The US food system is inefficient, researchers say, so they created a strategy blueprint

Vermont and Harvard law school launch national food strategy blueprint

There are 15 federal agencies that have 30 different statutes related to food safety, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed in January.

“Just another sign that it’s time for a unified food strategy,” said Laurie Ristino, director of The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School. “Across the food system, we have examples, like food safety, of places where the right hand is not talking to the left, creating inefficiencies and, sometimes, truly harmful effects.”

Together with the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, researchers from the two centers spent 18 months of research and analysis funded by a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant. (You can view the full report HERE).

The resulting Blueprint for National Food Strategy examines the potential for developing a national food strategy for the US—a project which Ristino said “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.”

Learning from other countries

The researchers looked at two precedents to design their blueprint—national food system strategies used in other countries, as well as US national strategies for other issues.

They found that many other countries have created policies, laws, and plans to combat food challenges the US faces, including access to healthy food, promoting economically and environmentally sustainable food production, and harmonizing the work of numerous agencies.

“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.”

The researchers, led by CAFS director Laurie Beyranevand, condensed key findings into a set of concrete recommendations for a US national food strategy.

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