Researchers at Vermont Law School, Harvard Call for U.S. National Food Strategy

News Release — Vermont Law School
March 13, 2017

Contact:
Maryellen Apelquist, Director of Communications, Vermont Law School
office: 802-831-1228, cell: 802-299-5593, [email protected]

SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt., March 13, 2017––The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School and the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) today announced the release of their “Blueprint for a National Food Strategy,” a collaborative project that calls for a national food strategy in the United States to strengthen and support our current and future food system needs. Project resources and a comprehensive report are available online at foodstrategyblueprint.org.

The Blueprint for a National Food Strategy is the result of 18 months of research and analysis made possible by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Its publication comes just a month after four U.S. senators urged the Trump administration to streamline food safety per the recommendations of the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the GAO itself called for a national food strategy to address fragmentation in food safety oversight. The GAO found that having 15 federal agencies implement more than 30 different statutes related to food safety leads to fragmentation and risk across the food system.

“Just another sign that it’s time for a unified food strategy,” said CAFS Director Laurie Ristino. “Across the food system we see examples of places, like food safety, where the right hand is not talking to the left, creating inefficiencies and, sometimes, truly harmful effects. We are thankful to the Kellogg Foundation for supporting this groundbreaking project, which assembles all of the relevant pieces for what it would take to craft a national food strategy that could promote greater coordination, reduce those inefficiencies, and produce better outcomes across the food system.”

The Blueprint examines two sets of important precedents for a U.S. food strategy: national food strategies from other countries and U.S. national strategies for a variety of other issues. Project researchers found that other countries have developed national food strategies in response to food systems challenges similar to those faced by the United States. Such challenges include ensuring access to healthy food; promoting economically and environmentally sustainable food production; and harmonizing the work of numerous agencies that touch the food system, including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Domestically, the federal government has created a number of national strategies to promote greater collaboration and coordination across government in order to effectively tackle a range of complex, interdisciplinary issues. Examples of these strategies can be found on the Blueprint project website.

The project also seeks to address the challenges around democratic participation in food system policymaking. “Under our current fragmented regulatory regime, it can be hard for the general public and key food system stakeholders to know where and when food policymaking occurs,” said Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic. “A national food strategy can provide a forum for greater participation and dialogue around food policy, offering opportunities to provide public comment on important food policy choices, or solicit input to better understand how action in one area of the food system will produce long and short-term impacts in other areas of the food system.”

Feedback prompts throughout the report encourage readers to share their perspectives—asking questions such as, “What objectives would you prioritize if the United States were to develop a national food strategy?” The responses will be collected and posted to the site so readers can view the perspectives of others and begin a national dialogue. Blueprint partners also interviewed more than 30 stakeholders and posted videos of several of the interviews online.

“It is critical that we strengthen and support a healthful, profitable, environmentally sustainable, and equitable food system that better serves the citizens of the United States,” said CAFS Associate Director Laurie Beyranevand JD’03, who led the project team. “Our Blueprint for a National Food Strategy lays the foundation for the United States to comprehensively address, prioritize, and set goals related to how the food system interacts with important issues like public health, the economy, immigration, the environment, and trade.”

The research team condensed key findings into a set of concrete recommendations for a U.S. national food strategy. Overall, the team found that the U.S. could significantly benefit from a national food strategy. The recommendations focus on the process and mechanisms for how the U.S. should approach the creation of a strategy, rather than what goals the strategy should contain. These recommendations can be found at the end of the Blueprint report.

The full, interactive report is available for download on the Blueprint for a National Food Strategy website.

For more information about the Blueprint for a National Food Policy, visit foodstrategyblueprint.org, contact Laurie Beyranevand via email at [email protected] or phone at 802-831-1030, or contact Emily Broad Leib via email at [email protected] or phone at 617-390-2590.

The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School (CAFS) supports scholars and practitioners in producing practical, robust scholarship for use by the food and agriculture community. CAFS offers an expanding curriculum in food and agriculture for law and policy students, and training and legal tools to help build sustainable local and regional food systems. For more information about the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, visit vermontlaw.edu/cafs or email [email protected].

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) was established in 2010 to address growing concerns about the environmental, health, and economic consequences of the laws and policies that structure the food system. FLPC attorneys provide action-learning opportunities to Harvard Law students, who conduct legal and policy research focused on increasing access to healthy foods, assisting small-scale and sustainable farmers in breaking into new commercial markets, and reducing the waste of healthy, wholesome foods. For more information about FLPC, visit http://chlpi.org/flpc or email [email protected].

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