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ENR Center Creates Food Resiliency Project

By Nate Bellinger

This year the ENR Program added a seventh interdisciplinary project: the Food Resiliency Project. The mission of the Food Resiliency Project is to probe key law and policy issues to ensure resilient, sustainable food systems. Professors Mary Wood and Michael Fakhri are the faculty co-leaders for the project. 

The Food Resiliency Project comes at a time when there is a growing interest in food studies at the University of Oregon and around the country. As Professor Fakhri notes, "food is a prominent topic in popular politics and culture." The numerous social and environmental problems associated with our current food system, dominated by industrial agricultural and powerful agribusinesses, are becoming increasingly obvious and people around the world are reacting.

The Food Resiliency Project is part of a burgeoning movement of farmers, consumers, students, lawyers, and other activists that are challenging the status quo and working to create a new, more resilient and sustainable food system. "Our task as legal scholars and students," says Professor Fakhri, "is to highlight how law structures the allocation of power and wealth when it comes to food production, distribution, and consumption. We treat law as something that might structure a food system that ensures socio-economic equality amongst different communities and individuals."

This year, as the Bowerman Fellow for the Food Resiliency Project, I worked closely with Professor Fakhri on a project we are calling Food as a Transnational Legal Concept. We began with an examination of four phrases that are commonly used when talking about food: right to food, food security, food justice, and food sovereignty. We sought to identify what these terms mean, who uses them, and how they are similar or different from each other. After realizing that food sovereignty is how many advocates are framing the future of the food movement, we are now considering what food sovereignty contributes to the discussion about food and how law can contribute to the conversations. Finally, we are exploring different approaches that communities around the world are taking to implement food sovereignty.

foodThis March, Assistant Professor Fakhri and I presented our initial findings on a panel at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference. We were lucky to be joined on the panel by Professor Patricia Allen, Chair of the Department of Food Systems and Society at Marylhurst University, who provided insightful commentary on our presentations. Additionally, I am excited to say that Professor Fakhri and I will be publishing our work in the American Bar Association publication, Natural Resources and Environment, in a special fall 2013 edition all about food.

Ultimately, the Food Resiliency Project seeks to engage in the various debates about the future of our food system while contributing innovative research and policy ideas to help create a more resilient and sustainable food system. The first year of the Food Resiliency Project has generated great enthusiasm and lively discussions at the law school and in the broader Eugene community. The project is an important and timely addition to the ENR Program and I am very excited to see how it continues to develop and grow over the coming years.

Led by faculty members and program administrators with expertise in the area and staffed by student fellows, ENR's seven interdisciplinary projects provide research, analysis, and innovative solutions to today’s most pressing environmental issues. In addition to the Food Resiliency Project, ENR interdisciplinary projects include the Conservation Trust Project; the Energy Law and Policy Project; the Global Environmental Democracy Project; the Native Environmental Sovereignty Project; the Oceans, Coasts, and Watersheds Project; and the Sustainable Land Use Project.

Nate Bellinger is a 3L at the University of Oregon School of Law where he serves as a Bowerman Fellow for the ENR Center and a Wayne Morse Fellow for the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics.

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