by Marion Nestle

Search results: food policy action

Oct 21 2020

Food Policy Action releases 2020 Scorecard: Vote!

Food Policy Action started keeping score on congressional votes on food issues in 2013, but the last time I wrote about its scorecard was in 2017.2020

It has just published its 2020 interactive Scorecard, which you can use to check how your state’s legislators score on food issues.

As Food Policy Action puts it, the “scorecard underscores Senate’s failure to feed hungry, protect workers.”

Food Policy Action identifies six ways Trump has hurt eaters, food workers and farmers.

The purpose of the Scorecard is to hold legislators accountable.  Now is the time to do that.

Vote with your votes by November 3.

Nov 16 2017

Food Policy Action’s 2017 Scorecard on Congressional Votes

Food Policy Action has released its annual scorecard, evaluating how our federal legislators vote on food issues.  In case you haven’t noticed, they aren’t voting on much these days so there wasn’t much to score.

In the Senate, there was only one vote (on the nomination of Scott Pruitt as USDA Secretary), although ten bills were introduced.

In the House, there were five votes and 11 bills.

Overall scores averaged 49%—dismal.

The site has a handy interactive map; click on it to see how your legislators are voting.

In case you want to see just how badly Congress is doing, I’ve been posting these scorecards since they started:

One thought: maybe it’s just as well.

Nov 3 2016

Food Policy Action’s 2016 Congressional Scorecard

This year, only three Senators—Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Richard Durbin—got top scores from Food Policy Action for their votes on food and farm issues.  This is down from the 29 who earned perfect scores in 2015.

In the House, 79 representatives got perfect scores as opposed to 87 in 2015.

The annual Scorecard ranks lawmakers on whether they support legislation on issues such as GMO labeling, hunger, fisheries management, food waste, pesticides, the EPA’s waters of the U.S. rule, among others.

Image result for food policy scorecard map

It’s disappointing that fewer legislators are getting top scores, since one of the purposes of this activity is to hold them accountable and encourage more liberal voting on food and farm issues.

 

 

Nov 18 2015

Food Policy Action releases 2015 Congressional scorecard

I went yesterday to the press conference for the release of the Food Policy Action 2015 Scorecard.

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This was outdoors at Campos Community Garden in Manhattan’s East Village, attended by classes of schoolkids.  The speakers:

Food Policy Action aims to improve national discussions of food policy issues by informing the public about how elected officials vote on these issues.  Hence: the Scorecard.

As I discussed last year, points are awarded for votes on bills introduced or co-sponsored that deal with:

  • Domestic and international hunger
  • Food safety
  • Food access
  • Farm subsidies
  • Animal welfare
  • Food and farm labor
  • Nutrition
  • Food additives
  • Food transparency
  • Local and regional food production
  • The environmental effects of food production

In the Senate, for example, there were just 5 bills to be voted on an 10 that were co-sponsored (but not voted on).  In the House, there were votes on 10 bills and 12 that were co-sponsored (no vote).  This leaves lots of room for improvement, even among the best.

The speakers explained to the kids that the Scorecard gave grades to members of Congress, just like they get, and took them through a discussion of thumbs up and thumbs down appraisals of legislators’ votes on key food issues.  Congress is doing a little better this year than last, they said, but still has a long way to go.

Those of us in New York are lucky.  Both of our Senators, Kirsten Gillbrand and Charles Schumer scored 100.

Here are my reports on the Scorecards from 2013 and 2014.  The Scorecard is a great first step in holding legislators accountable.

Oct 22 2014

Food Policy Action rates Congress on food issues

Food Policy Action announced the release of its second annual National Food Policy Scorecard last week, ranking members of the House and Senate on their votes on key food-related issues.

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Food Policy Action is unique among food advocacy organizations in its explicit use of the political process.  Its goal is to

promote policies that support healthy diets, reduce hunger at home and abroad, improve food access and affordability, uphold the rights and dignity of food and farm workers, increase transparency, improve public health, reduce the risk of food-borne illness, support local and regional food systems, protect and maintain sustainable fisheries, treat farm animals humanely and reduce the environmental impact of farming and food production.

How?  By holding legislators accountable for their foods on food and farming issues.  Hence: The Food Policy Scorecard.

I discussed the previous scorecard in December 2013.

On this round, Food Policy Action awarded scores of 100 to 71 members of Congress – 54 in the House of Representatives, 17 in the Senate.

It awarded scores of zero to 35 members.

The scores are given for votes on bills related to key food issues:

  • Hunger
  • Food aid
  • Food labeling
  • Farm subsidies
  • Sustainable farming

The website makes it easy to track your legislators’s votes.

I looked at Senators from New York.

  • Kirsten Gillbrand scores 85 (she lost points by voting against reducing federal insurance subsidies for rich farmers and against protecting states’ rights to require GMO labels)
  • Charles Schumer scores 100

This is a valuable tool for anyone who cares how politics works in America.  Let’s hope it encourages citizens to hold their representatives accountable and legislators to think twice before voting against consumer-friendly food and farming bills.

 

Dec 11 2013

Food Policy Action releases handy Congress “scorecard” on food issues

Washington is such a mess that you can’t tell the players without a scorecard, and this one is really useful.

Food Policy Action to the rescue.

Food Policy Action is a project of the Environmental Working Group.  Ken Cook of EWG is its chair.  Tom Colicchio is listed as the first board member.

The 2013 National Food Policy Scorecard ranks each member of the Senate and House on their votes on food issues.

The interactive map lets you click on a state and see how our congressional representatives are voting.  According to the scorecard, 87 members are Good Food Champions.  We need more!

I looked up New York.  Senator Charles Schumer gets a perfect 100%.  Yes!

But Senator Kirsten Gillibrand only gets 67%.

How come?  Click on her name and the site lists her votes on key legislation.  Oops.  She voted against GMO labeling and against a key farm bill amendment on crop insurance.  If you click on the button, you get to learn more about this vote and the legislation.

This kind of information is hard to come by.  Food Policy Action’s scorecard is easy to use and performs a terrific public service.

Thanks to everyone responsible for it.

Jan 26 2021

Some good news—and about time—for food assistance

I’ll start with a déjà vu, thanks to Daniel Bowman Simon, who reminds me that President John F. Kennedy’s first executive orderwas to expand food distribution programs that both helped farmers and fed the poor.

President Biden is taking steps in the same direction On January 22, the USDA announced:

  • P-EBT Benefit Increase: “the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) connects low-income families with kids with food dollars equivalent to the value of the meals missed due to COVID-related school and childcare closures….USDA will increase the current daily benefit amount by approximately 15% to tackle the serious problem of child food insecurity during this school year when need is greatest.”  This is great but the big problem with this program has been delays.  Let’s hope those get fixed too.
  • SNAP Emergency Allotments to States: USDA wants to “allow states to provide extra SNAP benefits through Emergency Allotments to the lowest-income households.”  This is because the increases to SNAP authorized by Congress were set up in such a way that they did not go to the lowest-income households (37% of SNAP households) most in need.
  • Revising the Thrifty Food Plan Per 2018 Farm Bill:  This plan, the basis for determining SNAP benefits, is decades old, out of date, and unrealistic for SNAP households.  USDA needs to revise it.

In addition, Biden is calling for More Congressional Action:  

  • Extend the 15% SNAP benefit increase
  • Invest another $3 billion through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
  • Look for creative ways to support restaurants as a critical link in the food supply chain to help feed families in need
  • Provide U.S. Territories with $1 billion in additional nutrition assistance funding

OK.  This does not go far enough and who knows what this Congress will do.  But it’s a start, and a good one.

But that’s not all: Biden has appointed Stacy Dean as deputy undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, the piece of USDA responsible for food assistance.  This puts her in charge of all this.

I consider this a superb appointment.  Nobody knows more about food assistance programs.  I learned this when I was editing a set of papers about SNAP for the American Journal of Public Health in 2019.  She and colleagues at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities wrote the basic article for the series.

So: our job now is to loudly and strongly support everything USDA is doing to improve and expand food assistance, and to encourage the agency to take even bigger steps.  Make sure Stacy gets all the support she needs to really do sometime to improve food security for the millions of American adults and children who need it badly. 

 

 

 

Dec 2 2020

Concentration in the food business: too high, too risky

A report to the Family Farm Action Alliance, “THE FOOD SYSTEM: CONCENTRATION AND ITS IMPACT,” shows just how monopolistic this industry has become.

The CR4 metric is the percentage of the particular industry owned by the top 4 companies.  The top 4 beef processing companies control 73% of all beef processing.  The top 4 soft drink companies control 82%.  The top 3 cereal companies control 80%.  Anything over about 50% is considered to be highly concentrated.

What’s wrong with a high CR4 index?

Agrifood consolidation reduces farmer autonomy and redistributes costs and benefits across the food chain, squeezing farmer incomes. In 2018, farmers whose primary occupation was farming but with sales of less than $350,000 had a median net income of -$1,524. An agriculture system without people has depopulated rural communities causing a collapse in social relationships. Communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of exposure to excessive pesticide use or large animal confinement operations.

What is to be done?

At the heart of this analysis is a focus on power – both economic and political. Ultimately American political democracy rests on economic democracy and vice versa (Wu 2018). Thus, our laser focus in scholarship, praxis and policy must be on democratizing the agrifood system through a multitude of strategies at local, state, regional and national scales.