Drake Law students Caitlin Andersen (3L), Natalie Ginty (3L), Sable Joseph (2L), and Kelly Nuckolls (3L) attended the first-ever Food Law Student Leadership Summit at Harvard Law School in October.
They were among 100 students from more than 50 law schools around the country selected to participate in the event.
Hosted by Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, the summit brought in national experts – including Drake Law School’s Neil Hamilton, director of the Agricultural Law Center and Dwight D. Opperman Distinguished Professor – to discuss issues related to the environment, health, food safety, and food waste.
Students also worked together in small groups to develop strategies for addressing some of society’s most pressing food law and policy concerns, such as regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations or soda taxes.
“We had policy simulations for some of the more controversial issues in food law,” Nuckolls explains. “We were each given a role to play on opposite sides of the issue, and we had to come together and try to find a solution that we all could agree upon.”
“I learned how diverse the perspectives are on the subject, and how important each of these perspectives are in reaching policy structures that will affect change,” Andersen adds.
The summit also offered tours designed to provide a diverse perspective on issues in food law. Groups of students visited not-for-profit organizations such as Community Servings and Daily Table, as well as a kitchen incubator and a community garden in a lower income area of Boston.
In addition, the attendees worked on strategies for enhancing interest in food law among law students. Nuckolls was a speaker on a student leadership panel to share ideas for starting a student organization or getting a class in food law offered at schools.
Nuckolls says the other students on the panel had all founded student organizations on their respective campuses, while Drake’s agricultural law organization has been around for more than 30 years.
“I was different from the other panelists,” she explains. “Drake has a long history of food and agricultural law. I think that’s why they asked me to speak on the panel – to talk about how to sustain interest in this one area of law at your school.”
Nuckolls says her biggest takeaway from the summit was how many opportunities Drake Law students have to learn about food and agricultural law compared to other law schools. In addition to various courses in the subject, Drake also has a Certificate in Food and Agricultural Law as well as strong student involvement in the Agricultural and Environmental Law Association and the Drake Journal of Agricultural Law.
“Hearing about all the struggles other students have had to go through just to get one class offered – it made me realize just how lucky we are at Drake,” Nuckolls says. “There is so much to learn about the topic, and I feel like one class can’t cover it. I’m really glad we have multiple classes and opportunities at Drake.”
Andersen agrees that the courses offered at Drake Law School, as well as her involvement in student organizations, has supplemented her understanding of food and agricultural law.
“I walked away from the summit really appreciative of my time at Drake Law, which has allowed me to be exposed to agriculture and the food system,” Andersen says.