Care About Food Policy? You're Going to Want to See This New Lawmaker Scorecard

The first-ever national scorecard give poor grades to some, lauds others as 'Good Food Champions.'

What grade with you give capital hill on food policy? (Photo: Nomadic Luxury/Getty Images)

Oct 25, 2012· 2 MIN READ
Clare Leschin-Hoar's stories on seafood and food politics have appeared in Scientific American, Eating Well and elsewhere.

If voting with your fork has left you feeling jaded, a newly launched group is hoping their recent report will be motivation enough to push you away from the plate and into the voting booth.

Food Policy Action, a coalition of food policy and environmental groups, announced they’ve minted a fresh list of lawmakers rated by their recorded votes on legislative actions specific to food. The first-ever National Food Policy Scorecard looked at 18 floor votes in the Senate and 14 votes in the House over the last two years. Those votes included legislation on issues like food safety, hunger, farm subsidies, food labeling, organic farming and more.

The group has some star power to boost the message. Known for being tough on Top Chef contestants, Tom Colicchio, a founding member of Food Policy Action and owner of Craft Restaurants, will turn the heat up on lawmakers. Indeed, the topic of food policy is one close to the celebrity chef’s heart—his mother ran a school lunch program in New Jersey.

“There’s a problem out there that can be fixed, and if enough people believe this is a problem, then I hope those people can get their representatives to pay attention to this,” he tells CNN.

Fifty lawmakers were singled out as “Good Food Champions” and given a perfect score for their voting records—all are Democrats, with the exception of Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who is listed as an independent. The announcement from the group does say, “Many GOP lawmakers had higher than average scores, including Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts,” and others.

Republicans, on the other hand, seem to fill the rotating slide show in the “Food Policy Failure” corner, and include Reps. Diane Black (R-TN), Ted Poe (R-TX) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who scored eight percent or below on the scorecard’s rating system, which included votes on cuts to nutrition assistance, increases in food-safety funding, labeling of genetically modified ingredients, animal welfare, and more.

A lawmaker like Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who is often considered a food champion and has introduced a number of food-related bills to Congress, only scored an 86 percent in the group's ratings.

"It's very interesting that those that would be thought of as food champions didn't get a 100 percent rating," David DeGennaro, legislative analyst at the Environmental Working Group, tells TakePart. "The scorecard will be published once Cvery congress. It could be used as a way to go to legislators ahead of the vote and say, 'We're scoring this, you may want to keep it in mind when you're voting.'"

As for a lawmaker like DeLauro, who is active in food issues, DeGennaro says, "She voted the wrong way on an ethanol vote and on the means test for direct payments. We're hoping legislators like DeLauro will take a closer look and think about how they vote, and will shoot for those 100 percent scores."

Going forward, Food Policy Action plans on keeping track of votes taken on a number of pending bills, including the Egg Production Inspection Act Amendments of 2012; Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2011; the R.I.C.E. Act, which would require the FDA to set limits on arsenic in rice products; the Farm Bill, the Food Safety Modernization Act and more.

“It’s time to hold our legislators accountable for creating and enforcing policies that make a food system healthier for people and the plant. This scorecard allows us to do that,” said Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, and board member of FPA.

Election day is creeping closer—12 days and counting, folks.