THE 2017 COOPER-WALSH COLLOQUIUM: Taking a Bite out of the Big Apple: A Conversation about Urban Food Policy – Friday, October 20, 2017

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Friday, October 20, 2017
9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Fordham Law School
Hill Faculty Conference Room (7-119) | 7th floor
150 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023


Registration: 9:15 – 9:45 a.m.

Welcome and Introduction

9:45 – 10:00 am

Dean Matthew Diller from Fordham University School of Law

Ten Years of Food Policy Governance in New York City: Lessons for the Next Decade by Dr. Nicholas Freudenberg

10:00 – 10:45 a.m.

In the last decade, New York City has created dozens of new food policies and programs to improve nutritional well-being, promote food security, create food systems that support community and economic development and achieve other important goals.  These initiatives built on the city’s prior efforts to create healthier food environments and used existing and new governance mechanisms to consider, enact and implement changes in how New York City produces, distributes and consumes the food that sustains its residents.  This report will consider these changes in food policy governance in New York City since 2008 and seeks to answer questions about how food policy governance functions in New York City, changes in the last decade, and what strategies can be used to achieve developing food policy goals in the future.

Foraging Food Justice through Cooperatives in New York City by Surbhi Sarang and Professor Natalie Bump Vena

10:45 – 11:30 a.m.

The paper argues that co-operatives are a means of furthering food justice in New York City, because they can simultaneously promote economic development in low-income communities of color and increase access to affordable and desirable foods in those neighborhoods. Food co-operatives have a long history in the United States and New York City, and people of color have used them as tools for self-determination since the 1930s. Besides advancing economic justice and food access, co-operatives have other benefits, such as: attractive work cultures, conscientious environmental stewardship, and the capacity to act as local food hubs.

In order for co-operatives play their role in transforming the urban food ecosystem, city policies must be developed to address numerous challenges. In particular, low-income entrepreneurs interested in starting new co-operatives face many obstacles. Common barriers include difficulty securing financing; lack of technical, legal, and business knowledge; and the inability to acquire affordable storefront and kitchen space. The paper concludes by proposing policy solutions, in part derived from legislation in other jurisdictions, including Minnesota and Quebec. To better ensure the success of these enterprises in forging food justice, the paper recommends increased technical assistance, public funding, and private investment in new food co-ops.

Professor Jonathan Brown will respond.

Want to Increase Food Access? Ban It from Your Vocabulary by Professor Nathan Rosenberg

11:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

In recent years, policymakers, nongovernmental organizations, and activists have increasingly sought to address disparities within the food system by increasing access to healthy foods in low-income communities. The Obama administration, in its Healthy Food Financing Initiative, provided millions of dollars to supermarkets and other retailers to build in so-called “food deserts,” a model copied by many states and localities. Recent research, however, suggests that efforts to increase food access have failed to improve the diets, health, and economic status of the poor—and may even amplify inequalities. This article examines the implications of this research for debates on food justice, redistribution, and effective public policy. It concludes by suggesting alternative strategies for reducing economic and health disparities within food systems.

Dr. Nevin Cohen will respond.

12:35 – 1:35 p.m. Lunch Break

Litigating Obesity: The Consequences of Taking “Big Food” to Court by Dr. Sara Abiola

1:45 – 2:25 p.m.

A growing body of work has focused on social rights litigation- the legal enforcement of economic, social, and cultural rights.  While normative studies evaluate the appropriate role of courts in a democratic society and their theoretical capacity to effectively address social issues, empirical studies are concerned with the functional ability of courts to resolve disputes involving these rights and actually produce significant change.  Over the past quarter-century private citizens in the United States have brought lawsuits against food and beverage manufacturers that assign varying degrees of responsibility for health-related harms to these entities.  In this paper I review the trajectory of these cases and their impact on efforts to create healthier communities and environments. The universe of litigation includes cases that: a) make claims based upon the actions of private actors that have contributed to obesity; b) concern access to products or goods produced by “Big Food”; or c) concern the underlying conditions that contribute to obesity.  I identify the factors facilitate or limit the ability of courts to make decisions that have an effect on the ongoing obesity epidemic.

Dr. Diana Silver will respond.

Food Law Gone Wild: The Law of Foraging by Professor Baylen Linnekin

2:30 – 3:15 p.m.

Foraging is the act of searching for and harvesting wild food and other provisions. The practice of gathering vegetables, fruits, fungi, herbs, nuts, seaweed, and other edibles where they appear naturally in the wild is separate and distinct from pursuits for necessaries such as hunting, fishing, farming, shopping, or trading. Foraging is as old as—and has been essential to—human life itself.

For most of this history, foraging raised few red flags. Today—as Linnekin describes in my book Biting the Hands That Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable (Island Press 2016)—laws increasingly target foraging on America’s public and private lands. In some cases, these restrictions are smart policy. For example, regulators banned foraging in New York City’s Central Park amid concerns the ecosystem couldn’t withstand the practice. But many foraging rules go too far. An elderly Illinois man was fined for picking dandelion greens in a park; a Maryland forager was fined for picking berries in a park; and a California chef/activist who educates the public about sustainable foraging—the Sierra Club calls him an “eco-friendly… gourmet”—has faced fines for his work. Meanwhile, in Maine, lawmakers may restrict the state’s longstanding practice of allowing foragers to roam private lands.

Despite the growing number of regulatory issues pertaining to foraging, legal scholarship on this issue is virtually nonexistent. This fact is particularly problematic because federal, state, and local foraging rules vary wildly, and often conflict.

This article discusses the historical and legal context of foraging; distinguish between foraging on private and public lands; define and identify examples of sustainable and unsustainable foraging; describe problems presented both by unencumbered foraging and by restrictions on foraging; and propose a framework for maximizing the human and ecological benefits of foraging and minimizing its environmental impacts.

Professor Joshua Galperin will respond.

Big Food and Soda vs. Public Health: Industry Litigation Against Local Government Regulatory Interventions to Promote Healthy Diets by Dr. Charles Platkin and Professor Sarah Roach

3:30 – 4:15 p.m.

Closing Remarks

4:15 – 4:30 p.m.

Professor Susan Block-Lieb from Fordham Law School