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FLPC Calls for a National Food Strategy with the Release of New Report

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School are excited to announce release of a groundbreaking report, Blueprint for a National Food Strategy. Today’s release marks the culmination of an 18-month collaborative project to conduct an in-depth examination of the potential for creating a national food strategy in the United States. The report finds that the United States could reap significant rewards from a strategy — a strategy provides a rare opportunity to account for the totality of the U.S. food system and identify concrete goals and action steps for strengthening this vital system overall. In addition, the report identifies policy mechanisms to aid the United States in the creation of such a strategy.

The Blueprint’s argument for greater coordination and efficiency within the food system is timely. Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a congressional report calling for the creation of a national food strategy in order to reduce fragmentation in the federal food safety oversight system. Four senators then called on the Trump Administration to implement the recommendations of the report in order to safeguard public health and reduce the health costs associated with foodborne illness (nearly $36 billion annually). Their letter also drew attention to the regulatory chaos that pervades our food system: “The safety and quality of the U.S. food system is governed by a highly complex system that has evolved on a piecemeal basis over many decades….[t]the result is a fragmented legal and organizational structure.” Indeed, one of the Blueprint’s key findings is that a national food strategy could reduce regulatory overlap and inefficiency, a priority of the new Administration.

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. The report finds 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. 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 spark dialogue and debate around the concept of a national food strategy. In November, FLPC co-hosted an event with the Union of Concerned Scientists to discuss the potential for a national food strategy. FLPC Director Emily Broad Leib offered her insights, alongside panelists Mark Bittman, Ricardo Salvador, and Kat Taylor. Over the course of the project, researchers at FLPC and CAFS conducted interviews with more than 30 food system thought leaders and videos of some of these interviews can be found on the project website. The report itself has been released in an interactive format that includes feedback prompts for readers such as “What objectives would you prioritize if the United States were to develop a national food strategy?” Responses will be collected and posted to the site so readers can view the perspectives of others and begin a national dialogue.

The full, interactive report is available for download on the Blueprint for a National Food Strategy website and in FLPC’s publication library.

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