The Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law has released a report on the opportunity for law schools within the UC system and across the country to more visibly and holistically address the social, economic and environmental injustices in our current food system. The report was written as part of the UC Global Food Initiative, which challenges the UC campuses to develop solutions to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2025.
“Food Equity, Social Justice and the Role of Law Schools: A Call to Action” provides an overview of inequities in the food system, highlights case studies of law school activities from across the country that are contributing to a more equitable food system, and specifies ways to incorporate issues of food equity into law school curricula and student experiences.
“Law schools have often responded to the growing urgency of certain social issues through providing relevant legal education and service opportunities,” stated Kim Kessler, lead author of the report and lecturer in law and policy and special programs director for the Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy. “This is the time for law schools to more deeply engage in addressing existing inequities in our food system, whether that be through scholarship, clinical projects, externship opportunities or pro bono service opportunities.”
“Injustice and unfairness exist at all points along the food supply chain, with marginalized groups bearing greater burdens of the food system and also receiving fewer benefits than more advantaged groups,” said Kessler. “Inequities range from disproportionately high rates of food insecurity and type 2 diabetes in communities of color, to historic obstacles to minority ownership of farms. It is incumbent upon us to find solutions to diminish such disparities within the food system.”
An overarching recommendation of the report is to frame engagement in food equity issues as both an opportunity for students to enlist in experiential learning and for them to recognize how their law degree can be a powerful tool for improving the food system.
For law schools, engagement in food equity issues is also an opportunity to provide students with the skills to be leaders and problem solvers in a developing and complex area and to try legal approaches which they can then take with confidence into other arenas in their careers.
Further recommendations include increasing awareness of food equity issues and student engagement through: incorporation of these topics into classroom learning; encouraging student initiative in co-creating learning opportunities that will contribute to their training as new leaders; and increasing career-building opportunities for students.
Additionally, given that the availability of resources for new activities is a concern for a majority of law schools, proposed strategies include redeploying existing vehicles and programs for activities related to food equity issues; finding new partners and sources of support, which may encompass news streams of government grants, foundation grants, or interested alumni; and investing in relations building with interested partners.