You may have read Michael Pollan's recent essay published in the Food & Drink Issue of the New York Times Magazine about the significance of California's Prop 37 initiative to the food movement at large. "Is this the year that the food movement finally enters politics?," Pollan wonders. Is this the year that it will "engage in the hard politics of Washington — of voting with votes, not just forks"?
A new food advocacy group called Food Policy Action (FPA) has answered that call to arms, as it were. "There has never been a better time," reads FPA's blog, "to turn the food movement from a social and economic movement into a political force."
FPA was launched on October 24 of this year, and it aims "to highlight the importance of food policy and to promote policies" that support a wide range of food-related causes. As Tom Laskawy explains on Grist, "The meat of the effort — and the thing that distinguishes it from other groups — has to do with the sometimes mind-numbing but essential subject of federal legislation."
At its launch, FPA issued the first-ever National Food Policy Scorecard, enabling the public to hold members of Congress accountable for their positions on food policy. The Scorecard rates each member on 32 floor votes taken over the past two years. "The good news in the results is that consumers have plenty of champions in Congress on both sides of the aisle," says FPA. "The bad news is that some of the most powerful members of Congress have the lowest scores."
50 members of Congress received a perfect score of 100 percent — every single one of them Democrats but one — including Sen. Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (MD), Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), Sen. Ron Wyden (OR), Rep. Adam Schiff (CA), Rep. Gary Ackerman (NY) and Rep. Charles Rangel (NY).
How do your lawmakers fare? Find out here. The website allows you to search by politician or zip code and to browse by food-related bill to view the complete results for that vote.
Among GOP lawmakers who rank as friend more than foe to the food movement are Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.
Some of the worst-scoring, prominent members of the House and Senate include House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Rep. Steven Stivers (R-OH).
FPA's Board of Directors features some familiar names and organizations, including Tom Colicchio (celebrity chef), Gary Hirshberg (co-founder and chairman of Stonyfield Farm), Wayne Pacelle (CEO and president of Humane Society of the United States), Ray Offenheiser (president of Oxfam America), Michael Jacobson (executive director of Center of Science in the Public Interest) and Ken Cook (president of Environmental Working Group).
The importance of the work that Food Policy Action has set out for itself can't be underestimated, and you'll learn a lot from the information they've published on the website. "The FPA will be keeping an eye on our elected leaders on behalf of the voters who sent them to Washington," said Offenheiser in a press release. And now, Cook adds, Americans "can actually vote for lawmakers who have stood with them, not with big food or industrial agriculture."