New National Food Policy Scorecard hopes to make food political

By Aarian Marshall

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WASHINGTON, DC October 24, 2012 - Food Policy Action, a new advocacy group that hopes to bring “political clout” to the burgeoning food movement, launched its new National Food Policy Scorecard today at Washington-area restaurant Oyamel. “We're not making [food issues] partisan, but we are making them political,” Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and member of the Food Policy Action Board of Directors, said in a press conference.

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Tom Colicchio, star chef and judge of the popular “Top Chef” reality show, was also on hand for the launch.

The scorecard, a product of Food Policy Action's own analysis, assigns a score to each member of Congress based on her voting record on thirty-two food issues put up before the legislature. These range from supporting organically grown produce, to fighting for conservation, to “supporting local and regional food systems,” according to the group's mission statement.

So while representatives lost points for supporting legislation like South Dakota Republican congresswoman Kristi Noem's bill to reduce EPA regulation of crop dust, they gained them for voting “yea” on Sen. Grassley's (IA) payment limit amendment, which placed a hard cap on farm subsidies.

Those representing Food Policy Action, including Cook, Colicchio and EWG's vice president for government affairs Scott Faber, acknowledged that the scorecard may look less than politically neutral: The 180 representatives with the highest score all caucus with the Democrats. But “many Republicans score higher than average,” maintained Faber, “and many Democrats didn't do well. This is really a bipartisan issue.”

The group plans to raise awareness of food issues both in Congress and among the public at large.“[Politicians] talk about hunger, but nothing seems to happen about it,” Colicchio said. Now, politicians “are really going to think about how they're going to vote when these [food] issues come up.” 

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