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A new scorecard created by Food Policy Action (FPA) provides a simple way to find out how your representatives in the U.S. Congress measure up on sound food policy.

FPA, a project of Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released its 2013 National Food Policy Scorecard, which ranks each member of the Senate and House by their votes on food issues.

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Senators were graded on six votes and House members on 13 votes related to hunger, food aid, food labels and farm subsidies. An advisory council of food policy experts chose which votes are relevant and should be scored. The FPA board of directors approved those choices.

The scorecard is in the form of an interactive map. Click on a state to see the rankings of each member of Congress. Or enter your ZIP code in the search box. Click on the legislator's name to see how they voted on individual bills, such as an amendment that would have ensured states the right to label any food containing genetically engineered ingredients. Another click provides more information on the bills and how other colleagues voted.

Another part of the scorecard allows you to see all members of Congress, with sorting tools available by party, score, district and other characteristics. Another feature shows House and Senate votes by bill.

FPA compiled lists of what they call Good Food Champions in the Senate and in the House. Eighty-seven members of Congress—73 House members and 14 senators—received perfect scores.

“Few things have as much of an impact on our lives as food,” Tom Colicchio, owner of Craft Restaurants and FPA board member, said. “That’s especially true for the families who don’t have enough to eat. Until now, voters had no simple way to find out whether their lawmakers voted to cut or protect food assistance for the neediest Americans. Thanks to the FPA scorecard, now they know.”

Launched last year, FPA is the first national organization to publish an annual scorecard that grades lawmakers on congressional food policy votes. 

“This scorecard, the second FPA has issued, provides compelling evidence that food policy need not be a partisan issue,” said Ken Cook, FPA board chair and EWG president. “Many Republicans—including Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins—scored better than their Democratic colleagues. There is no question but that food has become more political in 2013. Hardly a day goes by when policymakers aren’t debating whether to cut SNAP, the food stamp program, reform farm subsidies, roll back food safety standards, reduce the use of antibiotics, pay food workers a living wage or set standards for the humane treatment of farm animals.”

Visit EcoWatch’s FOOD page for more related news on this topic.

Michele Simon

Last year, I wrote about this topic out of frustration that lists like this one tend to neglect an entire profession. It seems one year later, this serious omission continues to persist. And just to prove my point, my 2013 list does not repeat any of the lawyers I listed in 2012, but be sure to check them out too as they are still deserving of the recognition.

1) Janelle Orsi, executive director of the Sustainable Economies Law Center, which hosts regular “legal cafes” to offer free advice for small farmers, food entrepreneurs and others creating positive alternatives. While their work is localized to California, it’s a wonderful model to follow. (See her book, Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy). @JanelleOrsi

2) On the other side of the country, a similar project is happening at a little place called the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. The clinic offers free legal advice to individuals as well as communities seeking to make policy change.

3) Jason Foscolo is a food law attorney based in New York, providing “legal counsel for farmers and food entrepreneurs.” Foscolo is on the cutting edge of a burgeoning legal specialty. His blog, co-authored by other up-and-coming food lawyers, is always informative and provocative. @FoodLawAttorney

4) Jean Terranova, based in the Boston area, is also forging new ground bringing attention to the practice of food law while working with the Harvard clinic. Be sure to follow Terranova’s list of food lawyers on Twitter, since I can’t even fit them all here. @JeanTerranova

5) Fare Grange Law is providing legal services in Minneapolis to “sustainable, local, non-GMO and organic farm businesses, independent food entrepreneurs, and good food advocacy groups.” @FareGrangeLaw.

6) Ted Mermin is executive director of an innovative firm called Public Good Law Center in Berkeley. Mermin is my go-to expert on First Amendment law and advertising. Last year, he co-authored an important article on regulating junk food marketing to children.

7) Reece Richman is a small but powerful law firm based in New York City that is suing the likes of Coca-Cola, General Mills and PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay over deceptive marketing practices. As I wrote about recently, many of these cases are gaining momentum. Stay tuned for more cutting-edge litigation holding industry accountable.

8) George Kimbrell is senior attorney at Center for Food Safety, one of very few advocacy groups that uses litigation as a tool to improve the food system. Kimbrell’s legal team recently won an important victory when a federal court ordered the Food and Drug Administration to release delayed food safety regulations as required by statute. @TrueFoodNow

9) An often overlooked but powerful tool is that of state attorneys general and city attorney offices, both of which can file consumer deception cases against companies engaging in misleading advertising. For example, the city of San Francisco is suing Monster for marketing energy drinks to kids, while several attorney general offices (including New York) are also investigating this issue.

10) Baylen Linnekin is executive director of Keep Food Legal. While I disagree with most of his agenda, I respect Linnekin’s philosophy, which is refreshingly not motivated by economic self-interest. We do agree on supporting small-scale and local food alternatives such as food trucks. @BaylenLinnekin

Visit EcoWatch’s FOOD page for more related news on this topic.

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