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Urban Food Policy Forum: Litigation as a Strategy for Defending and Advancing Food Policy

  • CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy 55 West 125th Street, 7th Floor New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)

Calorie or food labeling, misleading food advertising, taxes on sugary beverages, eligibility requirements for public food benefits—all these and more are food policy debates that have reached the court room for resolution. Food and nutrition advocates, government officials and the food industry have each used litigation to advance their food policy objectives. This panel discussion will explore the advantages and disadvantages of litigation as a strategy for policy change and promoting food equity. It will also explore the role of litigation in defending food policies that The Trump Administration or Congress are seeking to reverse. A discussion will follow the panel.


Peter Lehner, Senior Strategic Advisor, Senior Attorney, EarthjusticeLehner directs Earthjustice's Sustainable Food & Farming Program, developing strategies to reduce health, environmental, and climate harms from production of our food and to promote a more environmentally sound agricultural system. From 1999–2006, Peter served as chief of the Environmental Protection Bureau of the New York State Attorney General's office. He supervised all environmental litigation by and against the state, prosecuting a wide variety of polluters and developing innovative multi-state strategies targeting global warming and air pollution emissions from the nation's largest electric utilities.

Thomas Merrill, General Counsel for the New York City Department of Health and Mental HygieneFor nearly ten years, Merrill has been counsel to the largest municipal health Department in the country. His work include policy development in the areas of chronic disease, including food and nutrition policy, and substance abuse. 

Margaret Brown, Staff Attorney, New York Program, Natural Resources Defense Council. Brown advocates for more just and sustainable food systems in New York and other regions around the country. She uses legal and policy tools to improve school food, develop the growing field of food law, and implement NRDC’s national food campaigns—concerning pollinators, food waste. and many other issues—at the state and city levels.

Moderator: Nicholas Freudenberg, Director, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute

Doors open at 8:45am. Panel begins promptly at 9am. Please allow additional time to check in at security desks.