatever form farm bill nutrition education takes should maintain the funding and flexibility of SNAP-Ed and the efficacy and peer-education emphasis of EFNEP.

With SNAP-Ed, state agencies receive more than $414 million a year to contract with land grant universities, local health departments, and community-based organizations.[11] These groups empower people to eat well through social marketing, direct education, and policy, systems, and environment changes consistent with current public health practices.

EFNEP, though funded at only $67 million a year, has a great return on investment; for every $1 spent, EFNEP saves $10 in future health care costs.[12] EFNEP also has the advantage of hiring peer educators.[13] The program not only provides low-income community members with jobs, but its instructors understand the challenges and strengths of the communities in which they work.

  • Maintain FNS as the SNAP-Ed Administrator—FNS’s structure ensures that people can access and afford nutrition assistance programs, driving demand for nutritious foods through nutrition education. FNS should consult with NIFA on program administration and maintain control of SNAP-Ed.
  • Gradually Adjust SNAP-Ed Funding Based on States’ SNAP Population—Currently, USDA allocates 50% of a state’s funding based on its SNAP population, and 50% based on historical match.[14] Instead of immediately altering states’ funding, USDA should adjust funding by 10% each year until 100% of funding is based on SNAP populations. This will allow states to better plan for the program going forward.

 

[1] 7 U.S.C. §§ 2011 et seq.; §§ 2036a et seq.; §§ 3175 et seq.

[2] See e.g. Ed Bolen et al., House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill Would Increase Food Insecurity and Hardship, Center on Budget & Pol’y Priorities (April 25, 2018), https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/house-agriculture-committees-farm-bill-would-increase-food-insecurity-and.

[3] Isobel Contento, Nutrition Education: Linking Research, Theory and Practice (3rd ed., Jones & Bartlett 2015).

[4] Julia McCarthy, Claire Uno, Pam Koch, & Isobel Contento, Empowered Eaters: A Road Map for Stronger New York State Nutrition Education Policies and Programs, 31 (Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Educ. & Pol’y, Program in Nutrition at Tchr. College, Columbia U. 2018), http://www.tc.columbia.edu/media/media-library-2014/centers/tisch-center/Empowered-Eaters-STATE-FINAL.pdf.

[5] 7 U.S.C. §§ 2036a et seq.

[6] 7 U.S.C. §§ 612c et seq.

[7] 7 C.F.R. §§ 1291 et seq.

[8] McCarthy, supra note 4.

[9] Pub. L. 111-296 § 241(d) codified in 7 U.S.C. § 2036a(d)(2).

[10] See e.g. M. Vine et al. Expanding the Role of Primary Care in the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity: A Review of Clinic and Community-Based Recommendations and Interventions, J. Obesity (2013);

  1. Prelip et al., Evaluation of a School-Based Multicomponent Nutrition Education Program to Improve Young Children’s Fruit and Vegetable Consumption, 44(4) J. Nutrition Educ. & Behav. 310-318 (2012).

[11] U.S. Dep’t Agric., Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) Budget Allocation for Fiscal Year 1992 to 2017 (2017), available at https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/snap/Guidance/SNAP-EdBudgetAllocationFY1992-2017.pdf.

[12] U.S. Dep’t Agric., Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) FY 2018 Request for Applications, (Aug. 8, 2018), available at https://nifa.usda.gov/sites/default/files/resources/FY18-EFNEP-Modification-882017.pdf; Jamie Dollahite et al., An Economic Evaluation of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, 40 J. Nutrition Educ. & Behav. 134-143 (2008).

[13] 7 U.S.C. § 3175(c).

[14] 7 U.S.C. § 2036a(d)(2).

 

Julia McCarthy is a Senior Nutrition Policy Associate at CSPI, focusing on healthy retail policies. Prior to joining CSPI, she was a policy analyst at the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy. McCarthy has worked as a legal fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Food and Drug Administration, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group. She attended Georgetown University and has a law degree from New York University where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern scholar.

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