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Blueprint for a National Strategy Introduced to Address Food System Challenges

Because of the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic within the US food system, Harvard and Vermont Law Schools have recently published a blueprint to identify the gaps and create solutions. "Urgent Call for a U.S. National Food Strategy: An Update to the Blueprint" defines a framework to create more efficient and coordinated policy solutions.

"The major food system challenges made so obvious by COVID-19—soaring rates of food insecurity, disproportionate impacts to underserved and BIPOC communities, inadequately protected food system workers, staggering amounts of lost income for farmers, and enormous food waste—already existed before the pandemic at crisis levels, " said Laurie Beyranevand, Director of the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems and Professor of Law at Vermont Law School. "These injustices and failures persist because we lack formal structures for coordination making federal solutions piecemeal, incremental and responsive, rather than comprehensive, strategic, and proactive."

The crisis exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic did not come as a surprise to food policy experts, who have warned of a collapse of the US food system due to “weaknesses, inefficiencies, and injustices and suffers from an arcane and fragmented regulatory regime”, according to the Vermont Law press release. The governmental mandates and shutdown excelled enduring problems.

"If we are going to solve the issues plaguing our food system, we will need commitment and coordination from all levels and branches of government, and participation from a diverse range of stakeholders, including farm and food system workers, advocates that regularly address food insecurity and environmental issues, and the general public," said Emily Broad Leib, Faculty Director of FLPC and Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. "We have seen this sort of cohesive national action before with the response to 9/11 and with the National Strategy for HIV/AIDS. The COVID-19 pandemic has unearthed a food crisis that merits a similar response, a response that will also work to address long-standing inequities in our food system well beyond the current crises," Broad Leib concluded.

The report recommends that a national food strategy incorporate the following principles:

  • Leadership and interagency coordination to draft and implement the strategy.
  • Participation from state and local governments and a diverse range of stakeholders.
  • Transparency, accountability, and enforceability in the national food strategy drafting and implementation.
  • Durability to maintain focus on long-term priorities and withstand changes in the presidential administration and Congress.