MSU College of Law

Food Law Clinic

By diving completely into the work of our clients, we have a genuine opportunity to really understand all the areas of law that govern food.

Jayesh Patel, director

The Food Law Clinic provides students with the opportunity to help entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and governments. We’re working to transform the food system by enhancing food security, food justice, and food sovereignty.

We partner with our clients to create infrastructure so that urban agriculture and food-based businesses can offer economic growth and nutrition for underserved communities. Our clients include nonprofits and individuals working with small-scale agriculture, primarily in the greater Detroit area.

The Food Law Clinic’s mix of corporate law and agriculture related to my goals of being involved in international trade and agriculture.

William Cho, ‘15

It’s exciting to be able to offer students an opportunity to develop a complex enterprise from the ground up while working on issues at the cutting edge of food law.

Jayesh Patel, director

Food Law Clinic students provide high-quality representation to clients. They develop effective strategies to execute ambitious projects, including:

  • Creating a local food hub to match growers with restaurants and institutional buyers
  • Filing for Detroit’s first urban farm permit under so that a nonprofit farm can use land in a vacant neighborhood
  • Redesigning a shared commercial kitchen program for entrepreneurs who have outgrown the cottage food law
  • Creating a co-packing accelerator to prepare bootstrapping enterprises for significant growth

Clinic students provide direct assistance to clients, and engage in research, policy development, and educational outreach to the public. The Clinic also is approved under the U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices Law School Certification Program to represent clients in matters related to trademarks.

Food Law Clinic students can:

  • Write standards of procedure for new companies entering the food industry
  • Evaluate legislation and ordinances and their impact on agriculture
  • Consult with nonprofit entities
  • Draft contracts
  • Help organizations abide by organic certification requirements
  • Interpret local zoning ordinances
  • Help clients to buy or sell property in Michigan

I researched hazard analysis guidelines for food distribution, packaging, handling, and storage. From there, I developed a standard operating procedure for a new food distribution company whose business model would be taking Grade B produce, improving it, and distributing it to a third party to sell as Grade A produce.

Jaime Nichols, ‘16

Our students help to bring healthy, locally-sourced food to the community. We provide free legal services to individuals, corporate farms, small for-profit farms, nonprofit organizations and farms, community organizations, and food-based businesses located in Detroit and surrounding communities.

The Food Law Clinic has worked extensively with producers for Detroit’s Eastern Market, the largest open-air produce and food products market in southeast Michigan. For example, we worked to establish a growers’ co-op so that small farms can work collectively to meet the food needs of institutions like schools and hospitals. It helps local farmers to increase their market – and to revitalize Detroit’s landscape.