For Immediate Release: Thursday, December 5, 2013
Contact: Sara Sciammacco: firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, D.C. -- Claire Benjamin, a seasoned Washington expert on food and agriculture policy, has been named managing director of Food Policy Action, the national organization's board announced today.
Benjamin will be responsible for managing FPA's day-to-day operations, updating and providing analysis for its National Food Policy Scorecard, overseeing the group's advocacy and fundraising efforts and handling social media outreach.
"We're thrilled that Claire will be leading our team as we continue our work to reform our broken food and farm system," said FPA board chair Ken Cook. "Claire has been a champion for a wide range of policies that support family farmers and sustainable farming. She is highly regarded by all of her peers and very well equipped to advise and guide us through the political thickets of congressional food and farm policy."
Prior to joining FPA, Benjamin spent nine years working on federal food and agriculture policy on Capitol Hill. Most recently, she served as legislative director and senior advisor for Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and was instrumental in drafting the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act, which aims to increase access to healthy food and promote local agriculture.
"Claire has been a fantastic partner over the last five years in our work to make common sense reforms to federal agriculture policy," said Rep. Pingree "She is a tireless and impassioned advocate for improving our food system so it works better for everyone. I'm excited to see her go to such an important organization as Food Policy Action, where her commitment and savvy can continue to push the movement forward."
A native Vermonter, Benjamin also served on the staff of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.). She is a graduate of the University of Vermont in Burlington.
Launched last year, FPA was created to highlight the importance of policies that support healthy diets, reduce hunger, improve food access and affordability, uphold the rights and dignity of food and farm workers, increase transparency, protect public health and the environment, reduce food-borne illness, support local and regional food systems and treat farm animals humanely.
FPA promotes these policies through education and the publication of its annual scorecard. On Tuesday, Dec. 10, FPA board members will release the 2013 National Food Policy Scorecard at a press conference at Graffiato restaurant in Washington, D.C. The scorecard will rate lawmakers of the 113th Congress on food and farm votes taken in the first session.
"Claire's work will be critical in increasing transparency in the legislative process and holding all of our elected leaders accountable for their food and farm votes," said Cook. "The public should know when their lawmakers cast votes that hurt farmers, slash funding for hungry families or weaken food safety laws."
Opposes House GOP Move to Slash Nutrition Aid by $40 Billion
Washington, D.C. – Chef and Craft restaurants owner Tom Colicchio and leaders of Food Policy Action (FPA) joined House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and several other members of Congress in condemning a House Republican plan to cut $40 billion from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP.
"We need House members to do the right thing for families and children who struggle to put food on the table," said Colicchio. "I am urging everyone to start a new conversation – the conversation shouldn't be about people who are looking for a handout. This is about an investment, an investment in our children so they aren't hungry when they try to learn in school or fall asleep at night."
This week, the House is scheduled to debate a GOP proposal to slash federal food assistance by $40 billon over the next decade, effectively denying food assistance to 6 million hungry Americans, including children.
"Every one of the recipients of the nutrition programs in the bill has a story to tell," said Pelosi. "I don't understand why we are taking up legislation that so undermines who we are as a nation, that we do not even want to meet the needs of the people."
FPA will monitor how individual House members vote on the House GOP plan to cut SNAP, which helps nearly 50 million Americans, including 17 million children, get enough food.
The organization was founded by Colicchio and other advocates last year to hold members of Congress accountable for their votes on government programs that alleviate hunger and encourage good farming practices. Its mission is to promote food and farm policies that support healthy diets and local and regional food systems, improve food access and affordability, reduce food-borne illnesses, uphold the rights and dignity of food and farm workers, and treat animals humanely, among others.
Every year FPA produces a National Food Policy Scorecard that provides objective, factual information about the most important food legislation and the voting records of members of the House and Senate.
"This vote will stand out as one that will be critically important for how FPA scores this Congress with respect to food," said Ken Cook, EWG's president and founding FPA board chair. "We will make sure the public knows how their elected representatives have voted when it comes to proposals that could help or hurt our food and farm system."
The scorecard represents the consensus of food policy experts on key votes. It scores lawmakers on hunger, food safety, food access, farm subsidies, animal welfare, food and farm labor, nutrition, food additives, food transparency, local food, organic food and the impact of food production on the environment. It helps voters determine which legislators are working for sensible food policies.
"Please do make sure Congress is held accountable," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). "It would be immoral to ratify a $40 billion cut in the food stamp program. That is not where our moral responsibility lies. It is wrong and should not happen."
For Immediate Release - November 27, 2012
Contact: Sara Sciammacco, email@example.com
Washington, D.C. – Food Policy Action informed members of the House of Representatives today that if they take up the federal farm bill during the lame duck session, votes on amendments will be tracked by the organization's Congressional scorecard.
The letter said:
"If the House of Representatives debates a Farm Bill during the current lame duck session of Congress, Food Policy Action is likely to score many of the amendments that will be offered to H.R. 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012."
In a separate statement, Ken Cook, Food Policy Action's founding board chairman, said, "In years past, Congress has used abbreviated lame duck sessions to push through legislation without voters knowing fully what it would mean for them. We aim to change that if members cast votes that deal a blow to vital policy priorities such as nutrition assistance, food safety, conservation programs and important environmental regulations on agribusiness, to name just a few. Any votes during the lame duck that could affect America's food and nutrition will be scored and those grades shared with the public."
Food Policy Action released the first National Food Policy Scorecard in October. The scoring is based on votes of the full House and Senate on critical food policy issues. The votes that were scored were selected by Food Policy Action's Vote Advisory Council and reviewed and approved by its Board of Directors.
For the 112th Congress, the scorecard was based on votes to:
World-renowned chef Tom Colicchio, a Food Policy Action founding board member, appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe program today to discuss the new organization and its letter to Congress. You can watch Chef Colicchio's interview here.
For Immediate Release - October 24, 2012
Contact: Sara Sciammacco, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tracks Food and Farm Votes, Identifies Good Food Champions in Congress
Washington, D.C. - Chef Tom Colicchio and other healthy food advocates, animal welfare and anti-hunger champions launched a new organization on National Food Day (Oct. 24), devoted to holding members of Congress accountable to the public interest for their positions on federal food policy.
The group, known as Food Policy Action, published the first-ever National Food Policy Scorecard ™ to rate federal lawmakers on critical floor votes related to food.
"For the first time, we will have a seat at the political table, armed with important information about how our senators and representatives voted on important issues involving our food," said Colicchio, a founding board member of FPA and owner of Craft Restaurants. "Greater transparency is the right recipe for food policies that improve Americans' diets, feed hungry kids and protect family farmers and the nation's food supply."
The FPA board selected 32 floor votes -- 18 in the Senate, 14 in the House -- taken by Congress over the past two years. These covered food safety, hunger, farm subsidies, food labeling, organic farming, and local food systems. While other national organizations have graded lawmakers on various federal policy issues, no group has ever done so on recorded votes on specific legislative actions concerning food.
"In this political season, when food policy has become a political football-from anti-hunger programs like 'food stamps' to fledgling efforts to make school lunches healthier-the National Food Policy Scorecard is a vital tool for voters," said Ken Cook, founding board president of FPA and president of the Environmental Working Group. "Until now, consumers have been voting with their pocketbooks to demand safe and affordable food that is produced without harming the environment or treating animals inhumanely. Now, they can actually vote for lawmakers who have stood with them, not with big food or industrial agriculture."
FPA analysts identified 50 members of Congress who received a perfect score of 100 percent.
Good food champions in the Senate are:
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. D-R.I.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.
Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Sen. Jeffrey Merkley, D-Ore.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.
House members who are good food champions are:
Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va.
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif.
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.
Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.
Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.
Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.
Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif.
Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.
Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
Rep. John Larson, D-Conn.
Rep. James Moran, D-Va.
Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn.
Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.
Rep. William Pascrell, D-N.J.
Rep. Steven Rothman D-N.J.
Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y.
Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici*, D-Ore.
Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y.
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.
Rep. Michael Doyle, D-Pa.,
Rep. Janice Hahn*, D-Calif.
Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md.
Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass.
Rep. John Olver, D-Mass.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
Rep. Ron Barber*, D-Ariz.
Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md.
Rep. Christopher Van Hollen, D-Md.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.
* Lawmakers who did not serve a full term and did not vote on all scored votes.
The average score for Senate lawmakers was 58 percent, while the average score for House lawmakers was 57 percent. Many GOP lawmakers had higher than average scores, including Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Reps. Jon Runyan, Frank LoBiondo and Chris Smith of New Jersey, Reps. Chris Gibson and Richard Hanna of New York, Reps. Jaime Herrera and Dave Reichert of Washington State, Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Charles Bass of New Hampshire, Frank Wolf of Virginia, Robert Dold of Illinois and Erik Paulsen of Minnesota.
Prominent members of the House and Senate who received very low scores include House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.
Among the votes included in the score calculations were proposals to cut nutrition assistance, increase food safety funding, repeal conservation programs, allow states to label genetically engineered food and subject crop insurance subsidies to means testing and payment limits. The scorecard will continue to track votes on a wide range of food policy issues, including food and farm worker protections, increased food access and affordability, food additives, animal welfare, and the environmental impact of farm and food production.
In addition to Colicchio and Cook, the board includes Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America; Robin Schepper, former executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative; Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Gary Hirshberg, co-founder and chairman of Stonyfield Farm; Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer and president of the Humane Society of the United States; Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest; Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!; Mia Dell, chief lobbyist for United Food and Commercial Workers; Navina Khanna, co-founder of Live Real; and John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association.
"Hungry people don't have well-paid lobbyists working to protect the programs they rely on to help lift themselves out of poverty," said Beckmann. "The food policy scorecard will ensure that families who are hungry, as well as those who care about hunger, know who voted for food and farm policies that serve the public interest."
"Without greater pressure from voters, Congress won't change our food policies to promote healthier diets and lifestyles," said Schepper. "Everyone has a role to play if we are going to reduce childhood obesity, especially our legislators in Congress."
"While many of us have begun voting with our forks, too few of us have been voting with our votes," said Offenheiser. "That's about to change. Now legislators will think twice about casting votes in Congress to protect the narrow interests of well-heeled lobbyists above the will of people in their districts and hungry people around the world. The FPA will be keeping an eye on our elected leaders on behalf of the voters who sent them to Washington."
"Studies show that only 2 percent of our food economy is food that's healthy, clean, green, and fair," said Khanna. Voting with our forks isn't an option for most people. It's time to hold our legislators accountable for creating and enforcing policies that make a food system healthier for people and the planet. The scorecard allows us to do that."