This fall, Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow and Julio Frenk, dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, issued a challenge to students across the university to come up with fresh ideas for solving complex problems facing our food system.
Each year, the Harvard Innovation Lab holds a range of university-wide competitions sponsored by Harvard schools asking students to address problems in a given area of focus. The Deans’ Food System Challenge, the first sponsored by HLS, was developed in collaboration with the school’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. It seeks proposals for making the food system healthier, more sustainable and more equitable, both in the United States and around the world.
“Our current methods for producing, distributing and consuming food are simply unsustainable,” said Minow. “Harvard Law School is committed to human rights, social justice and creating opportunities for people who are marginalized and unheard. Improving the food system is key to addressing these issues. The challenge focuses on addressing economic, health and social inequities in the food systems in this country and around the world.”
Participants are encouraged to form interdisciplinary teams and develop projects that address one of four topics: food production, distribution and markets, improving diet, and reducing food waste. Finalists will be announced in April. Each finalist team will receive $5,000 to put toward developing its proposal. In May, $50,000 will be distributed among one winner and up to four runners-up.
Minow launched the competition on Oct. 27, at a Harvard i-lab event featuring keynote speaker Ayr Muir, CEO of Clover Food Lab. A range of related events are taking place throughout the year at the i-lab, as well as a series of lectures and presentations across the university coordinated by the Food Law and Policy Clinic and various partners, as part of a broader “Food Better” campaign. (Watch the Food Better Symposium.)
Among those working on the challenge are: Emily Broad Leib ’08, deputy director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at HLS and director of the center’s Food Law and Policy Clinic; Christopher Bavitz, clinical professor and managing director of the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and the dean’s designate to the i-lab; and Ona Balkus J.D./M.P.H. ’13, a fellow at the clinic.