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UCLA School of Law receives $4 million gift to create food law and policy program

By Fiona Kirby

May 30, 2013 1:53 a.m.

The UCLA School of Law recently received a $4 million donation to launch a new food law and policy program, one of the first of its kind to focus on how food regulations affect consumers.

The program, which is scheduled to begin operations on July 1, is being funded by a donation from the Resnick Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization that has donated to the law school in the past.

”It was wonderful when the Resnicks were willing to provide the resources so we could have a space where these issues are addressed,” said Rachel Moran, the dean of the UCLA School of Law. “Because we can take what we’re doing to the next level.”

The program will research food regulation, safety and access. Moran said the school plans to focus on the consumer’s perspective on food policy – food supply security, access to healthy options – rather than the agricultural perspective, making it different from other programs of its kind.

The program was prompted by the positive student feedback the school got regarding a food law and policy seminar class that is currently being offered.

Scarlettah Schaefer, a second-year law student, said she was not interested in food law before she came to UCLA.

But she started to pay attention to food policy after the failure of Proposition 37, which would have required genetically engineered foods to be labeled if it passed on the November ballot.

Schaefer said the topic interests her because of the many changes in U.S. agriculture over the past 50 years and the questions of consumer safety that such a quick transition brings up.

She added that she’s excited for the program because of the greater examination it can give to food-related topics.

The law school wanted to create a curriculum that could prepare students to tackle issues of food policy in their future careers, whether they work in government positions, international organizations or law firms, but had previously been unable to because of money constraints, Moran said.

She added that through this program, any law student, even those who do not plan on pursuing a career in food law, will be able to understand how this type of law works.

Maha Ibrahim, a second-year law student, said it is hard for current law students to learn about food law because of the small number of food law classes. She said she would be willing to take classes in the program because she is interested in California government, and understanding food policy would be a helpful way to gain insight into the government itself.

The program will offer conferences and classes on different food policy issues based on student feedback as well, Moran said.

“There are so many different kinds of classes we could offer, and how we add them on will be a function of the priorities and background experience of the people we attract,” she said.

Currently, the school is in the process of recruiting an executive director, a fellow and a program manager, Moran added.

Moran said the executive director and fellow would collaborate to bring together an advisory board of people in the business of food production and consumer protection, offering different perspectives on the food industry.

The Resnick Foundation has donated $4 million, but will match up to $3 million of further donations if they are made, bringing the potential total up to $10 million, she said.

Equal amounts of money will be put into an endowment for the future and into immediate operational costs, such as staff salaries, hosting events and bringing speakers to discuss food policy issues.

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