2020-21 Year in Review

The Duke Food Law Society (FLS) had an exciting year, despite the challenges of the pandemic. We were thrilled to receive the Greatest Service to Outside Community D.O.N.E. Award from the Duke Bar Association this Spring.

This year, we compiled a Food Justice reading list and published it on our website. We hosted and co-sponsored multiple virtual events. FLS Board Members Drew Langan and Kristen Renberg planned “COVID-19 and the Slaughterhouse Industry,” an event that highlighted labor and animal rights issues that were exacerbated by the pandemic. Bridget Eklund, FLS’ President, and Jackie Jaffe, our Undergraduate Liaison, hosted a “Food Law Careers” panel for pre-law undergraduate students. FLS also led Duke Law’s team for the Legal Feeding Frenzy, an annual fundraiser and food drive for NC food banks. We raised $800 for the Central & Eastern North Carolina Food Bank!

We also organized two pro-bono projects that students worked on throughout the Fall and Spring Semesters. We partnered with the Land Loss Prevention Project, a non-profit law firm in Durham, to research historical requirements for owning land and historical events in North Carolina that contributed to loss, in order to help identify existing and new tools that can be used to prevent the loss of land. The Land Loss pro-bono team, led by Kristen Renberg, produced three research reports this year. We also worked with Farm Commons, a non-profit organization that supports farmers across the country by developing educational programs and resources about legal issues that affect farm businesses, this year. Students conducted research on core subject areas of farm law for various states, including business structures, land matters, employment, food safety, and agritourism/value-added products. The Farm Commons pro-bono team completed research reports on nine states. These reports will help Farm Commons create effective educational resources on farm business law for attorneys and other interested agricultural professionals.

Our new Leadership Board is looking forward to continuing these projects and activities next year!

2021-22 Leadership Board

  • Alex Obiol (2L), President
  • Kristen Renberg (3L)
  • Drew Langan (3L)
  • Emily Chrisman (2L)
  • Nate Schumacher (2L)
  • Jackie Jaffe (Senior, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences), Undergraduate Liaison
  • Kate Leonard (Junior, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences), Undergraduate Liaison

2021 Legal Feeding Frenzy

Written by Casey Collins

Join FLS in recognizing the success of the 2021 North Carolina Legal Feeding Frenzy, an annual food drive and fundraising competition to address food insecurity and hunger in NC.  In just one month, NC law firms, law schools, organizations, and individuals raised nearly $165,000 to support Feeding The Carolinas’ Food Banks. Thank you to everyone who donated through the Duke University School of Law link. Two FLS Board members, Kristen Renberg and Alex Obiol, spearheaded Duke Law’s fundraising efforts and raised $800 in this year’s fund drive (its largest contribution to date)!

Legal Feeding Frenzy Overview 

Held annually in March, the NC Legal Feeding Frenzy is a joint program of the NCBA Young Lawyers Division and Feeding the Carolinas food banks. It aims to fight hunger across North Carolina by uniting the legal community in support of local food banks. Food banks rely on volunteer labor and donations, but distribution costs remain and additional food must be purchased. A fundraiser at heart, the Legal Feeding Frenzy strives to generate this financial support while raising awareness of food insecurity across North Carolina.

COVID, Hunger, and Food Banks

Support for local food banks is more important than ever. COVID-19 struck the state with a double-edged sword, both deepening food insecurity and disrupting the operations food banks generally offer to ameliorate hunger.

The pandemic has exacerbated economic harms and destabilized access to basic resources across the state of North Carolina. Recent estimates suggest that one in five North Carolinians are now food insecure. The figure is even worse for children: nearly 1 in 4 young people don’t have enough to eat. Simultaneously, unemployment applications rose substantially through 2020.

Additionally, food banks have seen a drop in donations, which means food has to be purchased; the average food bank now spends nearly 12x more on monthly food purchases than Pre-Covid (roughly $1 million per month, now). The expenses mount as food moves into distribution phases, since food banks have lost over 50% of their volunteer workforce since the pandemic broke.  Complicating matters further, nearly 40% of partner agencies shut down during the pandemic.  In effect, food banks lost hundreds of distribution and food pick-up centers, making it harder for people in need to access food.

Recap: 2021 Legal Feeding Frenzy

Thus the 2021 Legal Feeding Frenzy came at a critical time, nearly one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. To be sure, there are so many needs still unmet, and this fundraiser will offer a boost not a solution. Still, the success of this year’s fundraiser was hardly preordained. Covid-19 spawned novel — at times  existential — crises for both industries and individuals statewide.

Yet the NC legal community adapted, raising more than ever before. This year’s $165,00 in fundraising for food banks marks a 10 percent increase from March 2020’s $151,000. Amidst the isolation and darkness wrought by a global pandemic, the 2021 Legal Feeding Frenzy shines a light on the value of collaboration and local volunteer efforts. FLS was thrilled to be a part of this effort and we are looking forward to participating next year!

About the Food Bank

40 years ago, The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina (Food Bank) has a bold mission: empower local communities to overcome hunger and create an environment where all North Carolinians can thrive.  Providing food and educational resources to 34 NC counties, the Food Bank has developed a network of more than 900 partner agencies—from soup kitchens to food pantries to shelters. The collaboration makes an impact. The total food distributed by the Food Bank is the highest of any food bank in North Carolina; nationally, it ranks in the top 15 of over 200 food banks!

More information

A Statement from the Food Law Society

We are writing today to express our grief for the loss of so many Black lives to systemic racism and police violence in this country.

Racial justice requires food justice. Institutional racism is pervasive throughout every aspect of American society, including our food and agriculture systems. To give a few examples:

  • People of color make up a growing share of food workers and food consumers, and they bear a disproportionate burden of poorer health and economic outcomes as a result of the sector’s structural inequities.
  • Many of the more than 21 million workers across the food system face substandard working conditions and wages so low that they are unable to buy for themselves or their family the very food that they grow, harvest, deliver, or serve.
  • Federal land management and lending practices, such as those of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, have discriminated against and led to significant land loss among farmers of color.

We’d like to encourage those in positions of privilege to educate themselves on the history of racism in our food system and get involved with organizations working toward food justice. Click here for a full list of resources, available on our website. This list will be updated continuously—please explore that page! Feel free to bookmark and save for later. There’s a lot of work to be done, both within the food system and in society as a whole.

Here are a few resources to begin with:

  • Visit (or re-visit, if you participated in the Challenge with us in April) the 21-Day Racial Equity Building Challenge daily prompts. All their resources are available on their website and include helpful tools and resources for examining equity in our food system. It is a great, guided way to start reflecting and thinking differently about race in America, especially as it relates to our food system.
  • Explore the Equitable Food Systems Resource Guide. Click on an area of the food system that interests you and read about what an equitable approach looks like. Reflect on the model policies – how can we, as  law students and future lawyers, advance those policies in our community?
  • Look through the infographics detailing 4 Not-So-Easy Ways to Dismantle Racism in the Food System by Leah Penniman.
  • Follow Soul Fire Farm’s work through their Instagram and Website. Check out their Reparations Map for Black-owned farms near you, and donate or support them if you are able. Read Leah Penniman’s (the founder of Soul Fire Farm) book Farming While Black if you are interested in a deeper dive into Soul Fire’s amazing work!
  • Read this account of unfair, racially-biased treatment of Black farmers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): How USDA Distorted Data to Conceal Decades of Discrimination Against Black Farmers by Nathan Rosenberg & Bryce Wilson Stucki, The Counter (June 2019)

Beyond continuing to educate ourselves, FLS will be working to bring racial equity into our activities, including our pro-bono projects, volunteer opportunities and speaker events. We are also exploring ways to advocate for a larger role for food justice and sovereignty in the law school’s curriculum. If there are other ways that we can advocate or act to promote this work in our community – or if you just want to have a conversation – please reach out. We recognize that being an Ally is an ongoing process of growth, and we hope you will join that process alongside us as we continue to make sure we are actively and responsibly engaging in anti-racist work.

Black Lives Matter.

Wicked Problems & Adaptive Management

Written by Jackie Jaffe

The call to act on environmental issues has never been more pressing than in 2020. However, the ability to act on these issues has never been more complicated than it is today. Issues like climate change, overfishing, and pollution all fall under the category of wicked problems. These dilemmas are complex, with no clear-cut solutions that will wholly eradicate the problem or leave everyone content. This complexity can largely be attributed to varying stakeholder values. For example, with overfishing, many groups have a stake in what is happening and how this problem is being handled. There are the fishermen, whose jobs and ability to support themselves depend often on exploiting populations. Conversely, there are the activist groups and organizations like Regional Fishery Management Councils that aim for fish populations to become more sustainable. So, how do we effectively make compromises in food law to address the desires of various stakeholders? One approach to tackle these wicked problems is through adaptive management. This process involves carefully considering the different stakeholder values, evaluating potential approaches to a problem and what their consequences would be, carrying out these actions in an experimental setting, and then reevaluating previous strategies.

While this is a promising method to address critical issues in food law, it can be expensive to carry out experiments. Additionally, it is difficult to change strategies once an approach has already been implemented into policy. Despite these obstacles, it is critical that policy makers, lawyers, and stakeholders communicate and find common ground in order to prioritize protecting the world’s depleting resources.

If you’re interested, read more here and here.

Jackie Jaffe is FLS’s undergraduate representative and a sophomore at Duke’s Trinity School of Arts and Sciences. She is a pre-law student who hopes to study environmental and animal law in the future.  At FLS, she works to connect law students and undergraduates who are interested in food-related issues.

Welcome to the Duke FLS website!

Duke Food Law Society (“FLS”) is a student-led organization, motivated by a shared desire to improve the food system. It serves as a hub to exchange ideas, knowledge, and practical skills relevant to the legal issues surrounding food. FLS supports a network of students, professionals and food-lovers who support a healthier, more equitable food system—both in the Durham community and nationally. Check back soon for blog posts, event updates and more.

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