Healthful dining advocates Tom Colicchio and Rep. Chellie Pingree are hoping to spark next-generation food policy activists with an organizing challenge designed to thrust college kids into the 2016 presidential race.
Colicchio, the “Top Chef” personality who has graduated to judging politicians in his role as co-founder of Food Policy Action, is taking the fight for a better food system to battleground states.
He’s prodding students at accredited colleges, universities or community colleges in Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and North Carolina to help make alimentary issues part of the political conversation via the “Plate of the Union ” initiative.
“Young people are always at the forefront of change. They helped elect Barack Obama; they led the fight on marriage equality; they are driving action against sexual assault on college campuses; and now they can lead the movement to demand a better food system,” FPA Executive Director Claire Benjamin DiMattina said of the recruiting push in an email.
Participants are tasked with developing and executing a program to drive engagement during the 2016 election cycle on their respective campuses. The goal is to select a grand prize winner eligible to receive $5,000 (to realize said vision), while three runners-up could collect $2,500 each.
Veteran Democratic staffers are spearheading the effort; Buffy Wicks, former deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and campaign strategist for President Barack Obama has signed on as senior strategist while former Hillary Clinton spokesman Peter Kauffmann is expected to handle communications.
Pingree, the pioneering farmer turned hospitality maven , was invited to help judge pitch submissions due to her hands-on experience in the agricultural arena.
“She came to Congress as an organic farmer, and has a track record of advocating for better federal food policy,” DiMattina said of Pingree’s unwavering commitment to the cause.
According to FPA’s National Food Policy Scorecard , the Maine Democrat ranks among the most food-focused decision-makers currently on the Hill, earning a 100 percent rating for her work in the 114th Congress.
Remaining White House hopefuls Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have notched FPA scorecard ratings of 100 percent , 75 percent and 60 percent , respectively, over the course of the current session.
The Plate of the Union crew carved out time to Jan. 21 to meet with interested candidates ahead of the Iowa caucuses but declined to specify which aspiring commanders-in-chief (or their staffs) agreed to chew the fat whilst barnstorming the Hawkeye State.
“We will continue to meet with campaigns as the season moves on,” Team POTU told Roll Call of the ongoing discussions.
The outreach, however, does not appear to include subjecting non-federal lawmakers still vying for the White House to the scrutiny of the pre-existing scorecard structure.
“Food Policy Action will be releasing a 2016 National Food Policy Scorecard, which similar to previous years will score members of congress and senators on their votes that relate to food and agriculture policy,” the group repeatedly stated when asked about whether GOP front-runner Donald Trump, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, or former first lady Hillary Clinton might be placed under the same microscope as their congressional competitors.
Contact Rojas at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @WARojas. Related: Hospitality Giants Aim to Mobilize Food Fans to Action Advocates and Chef Judge Congress on Food Policy See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. NEW! Download the Roll Call app for the best coverage of people, politics and personalities of Capitol Hill.