A Recipe for Innovation

Dean Minow challenges students to seek solutions to problems in U.S. food system

A Recipe for Innovation--Food Challenge (HLB Fall 2014)

Credit: Kim DeMarco

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.

DeansFoodChallenge_Martha Minow

Credit: Evgenia EliseevaDean Martha Minow launches the “Deans’ Food System Challenge,” calling for proposals for making the food system healthier, more sustainable and more equitable.

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.

“Harvard Law School is committed to human rights, social justice and creating opportunities for people who are marginalized and unheard,” said Minow. “Improving the food system is key to addressing these issues.”

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Feedback on Food?

The Deans’ Food System Challenge is using crowdsourcing to help participants develop and refine their ideas. To suggest ideas to the teams and submit feedback, visit bit.ly/Deans-food-system-challenge2014.


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; and Ona Balkus J.D./M.P.H. ’13, a fellow at the clinic; as well as 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.

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Course Menu

Offerings at HLS this academic year for students interested in food law

Food Law Lab | Spring 2015

Professor Jacob Gersen, founder and director of the Food Law Lab at the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at HLS

Food Law and Policy | Fall 2014

Lecturer on Law Emily Broad Leib ’08 and Clinical Professor Robert Greenwald, director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at HLS

Food Law and Policy Clinic | Fall 2014 and spring 2015

Broad Leib and Greenwald

Food and Drug Law | Winter term 2015

Lecturer on Law Peter Barton Hutt ’59, senior counsel in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Covington & Burling, specializing in food and drug law