Alumni Changemaker: Tommy Tobin

Alumni Changemaker: Tommy Tobin

Addressing food justice through service, education, advocacy, and leadership 

To honor our 40 years, we're celebrating our most valuable resource - our alumni - through 40 profiles highlighting their leadership. Our next Changemaker is Alum Tommy Tobin! 


Tommy Tobin embodies the values of leadership, compassion, and commitment.

No matter what phase of life Tommy occupies, his focus has remained very much the same and is an extension of what he learned from his mother: “Food is love.”

His dedication to both policy and education have been at the forefront of his contributions since he graduated from UCPPIA in 2009. After earning degrees from Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School (on a PPIA Fellowship), he returned to the UCPPIA program to teach a self-designed module on Food Law & Policy for three years.

Tommy’s writing provides an outlet for him to create change and contribute to society. Tommy is a contributor to Forbes, where he is able to take what he has learned and researched about food law and policy and share it with a wider audience through the written word.  Tommy is now editing a forthcoming book for the American Bar Association that will provide a practical guide to the growing field of food law. In addition, Tommy has written more than 50 articles for scholarly journals and major newspapers on law and policy topics, including pieces for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Hill, and the Baltimore Sun.

Tommy is now a litigation associate at Perkins Coie LLP, one of the nation’s leading law firms. Prior to joining Perkins Coie, Tommy clerked for a federal district court judge in North Carolina.

Today, Tommy uses his pro bono practice to address food insecurity and hunger. Tommy has represented individuals facing issues accessing food stamp benefits for which they qualify.

“I hate to hear about people who have to choose between feeding themselves or feeding their families and the medicine that they need. Those are impossible choices to make, but I hope that in a small way my efforts can help.”

Building upon these experiences, Tommy partnered with MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and UCLA’s Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy to author a resource guide for law firms looking to collaborate with food assistance organizations. 

After growing up with a significant speech impediment, Tommy is now a Lecturer at UCLA Law, where he teaches a seminar on food litigation. Previously, Tommy served as a Teaching Fellow at Harvard’s Economics Department.

Tommy litigates, writes, teaches and serves, but through it all he leads.  He chairs the American Bar Association’s Food, Cosmetics, & Nutraceuticals Committee and serves on the Advisory Board of UCLA’s Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy. Tommy is also a board member for Hunger Free America, a national non-profit working to ensure that all Americans have sufficient access to nutritious food. Tommy recently co-authored an op-ed in the Buffalo News with Hunger Free America’s CEO and noted: “If we fail to assist families in obtaining access to nutritious food assistance now, we risk consequences as a society for years and generations to come.”




Thank you Tommy for always giving so generously not only to those in need but to the type of policy change that creates good for all.  From your teaching to your advocacy on behalf of veterans and disabled persons, your compassion and commitment exemplifies that of an inclusive leader and engaged citizen. Your mother’s mantra of “Food is Love” truly lives through all the work that you do.



Read more Changemaker profiles here!