Celebrity chefs might be more accustomed to judging food dishes, but on Thursday they teamed up with farm advocates and policy makers to offer their ratings on something people haven’t always found palatable – Congress.
“Top Chef” head judge Tom Colicchio and Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook – who spearhead the nonprofit organization Food Policy Action – released their third annual National Food Policy Scorecard, which grades lawmakers based on key food and farm bill votes determined by an advisory board. The event took place at Graffiato restaurant in Washington, D.C., where guests could nosh on pizza and other Italian-inspired bites from fellow “Top Chef” alum Mike Isabella.
“Most people don’t connect the dots between what you put on the table and what goes on in Washington,” Colicchio said.
Members were judged on their support for a variety of bills and amendments, ranging from sustainable farming and food subsidizes to labeling requirements and safety regulations.
A total of 71 lawmakers from both the House and Senate received perfect scores. All of them were Democrats, with the exception of Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. One of the lowest rated Democrats was Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota, who is ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee and got a grade of 39 percent. Seven other Democrats received scores under 50 percent.
Meanwhile, 35 lawmakers – all Republicans – received scores of zero, which the group labels as “food policy failures.” But not all from the GOP missed the mark. In addition to Murkowski’s perfect score, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine got a 75 percent rating, followed by Republican Rep. Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey with 61 percent.
Colicchio noted that they had already received a range of positive and negative calls from lawmaker’s offices since releasing the scorecard on Capitol Hill that morning. “People are starting to take notice,” Colicchio said, adding “We’re not going away.”