by MICHELLE RODEN CONWAY
Celebrity Chef Tom Colicchio may be most popularly known as the hard-hitting judge on Top Chef, or for his myriad of highly regarded restaurants, but soon he will be equally known for his political influence in Washington DC.
Chef Colicchio founded Food Policy Action in 2012, as a first-of- its-kind political watchdog group seeking to improve the national dialogue around food safety, nutrition, and accessibility. Chef Colicchio espouses that any effective movement has to have a grass-roots desire for change, as well as a demand on our politicians that these changes be enacted in congress and the senate.
In a recent panel discussion at the Food for Tomorrow Conference at the Stone Barn Center for Food & Agriculture, Chef Colicchio explained “we don’t have the political will in this country to fix hunger.” He recognizes the significant impact of the organizations that support the needs of the hungry, but wants to take this important work one giant step further: to Washington. Using broccoli as an example, he cites that to lower the price of broccoli, the United States “needs to address the policies of subsidies that make unhealthy food cheap” for Americans. Food subsidies for healthful food products don’t exist.
Food Policy Action has created an online scorecard, where voters and advocates can track the food-related voting records of politicians across the country. All members of congress and the senate are listed, along with their voting record on food-related issues. Each is given a score on a 100% scale. Visitors to the site can see how their politicians have voted on important issues, such as The Senate Farm Bill, or SNAP Benefits. Massachusetts Congressmen average a score of 93% across the nine members of congress. Senator Edward Markey has a 100% score, while Senator Elizabeth Warren has a score of 88%. Fortunately, none of our State’s politicians made the deadbeat “Food Policy Failures” category.
The informative website is also a source for staying one step ahead of up-and-coming policies, and encourages voters to flex their political muscle on pending issues, such as the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, and the School Food Modernization Act. All told, FoodPolicyAction.org lists over 20 pieces of legislation that are up for vote. These pieces of legislation have the potential to make food healthier, safer, and more accessible. We as voters have the opportunity to influence food-based bills by asking our representatives to vote favorably on policies that make food healthier, more accessible, and more nutritious.
When not at her desk job, Michelle Roden Conway gobbles up recipes, cooks up a storm, randomly writes food articles, and invents culinary adventures for her family and friends.