Is Your Congressman Making You Fat?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because our legislators end up playing a big part in what we eat.
By Tom Colicchio
Tom Colicchio is a national food advocate, chef and co-founder of Food Policy Action. Endorsements by Food Policy Action are not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.
Food matters. Food matters to families, who want affordable, healthy choices. Food matters to consumers, who demand clear labeling and a safe and secure food system. Food matters to the workers who grow, process and sell it, who deserve a fair wage. And food matters to voters.
Regardless of where you live — in a red state or a blue state — and no matter what your political convictions are, our food system’s successes and failures impact you. Trade and regulatory policies affect the safety of imports and the domestic food supply. Agriculture subsidies to producers influence the types of food that you eat — and have bearing on your vulnerability to diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Nutrition policies and dietary guidelines affect what school cafeterias serve to children. We know this: Recent surveys show that an overwhelming bipartisan majority are not at all satisfied with the current system. The explosive growth of farmers’ markets and organic product sales growing by double digits further show that Americans care deeply about their food.
While food is seen as widely available in America, there is a growing realization that the food system is out of balance and not contributing to the overall health and wellness of Americans. A recent JAMA Internal Medicine report found that the government is throwing big subsidies at the very foods that government dietary guidelines tell us not to eat. Meanwhile, one-third of today’s children will develop type 2 diabetes and live shorter lives than their parents.
Despite widespread public awareness of the need to fix our broken food system, there has been very little real reform to food policy in the United States Congress, and many current elected officials continue to serve their constituents’ rotten food policies. Our current food policy is focused on money, not health, economics, labor or environmental sustainability. It’s time for that to change.
Food Policy Action, the organization that I co-founded in 2012, is working to bring about that much-needed change. We created a National Food Policy Scorecard to educate the public on congressional votes that have an effect on food. It rates elected officials on votes and proposed bills to promote food that is healthy, affordable, fair to workers, good for the environment and keeps farmers on the land. And in this election year, we have endorsed more than a dozen candidates and are putting significant resources into targeting three races: California’s 21st District in the Central Valley, Iowa’s First District in the Cedar Rapids area and New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District, which includes the very populated Bergen County.
We chose these races because they are close, because of the incumbents’ demonstrated voting records against good food policy, and because they are challenged by candidates who we believe will prioritize food policy reform in Congress. All three of the incumbents we target have dangerous track records of voting against sensible food policy and have repeatedly made choices that we believe are harmful to children, seniors, families, veterans and small farmers.
While our approach is unique in each state, we’ve focused on persuading women voters as they are polling to be the game changers this cycle. In New Jersey, we let voters know that Rep. Scott Garrett’s disregard for critical public health issues of food safety and the safe use of antibiotics in animal production is putting their health and their district in danger. In Iowa, we have shown how newcomer Monica Vernon will stand up for the health of Iowans and be a food champion in Congress, in contrast to incumbent Rep. Rod Blum. We believe Vernon will protect vital safety nets for families and seniors, and support sustainable farming practices, fair wages and access to healthy and affordable food.
In California, we contrast David Valadao’s dismal record on food policies with those of his rival, farmworker attorney Emilio Huerta — a candidate who understands Central Valley farming and food values. Huerta has made a commitment to protect the vital programs that allow Californians to feed their families and protect the sustainability of our food and agriculture systems.
Our food movement is just getting started. We will continue to fight to elect more leaders who will prioritize better food policy in Congress because food impacts everything from our health, economy, labor and the environment. And, ultimately, having good food champions in Congress will change food policy for the better and for the long-term. Help us and #VoteFood.
- Tom Colicchio, Tom Colicchio is a celebrity chef and a food activist. Contact Tom Colicchio