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Emily Broad Leib

  • New Report Outlines Opportunities To Use The Farm Bill To Cut Food Waste

    May 2, 2022

    A new report urges Congress to make reducing food waste a priority in the 2023 farm bill in order to address climate change and hunger while benefiting the economy. The U.S. wastes more than one-third of the food it produces and imports, according to the report, published last week by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, the Natural Resources Defense Council, ReFED and the World Wildlife Fund. ... The U.S. has set a goal of halving food loss and waste by 2030. The 2018 farm bill was the first to tackle food waste, by establishing new positions and programs at the USDA, updating food donation rules and funding community waste-reduction efforts. But much remains to be done, said Emily Broad Leib, faculty director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic and a lead author of the report.

  • Food Businesses, Nonprofits Urge Congress to Remove Barriers to Food Donation

    December 3, 2021

    Food businesses and nonprofit organizations recently released an open letter urging Congress to pass a bill intended to fight hunger by removing barriers to food donation. ... The open letter, which is signed by more than 25 groups including WW International, City Harvest, and the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, advocates for these protections to include businesses that are donating directly to recipients in need. Current protections only cover companies that donate to nonprofit organizations. “Promoting and enabling the donation of safe, surplus food is a highly effective and simple tool to curb food waste, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and address food insecurity,” Emily Broad Leib, Director for the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic tells Food Tank. “Yet, our current laws fall short of really encouraging businesses to donate food instead of tossing it into landfill.”

  • Emily Broad Leib: What Can be Done About Food Waste?

    November 15, 2021

    WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT FOOD WASTE? Emily Broad Leib, founder and director of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, discusses how to reduce food waste in the United States and abroad. Topics include the confusion caused by misleading date labels, the impact of COVID-19 on food waste, and the FLPC’s collaborations with governments and non-profit organizations to enact better food laws.  Read more about Emily Broad Leib in the pages of Harvard Magazine in “The Food Waste Problem.”

  • McGovern nudges medical schools to invest in nutrition education

    November 12, 2021

    Medical schools should beef up curriculums to include robust nutrition education to give physicians the tools to combat diet-related conditions that cost the federal government billions of dollars each year to treat, according to House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern. ... At the news briefing, several members of the Nutrition Education Working Group that includes experts in nutrition science, education and food policy said the limited focus on nutrition often leaves medical students and physicians feeling inadequately prepared. “So to my mind, it doesn’t make sense to invest federal money and training of physicians who are then not able to prevent or address the most costly illnesses we face,” said Emily M. Broad Leib, faculty director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School. Leib said the resolution is a prod that “does not mandate any changes to health care training. It really raises awareness and makes the statement that the lack of food and nutrition knowledge among health professionals is a matter of national concern.”

  • The Food Waste Problem

    October 15, 2021

    For one of the world's leading experts on food waste, visiting a grocery store can be frustrating. Stepping into her local Whole Foods, clinical professor of law Emily Broad Leib notices something awry in the store’s first produce display. The unbagged heads of broccoli lack date labels, but the bagged broccoli bears a “best by” date of August 12. “But that’s sort of picked out of thin air,” she points out. “There’s nothing going on with broccoli with no other ingredients. It doesn’t make any sense.” She reaches for a bag of grapefruits across the aisle—they don’t have a “best by” date. “That makes it even crazier,” she says. “Why would you put it on broccoli that’s no different than these things?” It’s a simple example, but for Broad Leib, founder and director of Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), this inconsistent labeling is just one of many ways the United States spurns simple rules that can greatly reduce food waste. It’s finding and fixing these inefficiencies that has driven her and her team not just to research and recommend new ways to promote effective food policies, but also to create the rapidly emerging field of law.

  • Selling home-cooked food is getting easier, thanks to pandemic-fueled deregulation

    October 13, 2021

    ...But last week, new regulations took effect in New Jersey allowing home bakers to sell their wares. It is the last state in the country to give up its ban on “cottage food,” products such as baked goods and jams made in home kitchens and sold at farmers markets and by hand delivery, and advertised though online portals, social media or simply word of mouth. ...The rollback of such restrictions across the country is due in part to the disparate political forces that it brings together. “I think that’s the magic sauce that has gotten a lot of these bills passed,” says Emily Broad Leib, deputy director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School. “It’s a unique opportunity to cut across traditional lines.”

  • ‘Food safety’ could include long-term health and environmental concerns

    October 12, 2021

    “But you could look at food safety as being more about long term health impacts--so, diet-related disease or the cumulative impacts over a period of years, or a lifetime, of eating certain things.” This week on our show, a conversation with Emily Broad Leib of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. She argues that our narrowly focused food safety regulations are failing to address the most important factors in our food system. We talk about what it might look like to include worker safety, environmental impacts and long term health and nutrition when we look at the safety of our food system.

  • The Care and Feeding of a Nation

    September 29, 2021

    In the United States, “The primary way we define ‘food safety’ is, ‘If I eat this product today, will I be in the hospital in 24 to 72 hours?’” says clinical professor of law Emily Broad Leib. “But this doesn’t account for other ways that the food system produces health risks for members of the public,” including the lifelong risks of, say, developing type 2 diabetes after consuming sugary foods for decades, or the environmental effects of industrial farming, such as fertilizer runoff in waterways, which creates oxygen-free dead zones inhospitable to aquatic life. The single-minded emphasis on microbes like salmonella and E. coli, Broad Leib asserts, “means we’re under-regulating a bunch of other risks that have bigger health impacts.” As director of Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, she engages law students in projects that investigate how U.S. law intersects with the broader food system, “from the first seed going into the ground, to someone’s plate or perhaps to a trashcan.” Her purview encompasses environmental impacts, worker safety, and even immigration as factors in food production.

  • illustration Bank with growth of money represented in background

    Going public

    July 7, 2021

    Harvard Law School students are working to create a Massachusetts public bank to help minority-owned businesses, small farms, and gateway cities.

  • What’s on the Horizon for Federal Food Waste Reduction and Prevention Policy? Part 2

    June 4, 2021

    COVID-related costs along with the Biden Administration’s plans to invest heavily in slowing Climate Change and in building infrastructure leave little money for other mega-budget initiatives. But four long-time partners who are fighting for food waste and loss prevention policy believe this is actually an opportune time to call on the federal government to support their agenda. The partners are the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, ReFED, and the National Resource Defense Council. They recently finished their U.S. Food Loss & Waste Policy Action Plan that asks Congress and President Biden to take action to halve food waste by 2030, in line with the target set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). ... Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, illustrates by expounding on two Action Plan areas: food donation and date labeling. Her office has tried to advance policy around both for years.

  • To Stop Food Waste, We Need to Confront Our Food Anxiety

    May 19, 2021

    Humans throw away about 1.3 billion tons of food a year, or—at the very least—one third of all food in the world...According to Emily Broad Leib, faculty director of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, these new habits create an opportunity: “People are being more thoughtful about their food now, looking at food as a crucible for a bunch of different concerns: local and regional food, farm to school, discrimination in those systems. And once you start looking at food, you come to an understanding of how much is going to waste.” ... Date labeling is another critical step the government could take in the fight against food waste...The confusing nomenclature “is a driver of so much of the food that’s wasted in the household and by grocery stores and retailers,” Broad Leib says, as grocers and home cooks toss perfectly good food with approaching “best by” dates. Creating national standards for date labels would be “an easy win” and the single most cost-effective way to reduce food waste, she says.

  • Biden administration winds down Trump’s pandemic food box program

    May 12, 2021

    As the country slowly climbs out of the pandemic, the Biden administration is ending a program that delivered nearly 167 million boxes of fresh food to families in need and helped farmers sell their produce at a time when supply chain disruptions forced them to dump milk and destroy their crops. It's one of many emergency federal aid programs that the government must decide how to wind down in a way that doesn't create more problems for those still in need...The Farmers to Families Food Box program was brand new, created by the USDA last April using funds provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act... "This was revolutionary for USDA to actually be able to purchase and distribute everything so quickly," said Emily Broad Leib, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School. A report she helped write on the program found that many farmers and distributors were pleased, yet offered recommendations to make the distribution more equitable, help more small- and mid-sized farmers and reduce food waste. Sometimes food banks had to unpack the combo boxes in order to keep dairy and meat refrigerated and then repack them again.

  • Emily Broad Leib

    Emily Broad Leib ’08 on the rise in food insecurity and the need for a national food strategy

    May 10, 2021

    Emily M. Broad Leib ’08, faculty director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic, discusses food insecurity and the challenges and crises in the U.S. food system, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Jung Hyun (Monica) Lee ’22

    The Chayes International Public Service Fellowship celebrates its first 20 years

    April 23, 2021

    Every summer since 2001, Chayes Fellows have worked with international organizations, governments, and NGOs around the world on issues of an international scope or relevant to countries in transition.

  • The $400 Billion Food Problem Not Enough Of Us Are Talking About

    April 22, 2021

    Professor Emily Broad Leib reads the statistics about the 1 billion people going hungry every year—and 1.3 billion tons of food going unused—and shakes her head. It’s not that the numbers are especially surprising. As the faculty director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, Broad Leib is well versed in the eye-popping facts: In the U.S. alone, 35 percent of the 229 million tons of food available go unsold or uneaten—that’s $408 billion worth of food, according to ReFED, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending food loss and waste. Uneaten food is also responsible for 18 percent of all cropland use, 14 percent of all fresh water use, 24 percent of landfill inputs, and 4 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas. “The scale of this problem is huge—and it’s actually a really stupid problem,” says Broad Leib. “The fact that there are so many people in this country going without food and at the same time, we are wasting so much? It needs to change.”

  • Biden to cancel Trump’s pandemic food aid after high costs, delivery problems

    April 15, 2021

    Yogurt was everywhere as volunteers opened boxes of fruit, frozen meat and dairy products that had shifted and spilled in transit to a food bank in Walworth County, Wis. They rushed to clean and transfer the packages of frozen meatballs, apples, milk and yogurt into cars for needy families to take home before they spoiled. The food came from The Farmers to Families Food Box program that the Trump administration launched to feed out-of-work Americans with food rescued from farmers who would otherwise throw it away as the coronavirus pandemic upended food supply chains. ... The USDA specified food boxes delivered in 2021 to the continental U.S. cost between $27 and $48 per box. But cheaper boxes presented new challenges and put additional burdens on food banks, said Emily Broad Leib, director of Harvard Law School's Food Law and Policy Clinic. The lower-cost boxes contained lower quality food, and food companies at times refused to deliver them to smaller pantries, leaving local organizations scrambling to find extra money for delivery, she said.

  • Biden to cancel Trump’s pandemic food aid after high costs, delivery problems

    April 14, 2021

    Yogurt was everywhere as volunteers opened boxes of fruit, frozen meat and dairy products that had shifted and spilled in transit to a food bank in Walworth County, Wisconsin...The food came from The Farmers to Families Food Box program that the Trump administration launched to feed out-of-work Americans with food rescued from farmers who would otherwise throw it away as the coronavirus pandemic upended food supply chains...The USDA specified food boxes delivered in 2021 to the continental U.S. cost between $27 and $48 per box. But cheaper boxes presented new challenges and put additional burdens on food banks, said Emily Broad Leib, director of Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. The lower-cost boxes contained lower quality food, and food companies at times refused to deliver them to smaller pantries, leaving local organizations scrambling to find extra money for delivery, she said...Every six to twelve weeks, the USDA introduced a new phase of the program, changing food suppliers and forcing food banks to scramble to connect with new vendors or lose food supplies. “USDA didn’t give (distributors) any guidance as to who to serve or keep serving,” said Harvard’s Broad Leib. “You can’t rely on something if one day it’s there, then the next day it’s not.”

  • Martha Minow and Emily Broad Leib

    COVID and the law: What have we learned?

    March 17, 2021

    The effect of COVID-19 on the law has been transformative and wide-ranging, but as a Harvard Law School panel pointed out on the one-year anniversary of campus shutdown, the changes haven’t all been for the worse.

  • Colorful silhouettes of overweight people

    The shape of discrimination

    March 10, 2021

    Harvard Law alum Daniel Aaron ’20 thinks high obesity rates among people of color may be another legacy of ongoing racism in America.

  • Biden Urged to Improve Food Box Program, Continue Aid for Hungry

    March 5, 2021

    Food bank operators and lawmakers are pushing President Joe Biden’s administration for systematic changes to the federal food box program to help feed hungry Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. Nonprofit leaders also foresee a future need for continued government assistance, even when the nation finally recovers from Covid-19. “The nationwide network of food banks really are dependent upon government food right now,” said Pamela Irvine, president and CEO of Feeding Southwest Virginia. Her nonprofit has received about 1 million pounds of food through the Farmers to Families Food Box program—an Agriculture Department initiative that buys and distributes boxes of produce, meat, and dairy to food banks in an effort to help families put food on the table and give agriculture producers an economic boost...Overall, the initiative helped mitigate distributor job loss, involved small-to-mid-sized farms initially, reduced food waste to an extent, and made improvements in its first four rounds, according to a February report by Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. The program should make adjustments to step up support for minority- and women-owned farms, compensate small and specialty farms adequately, and restore non-combination boxes—those consisting solely of either produce, meat, or dairy—among other provisions, the groups recommended. “With changes, this Program also could serve as the model for a long-term food system solution,” said professor Emily Broad Leib, the faculty director for the Food Law and Policy Clinic.

  • Sample contents of a Farmers to Families food box

    Food Law and Policy Clinic releases report evaluating Farmers to Families Food Box Program

    February 2, 2021

    In their new report, An Evaluation of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, Harvard's Food Law and Policy Clinic and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition highlight opportunities to make the program more equitable and effective amid the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

  • Our food system is broken — there’s a blueprint to fix it

    January 25, 2021

    An op-ed by Laurie Beyranevand and Emily Broad LeibIn the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, shocking images emerged from both ends of an American food system seemingly on the brink of collapse. Photos and videos of farmers dumping crops — perfectly good potatoes, squash and milk — appeared above articles about the rising “tsunamis” of food waste as food service buyers disappeared. Meanwhile, lines for food banks filled parking lots, circled around neighborhoods and shut down highways. How is this possible? America’s food system has long been plagued by massive inefficiencies and injustices. They just weren’t quite so visible to all before now. Soaring rates of food insecurity, the exploitation of food workers, massive volumes of food waste, widespread nutritional deficiencies leading to alarming rates of diet related disease, the challenging economics of farming and disproportionate harm to underserved and Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities — all of these existed at near-crisis levels before the coronavirus first infected a single human. The virus and resulting public health measures simply brought these issues to the front burner and turned them up to a rolling boil. The reasons that COVID-19 had our food system on the brink of collapse are the same ones that have allowed these inequalities and failures to persist for decades.

  • criminal justice illustrations

    ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change’

    November 19, 2020

    HLS faculty on COVID-19 and the pressing questions of racism, racial injustice, and abuse of power that have driven this difficult year—and that are the focus of three new lecture series at the school.

  • Upcycled Food Movement Gaining Strong Momentum

    September 14, 2020

    Roughly 30 to 40 percent of food produced is wasted and that’s a big problem for society and the planet due to unnecessary resource use, failure to feed hungry people, and harmful greenhouse gases emitted as unused food rots in landfill. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Office, food waste is responsible for nearly 8 percent of global emissions, making it the single greatest way to solve climate change. Upcycling food helps minimize this problem by creating new, high-quality products from otherwise wasted – but perfectly nutritious – ingredients.  According to the Upcycled Food Association (UFA), 60% of people want to buy more upcycled food products, and 95% of this group want to do their part to reduce food waste. However, many Americans don’t understand the concept of an upcycled food. To educate them, the UFA is holding a free official Climate Week NYC 2020 virtual event on Tuesday, September 22, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern: Positive Climate Action Through Upcycled Foods: What Are They, How Do They Help, and Where Can I Get Some? The event will be moderated by Turner Wyatt, CEO of the Upcycled Food Association. Wyatt will moderate a discussion with Emily M. Broad Leib, Clinical Professor of Law, Founding Director, Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, Caue Suplicy, Founder and Chairman, Barnana, a banana-based snacks company and founding member of the UFA, and Caitlin Leibert, Director of Sustainability, Chipotle Mexican Grill...Climate Week 2020 UFA event panelist and definition report task force member Emily M. Broad Leib explains, “Task force members are committed to helping consumers understand upcycled foods and to providing a framework of requirements to help standardize the industry and avoid greenwashing.” BroadLeib will discuss the five agreed-upon voluntary standards for items to officially be considered an upcycled food while emphasizing their climate-beneficial power.

  • The Care and Feeding of a Nation

    August 17, 2020

    In the United States, “The primary way we define ‘food safety’ is, ‘If I eat this product today, will I be in the hospital in 24 to 72 hours?’” says clinical professor of law Emily Broad Leib. “But this doesn’t account for other ways that the food system produces health risks for members of the public,” including the lifelong risks of, say, developing type 2 diabetes after consuming sugary foods for decades, or the environmental effects of industrial farming, such as fertilizer runoff in waterways, which creates oxygen-free dead zones inhospitable to aquatic life. The single-minded emphasis on microbes like salmonella and E. coli, Broad Leib asserts, “means we’re under-regulating a bunch of other risks that have bigger health impacts.” As director of Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, she engages law students in projects that investigate how U.S. law intersects with the broader food system, “from the first seed going into the ground, to someone’s plate or perhaps to a trashcan.” Her purview encompasses environmental impacts, worker safety, and even immigration as factors in food production. This holistic, systems approach is a relatively new way to consider food law; when Broad Leib first made the case to law-school colleagues about her work, many misunderstood, thinking she was narrowly focused on foodborne illness or the work of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But Broad Leib says that in reality, a food-systems approach is “breathtakingly broad” in its scope. She sees this as a necessity. “This is the way we have to look at these issues,” she says, “or we’re going to continue to make really short-sighted, less equitable, less utilitarian policies.”

  • Fixing the Covid Food Disaster Can Slash Climate Emissions

    August 13, 2020

    By the end of April, Olivier Griss knew he had a problem. Coke Farm, the San Juan Bautista, Calif. business his stepfather started in 1981 where Griss now works as sales manager, was awash in a leafy salad ingredient: chicory. Specifically, treviso and castelfranco varieties that end up on plates in high-end restaurants. But high-end restaurants were largely closed, due to the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the world...The coronavirus pandemic has cut greenhouse gases in some key ways, as people are flying and driving less. But food waste accounts for one reason why the drops likely won’t fall as low as hoped during the pandemic. And as the virus ebbs and flows, it will likely lead to more waste...If these organizations can tap into the shock engendered by images of scuttled harvests and dairy products during the early days of the pandemic, they could drive lasting transformation in food waste and climate change... “Certainly, it has made some things that were invisible more visible,” says Emily Broad Leib, faculty director of Harvard University’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, speaking about the pandemic. Among them: the inflexibility of the food chain, the large numbers of Americans on the edge of hunger, the risky roles of workers in food processing, the incentives set up to deliver food in set ways, the damage food waste does to the environment. “My hope is that will lead to changes in how we use our natural resources.” ...Some key steps would help solve the problems of excess food going to waste on farms in crisis rather than finding its way to hungry people. Leib of Harvard advocates for tailoring tax incentives for donated food so it is easier for farmers to claim deductions. She would also like to see a tax benefit, either for farmers or transportation companies, so they can get the food where needed. “It’s not free to take food that is not going to be sold,” she says. “Someone needs to come get it.” She is talking with members of Congress to get such provisions written into law.

  • Efforts on all levels needed to reduce $161B in US food waste, says Amanda Little

    July 23, 2020

    “Dump potatoes in the rivers. … Slaughter the pigs and bury them, and let the putrescence drip down into the earth,” John Steinbeck wrote in “The Grapes of Wrath.” “There is a failure here that topples all our success.” Steinbeck’s lament against food waste is eerily relevant today, as supply-chain disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic have continued to force farmers to euthanize hogs they can’t sell and bury excess potatoes. Even before COVID-19, Americans, on average, were tossing away more than a pound of uneaten food per person each day, amounting to some 400 pounds of food thrown out annually. That’s far more than any other wealthy country — about 50% more food waste per capita than France and nearly double that of the U.K...Lawmakers also need to clear up confusion around expiration dates on perishable foods, which vary wildly from state to state. “Date label confusion wastes massive amounts of food,” said Emily Broad Leib, who directs the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School. “Supermarkets lose about $1 billion a year from food that expires in theory — but not in reality — before it’s sold.” There is currently a bill pending in the House (H.R.3981) that would clear up such confusion and cut down on waste. Introduced by Maine Democrat Chellie Pingree and Washington Republican Dan Newhouse in 2019, it would standardize dozens of different date-labeling laws and give consumers a clearer understanding of how long their fresh foods are safe to eat. According to Leib, the act has been shelved during the pandemic, because standardizing data is time consuming and the benefits would not be realized immediately. Legislators can also think bigger: One idea being pushed by Leib and other advocates is to allow farmers to receive a tax credit, rather than deduction, for donating their surplus to food banks. Enacting such a measure would quickly help move the mountains of uneaten produce, now rotting on farms, to the hundreds of food banks and pantries reporting surges in demand.

  • Episode 68: Exploring Hunger, Waste & Covid’s Impact on the Food Chain

    July 20, 2020

    In our latest episode of NothingWasted!, we chat with Emily Broad Leib, Clinical Professor and Director, Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), Harvard Law School. The Food Law and Policy Clinic provides legal advice to nonprofits and government agencies seeking to increase access to healthy foods, prevent diet-related diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and reduce barriers to market entry for small-scale and sustainable food producers, while educating law students about ways to use law and policy to impact the food system. We spoke with Emily about global food bank trends and laws; organic waste bans; and food waste as it relates to COVID-19, climate change and more. Here’s a glimpse into Emily’s observations.

  • Pandemic, Growing Need Strain U.S. Food Bank Operations

    July 16, 2020

    People start lining up as early as 6 a.m. these days outside an emergency food pantry in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood. Theresa Gilbert, a 61-year-old in-home care giver waiting in line on a recent scorching-hot day, said money has been tight since March, when she caught a cold on the job and the agency she works for sent her home. She hasn’t worked since, and the food she gets here helps make ends meet. “Whatever I have, I make it do,” Ms. Gilbert said. Demand for the free vegetables, milk and canned goods on offer here has surged since the coronavirus pandemic torpedoed the U.S. economy, closing businesses and thrusting millions out of work...Hunger-relief organization Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, estimates the pandemic could push an additional 17 million people into what it calls food insecurity this year. More than 82% of U.S. food banks are serving more people than they were last year, with an average increase of 50%, according to a June survey by the group. “The pandemic is putting pressure on a system that was already struggling to make sure all the food we are producing finds its way to people,” said Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic.

  • There’s No Excuse For How Much Food You’re Wasting

    July 13, 2020

    “Dump potatoes in the rivers … Slaughter the pigs and bury them, and let the putrescence drip down into the earth,” John Steinbeck wrote in “The Grapes of Wrath.” “There is a failure here that topples all our success.” Steinbeck’s lament against food waste is eerily relevant today, as supply-chain disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic have continued to force farmers to euthanize hogs they can’t sell and bury excess potatoes. Even before Covid-19, Americans, on average, were tossing away more than a pound of uneaten food per person each day, amounting to some 400 pounds of food thrown out annually. That’s far more than any other wealthy country — about 50% more food waste per capita than France and nearly double that of the U.K. According to U.S. government estimates, the cost of U.S. food waste comes out to $161 billion annually. The environmental costs are abysmal. So the problem of food waste is certainly not new...Lawmakers also need to clear up confusion around expiration dates on perishable foods, which vary wildly from state to state. “Date label confusion wastes massive amounts of food,” said Emily Broad Leib, who directs the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School. “Supermarkets lose about $1 billion a year from food that expires in theory — but not in reality — before it’s sold.” There is currently a bill pending in the House (H.R.3981) that would clear up such confusion and cut down on waste. Introduced by Maine Democrat Chellie Pingree and Washington Republican Dan Newhouse in 2019, it would standardize dozens of different date-labeling laws and give consumers a clearer understanding of how long their fresh foods are safe to eat. According to Leib, the act has been shelved during the pandemic, because standardizing data is time consuming and the benefits would not be realized immediately. But lawmakers have to be thinking about both near- and long-term solutions. Congress would be wise to put this bill back on the agenda and pass it sooner rather than later.

  • Think Covid-19 Disrupted the Food Chain? Wait and See What Climate Change Will Do

    July 7, 2020

    In the months since Covid-19 convulsed the globe, the world's food system has undergone a stress test—and largely failed it. The pandemic disrupted global supply chains, induced panic buying and cleared supermarket shelves. It left perfectly edible produce rotting in fields, and left farmers no choice but to gas, shoot and bury their livestock because slaughter plants were shut down. It also revealed a glaring problem: Though researchers have known for decades that climate change will roil farming and food systems, there exists no clear global strategy for building resilience and managing risks in the world's food supply, nor a coherent way to tackle the challenge of feeding a growing global population, on a warming planet where food crises are projected to intensify. "We need to make sure food is safe, nutritious and sustainable, not just for today but for the future," said Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic. "There's growing acknowledgement that this has been something that's not been addressed in a coordinated way." Already, there are 820 million people in the world without adequate food, and Covid-19 is likely to push 130 million more to the brink of starvation, more than doubling that number to 265 million by the end of the year. Developing countries are not the only ones staring down a crisis: In June, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis said food insecurity has also risen substantially in the United States.

  • New on the Podcast: Emily Broad Leib and Doug O’Brien Talk International Food Donation, and Chef Pierre Thiam Calls for Fonio on American Tables

    June 24, 2020

    Today on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Dani is joined by Emily Broad Leib, the director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, and Doug O’Brien, the vice president for network programs at the Global FoodBanking Network. Together, they talk about the new Global Food Donation Policy Atlas, an interactive guide that maps food donation laws and recommends ways to further reduce food waste. Data for five countries—Argentina, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United States—was released this month, and the atlas will eventually cover 15 nations. Then, chef Pierre Thiam talks with Dani about the potential for the ancient African grain fonio to impact the lives of farmers in West Africa. He is the co-founder of Yolélé Foods, a company that imports fonio to the U.S. from countries like Thiam’s native Senegal, and helps support the smallholder farmers who grow it. Thiam says fonio can help address malnutrition, food and economic insecurity, and even climate change.

  • Can defining ‘upcycled food’ pave the way for industry food-waste reduction?

    June 11, 2020

    Upcycled food is an officially defined term, which advocates say will encourage broader consumer and industry support for products that help reduce food waste. Upcycling — transforming ingredients that would have been wasted into edible food products — has been gaining ground in alternative food movements for several years but never had been officially defined. The Upcycled Food Association announced May 19 that it defined upcycled foods as ones that "use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment." The definition was drafted by a working group convened by the Upcycled Food Association, which included representatives from Harvard University, Drexel University, Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund and ReFED, a nonprofit that analyzes solutions to food waste...Standardizing the term is also a first step toward legislation that supports upcycling, according to Emily Broad Leib, a Harvard University law professor and director of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. "Further research can be done to identify and leverage policy incentives to support upcycled foods as a model to reduce food waste and support a more sustainable food system," she says in a statement.

  • Hunger poster with vegatables

    Amid pandemic, new research provides a roadmap to fight hunger and climate change through increased food donation

    June 10, 2020

    The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic has released The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas, a first-of-its-kind interactive resource to inspire long-term policy solutions to food waste, hunger, and climate change.

  • Amid Pandemic, New Research Provides a Roadmap to Fight Hunger and Climate Change through Increased Food Donation

    June 10, 2020

    Today, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) released a first-of-its-kind interactive resource to inspire long-term policy solutions to food waste, hunger, and climate change: The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas. In partnership with The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), and with the support of the Walmart Foundation, The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas maps the laws and policies affecting food donation around the globe and provides recommendations to prevent unnecessary food waste and improve food distribution to those in need. The research released today focuses on Argentina, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United States, the first five of 15 countries participating in this project...The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas looks at six main barriers to food recovery: food safety for donations, date labeling, liability protection for food donations, tax incentives and barriers, government grants and funding, and food waste penalties or donation requirements. It identifies several opportunities for governments to prevent unnecessary waste and to promote food donation... “It’s more important than ever for policymakers, government agencies, food donors, companies, food banks, and the public to understand the impact of unnecessary food waste in their countries and the need to change it,” said Emily Broad Leib, Faculty Director at FLPC and Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. “The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas is the first research study to compare food donation policies and best practices across the world, providing us with the global perspective we need to address this complex issue,” Broad Leib concluded.

  • Upcycled Food Is Officially Defined, With a Goal of Paving the Way for Industry Food-Waste Reduction

    May 27, 2020

    Upcycled food is now an officially defined term, which advocates say will encourage broader consumer and industry support for products that help reduce food waste. Upcycling—transforming ingredients that would have been wasted into edible food products—has been gaining ground in alternative food movements for several years but had never been officially defined. The Upcycled Food Association announced on May 19 that they define upcycled foods as ones that “use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.” The definition was drafted by a working group convened by the Upcycled Food Association, which included representatives from Harvard University, Drexel University, Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, and ReFED, a nonprofit that analyzes solutions to food waste...Standardizing the term is also a first step toward legislation that supports upcycling, according to Emily Broad Leib, a Harvard University law professor and the director of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. “Further research can be done to identify and leverage policy incentives to support upcycled foods as a model to reduce food waste and support a more sustainable food system,” she says in a statement.

  • How ‘Upcycled’ Ingredients Can Help Reduce The $940 Billion Global Food Waste Problem

    May 19, 2020

    Jam made with bacon scraps; fish jerky that turns unwanted fish into something delicious; granola bars and snack puffs crafted from spent brewing grams. These are just a few examples of how entrepreneurial ingenuity is transforming food byproducts and scraps into novel and often very nutritious products for human consumption, creating new sources of protein, other nutrients and fiber in the process—and keeping it all out of landfills. “Upcycling,” the new term of art, is one way to reduce reduce food waste and help the environment. But until now, there hasn't been a single standard definition of upcycling, even as the number of startups tackling food waste grows and consumers show more interest in buying products made with upcycled ingredients. Today, May 19, a task force comprised of food industry players, academic researchers an1d nonprofits is unveiling the first formal definition of the term upcycling. The group says the adoption of a single term and definition by the industry will lead to a powerful new product category that will encourage both the food industry and consumers to embrace products with upcycled ingredients...Another task force member, Emily Broad Leib, clinical professor of law, director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, and deputy director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, said in a statement that scaling up the use of upcycled foods would help make the food supply chain more efficient and resilient. “This upcycled foods definition serves as a strong starting place to help businesses, consumers, and other users align around a common meaning and usage of the term."

  • Forget expiration dates. Spoilage sensors could tell us when food actually goes bad

    May 18, 2020

    "Use by.” “Best by.” “Best if used by.” “Enjoy by.” Food companies in the US began dating their products with this patchwork of labels during the 1970s—often with little, if any, scientific basis or uniformity. In the decades prior, packaged products had become increasingly popular as fewer and fewer people grew their own food. Naturally, concern arose that inconsistent date labels would make it difficult to tell if food was still fresh—and whether consumers were being swindled. In 1973, the US Congress considered a bill that would have required food manufacturers to list a date that their perishable foods should be sold by. It would also have kept retail distributors from selling food after that date had passed, punishable by a $5,000 fine and 1 year in prison. But that bill failed to make it into law. So did the next one. And the next... “So much of our food safety guidance has been ‘When in doubt, throw it out.’ ” says Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic. “We’re just throwing away so much food, and I find that to be a really unsatisfying heuristic.” Broad Leib supports a labeling system that’s standardized and easier to understand. The latest food labeling bill in the US, H.R. 3981, was introduced last year and would require expiration labels to use only two wordings: “BEST If Used By” for quality-related dates or “USE By” for discard dates, which is similar to the EU’s system.

  • How 23 organizations are reducing food waste during COVID-19

    May 18, 2020

    The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has upended nearly every aspect of modern society, but especially the food system. Farmers are being forced to discard unprecedented amounts of food surplus because of the closure of schools, restaurants and hotels. And, because of the complex logistics of the food supply chain, diverting food supply away from wholesalers directly into the hands of consumers can be costly. Experts such as Dana Gunders of ReFED are concerned that more food waste will be produced in 2020 than in previous years. Despite these challenges, organizations around the world are working to reduce food waste...Directed by Emily Broad Leib, Harvard Law School's Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) is leading an emergency COVID-19 response effort to inform the public the pandemic’s impact on food systems. The response includes informational resources analyzing opportunities for low-cost home food delivery. It also includes policy briefings urging Congress and the USDA to take legislative action to mitigate the pandemic’s burden on the food system and its workers.

  • How Etsy Became America’s Unlikeliest Breadbasket

    May 18, 2020

    Just about every morning since America went on coronavirus lockdown, Suzanne McMinn has risen at 2 a.m. to bake in her home kitchen. She’s working there up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week. But she’s not cooking for herself, mostly. She’s cranking out dozens of orders daily for people all over the U.S.—people who found her on Etsy. Yes, she sells bread on the site best known for knitted hats and topical greeting cards and, lately, hand-sewn masks...Far from the Etsy corporate headquarters, other changes have swept across the U.S., making home-baked goods more commercially viable. From 2013 to 2018, 10 states passed so-called “cottage food laws” allowing home bakers to legally sell their goods in a variety of venues, including online, says Emily Broad Leib, faculty director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic. Many other states amended existing food laws. While this wave of legislation was driven by, and has enabled, a grass-roots movement of professional home bakers who have found a natural home on Etsy, the company itself hasn’t done much to encourage this category above others. Those who have been selling baked goods on the site for years feel like the lack of promotion of Etsy’s many bakers shows the company’s interests lie elsewhere...Nevertheless, the category has exploded.

  • The coronavirus broke the food supply chain. Here’s how to fix it.

    May 14, 2020

    On a recent Wednesday morning, Sean Daniels pulled a large van up to the parking lot of a community center in Newark, New Jersey. There, volunteers were busy packing potatoes, mushrooms, onions, green beans, and other produce items that had been donated by the meal kit company HelloFresh into dozens of bags to be delivered to local senior centers and affordable housing complexes...Food waste might seem like an odd problem to have during a pandemic, but the shuttering of restaurants, arenas, schools, and other public institutions has created a glut of fresh produce stuck on farms with no buyers. Those producers operate within a completely separate supply chain to those who supply direct-to-consumer markets like grocery stores and food banks...Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic director Emily Broad Leib agreed that restructuring tax incentives for farmers could be an easy way to reduce food waste. But there’s no quick fix for the massive amount of coordination required between various government agencies and food system stakeholders. Leib recommended encouraging states and localities to buy farmers’ excess food as much as possible. And more importantly, she said the government should expand the reach of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, including for online food orders. Leib points out that because every dollar spent on SNAP generates about $1.50 in GDP growth, increasing access to SNAP could also bolster local economies — especially if Americans could easily use the vouchers to buy food from local markets and farmers as well as large supermarket chains. “We have a food system that has a lot of challenges, even in good times,” said Leib. “This pandemic has really shown those frayed edges.”

  • The Impact of COVID-19 on the Food Supply & Feeding the Hungry

    May 7, 2020

    The COVID-19 pandemic has caused several kinks in the food supply chain, making the recovery of excess food more difficult at a time when the population is increasing and already vulnerable to shortages. During Waste360’s recent webinar, “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Food Supply & Feeding the Hungry,” food waste and food rescue experts provided their thoughts on the potential short-term and long term effects the pandemic may have on the food supply chain, what it means for food recovery and how food banks and agencies are pivoting to make sure excess food gets to the people who need it the most. Discussing the virus’ effect were Dana Gunders, executive director of ReFED; Justin Block, managing director of retail information services at Feeding America; and Emily Broad Leib, clinical professor of law, director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic and deputy director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School...In addition to CFAP, the federal government has increased funding to The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) through the Families First bill. States and municipalities can apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for money to feed people, and there has been some flexibility in food safety when it comes to requiring nutritional labels, according to Leib of the Harvard Law School FLPC. The clinic provides legal and policy advice to nonprofits, government agencies, entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs and other organizations on a range of food policy questions, Leib said. Later this month the FLPC will be launching the new Global Food Donation Policy Atlas, which she said is “really relevant to this moment.”

  • Jeff Bezos says ordering groceries online is better for the planet. Is he right?

    May 1, 2020

    The coronavirus pandemic has transformed how Americans get our food. We’re no longer going to restaurants; we’re limiting our trips to the grocery store. Many of us are, for the first time, ordering groceries online. That’s causing huge spikes in demand on e-commerce sites like Amazon, which has moved quickly to expand its grocery delivery services and transform Whole Foods Markets into fulfillment centers for online orders. But if Amazon consolidating control over yet another sector of the economy during a crisis makes you uncomfortable, Jeff Bezos would like to offer a reframe: Actually, buying your groceries online is better for the planet...There are also bigger picture considerations about how the rise in online shopping we’re witnessing due to coronavirus will impact our food system in the long term. Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, says that while getting groceries delivered seems like the “right direction to go” from a public health standpoint right now, she worries this trend will make it even harder for smaller retailers and family farms to compete. Broad Leib notes that in nearly every state where low-income families can purchase groceries online with food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Amazon and Walmart are the only approved retailers. “A lot more people are already or will be on SNAP in the coming months,” Broad Leib said, noting that 37 million Americans were participating in the program in January, the most recent available data. “We’re putting a huge thumb on the scale for big retailers.”

  • Coming to a grocery store near you: meat shortages

    April 30, 2020

    Gary Holland is a carnivore: He’s on a first-name basis with the meat manager at his local Market Basket, and gets special cuts put aside for him at the counter. So when he got word from his guy this week that the store’s supply was growing thin, Holland sprung into action...The novel coronavirus has brought the US meat industry to a seemingly unheard of moment in a first-world country: rationing in the grocery aisles as some two dozen meatpacking plants across the country have shuttered as infections raced through the workforce. Consumer prices have jumped, stores are limiting purchases, and farmers and ranchers are euthanizing livestock because slaughterhouses are closed...So how did we get here? “When we suddenly declared everyone working in food production as essential, it was a green light for those businesses to keep doing business as usual,” said Emily Broad Leib, head of the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard University. Plants continued operating without issuing proper protective gear to their workers, she said, and once people started falling ill, it set off a chain reaction that we’re seeing now. “This is going to get worse before it gets better,” she said.

  • 23 Organizations Eliminating Food Waste During COVID-19

    April 29, 2020

    The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has upended nearly every aspect of modern society, but especially the food system. Farmers are being forced to discard unprecedented amounts of food surplus because of the closure of schools, restaurants, and hotels. And, because of the complex logistics of the food supply chain, diverting food supply away from wholesalers directly into the hands of consumers can be costly...Despite these challenges, organizations around the world are working to reduce food waste...Directed by Emily Broad Leib, Harvard Law Schools’ Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) is leading an emergency COVID-19 response effort to inform the public the pandemic’s impact on food systems. The response includes informational resources analyzing opportunities for low-cost home food delivery. It also includes policy briefings urging Congress and the USDA to take legislative action to mitigate the pandemic’s burden on the food system and its workers.

  • Farmers and Ranchers to Receive $19 Billion Economic Rescue Package

    April 20, 2020

    On Friday, President Donald Trump announced a $19 billion economic rescue package for some of our most essential workers: farmers and ranchers. To learn more, KCBS Radio news anchor Ted Ramey spoke with Emily Broad Leib, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic.

  • Screen shot of an online meeting with professor and a male and female student

    HLS clinics and students fight for the most vulnerable amid COVID-19

    April 11, 2020

    For the Clinical Program at Harvard Law School, the past weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a time to mobilize. As the clinics have moved to working remotely, their work has continued with new urgency.