In Memory of Berkeley Food Law Professor Stephen Sugarman

May 5, 2022
By Berkeley Food Institute

Stephen SugarmanBFI is saddened to share the passing of our affiliated faculty and Executive Committee member, Stephen Sugarman. Steve passed away in December 2021 after an extended illness. He was 79.

For nearly half a century, Steve made immeasurable contributions to the UC Berkeley community as a faculty at the School of Law. He joined Berkeley Law in 1972, recruited by his colleague John Coons. Together, Steve and John had played key roles in California Supreme cases that equalized public education funding among state school districts. Steve’s commitment to equity in public education, health, and food systems remained a cornerstone of his long career.

Steve served as associate dean of Berkeley Law from 1980 to 1982 and again from 2004 to 2009. He created curricula around social justice, including a “Food Law” course he co-developed with Professor Molly Van Houweling. Through food law, Steve and his students interrogated issues involving childhood obesity, social determinants of unhealthy diets, and accountability of tobacco, salt, and sugar industries. His work on tobacco regulations in the 1980s have influenced subsequent research on overconsumption and policy-based solutions like public health taxes.

“Steve thought deeply about how the legal system might address many of the negative health impacts of the current food system in the US,” said Kris Madsen, a former BFI faculty director and professor at the School of Public Health. “He was an amazing colleague and mentor, who was incredibly generous with his time.”

Steve served as a member of BFI’s Executive Committee since our inception, and provided wise counsel on food law issues as well as the intricacies of navigating UC Berkeley systems. He will be deeply missed, and we send our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.