Heard on the Hill

Advocates Grade Member Food Policy

“Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio argued the status quo of food policy in the United States is unacceptable. (Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Cheflebrities, farmers and food policy wonks are banding together to keep an eye on Congress, releasing a National Food Policy Scorecard designed to let consumers know where their lawmakers stand on a broad array of alimentary issues.

EWG Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber said FPA originally examined 39 Congressional votes before whittling its criteria down to 32 legislative actions — ranging from food-safety issues to school lunch funding — for this inaugural scorecard.

50 Members received perfect scores — 49 Democrats and Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.). House Republicans Steve Stivers (Ohio), Bob Turner (N.Y.) and Mark Amodei (Nev.) brought up the rear, garnering goose eggs from the newly minted watchdogs. The lowest-scoring Democrat was Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), who only did what FPA wanted about a third of the time. New Jersey Reps. Jon Runyan and Frank LoBiondo were the most food-sensitive Republicans, tying for the top of the GOP heap with a 79 percent approval rating.

Although several Republican veterans — including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (14 percent), Texas Rep. Kevin Brady (7 percent) and Senate Conference Vice Chairman Roy Blunt (6 percent) — were chided for their dismal scores, Faber attempted to brush aside the notion that Democrats were universally favorable to food lovers.

“There is progress to be made by members of both parties,” he said.

EWG President Ken Cook echoed those sentiments, stressing that although FPA plans to remain neutral, it will make its wishes known on Capitol Hill.

“We didn’t make this partisan, but we are making it political,” Cook said.

Restaurateur and “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio credited ex-Sens. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and the late George McGovern (D-S.D.) with helping to establish the modern “food safety net.” But he argued that the status quo, an unpalatable state of affairs that allows global hunger and rampant obesity to flourish, is no longer acceptable.

“If Members are voting along partisan lines, maybe now they won’t,” Colicchio said of the priorities check.