2L Lauren Thomas to Attend Food Law Student Leadership Summit

October 4, 2017

Lauren ThomasTexas A&M University School of Law 2L Lauren Thomas

Second year student Lauren Thomas, whose research focuses on the concept of food deserts and the emerging field of food law, will soon attend the Food Law Student Leadership Summit, co-hosted by UCLA School of Law’s Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic.

Out of a competitive applicant pool, Thomas was one of 100 chosen to attend the Summit, taking place Nov. 17-19 in Los Angeles.

“The Summit will give me a chance to exchange ideas with advocates, food producers, academics, and policymakers, and be exposed to resources that I can use to promote food law and policy at Texas A&M School of Law,” Thomas said. “One of the things I am especially looking forward to is a session where we will be paired into small groups of 4-5 students to develop and present food law and policy solutions.”

The Summit will also feature tours to local food organizations, meetings with food innovators and information about how to start and build food law societies.

Thomas said she’s most looking forward to building on her undergraduate research and turning that into a platform for shaping future food law policy. That research got its start in a class Thomas took about food deserts.

Defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as an “urban neighborhood and rural town without ready access to fresh, healthy, affordable food,” the notion of food deserts resonated strongly with Thomas and several of her classmates.

Not long after, Thomas and fellow students began questioning the local foodscape (“any opportunity to obtain food, and includes physical, socio-cultural, economic, and policy influences at both micro and macro levels.”1), and under the guidance of their professor, developed a study to examine the foodscape of Texas A&M University.

“At the time, previous research suggested that college campuses have higher levels of food insecurity than the national rate, and having access to healthy food options at a campus the size of Texas A&M University – College Station affects a significant number of students,” Thomas said. “The results of our study are published in 'The Southwestern Geographer,' and we also presented our findings at an Association of American Geographers conference in Chicago in 2015.”

Now armed with a B.S. from Texas A&M’s College of Geosciences, considerable experience under her belt working in labs and in the field (in air quality, water quality, and soil and groundwater remediation), Thomas is pursuing her Juris Doctorate, and focusing on what can happen when scientific and legal reasoning influence environmental law and policy.

“My dream was, and still is, to bring both a scientist and a lawyer to the table when creating environmental law and policy solutions,” she said.

Thomas is honing those skills through her summer experiences, most recently through her work with Valero Energy Corporation, Galveston Bay Foundation, and an externship concentrating on environmental law with McPherson Law Firm in Dallas.

1 Lake, A., T. Burgoine, F. Greenhalgh, E. Stamp, and R. Tyrrell. 2010. "The foodscape: Classification and field validation of secondary sources. Health and Place," 16: 666-673.