Tom Colicchio and the Environmental Working Group have launched a final push against a controversial version of the Farm Bill that the House of Representatives is currently trying to pass. As it stands (and after a yearlong delay because Congress couldn’t get it together to renew the bill before it expired in 2012), the House’s draft contains $20.5 billion in cuts to food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) — just over half of the overall savings in the bill.
While the chef-cum-lobbyist is mad about the cuts to welfare programs, he and his EWG peers are even angrier about the trillion dollars in kickbacks headed towards corporate farmers at the cost of SNAP — an issue on which even DC’s conservative groups agree.
Colicchio and his wife, filmmaker Lori Silverbush, spent the last year promoting their documentary A Place At The Table to bring attention to hunger in America, and during a conference call full of insider jargon (amendment process, what what), we asked the Top Chef judge about the public’s perception of the cuts to SNAP.
“I think that there’s a misperception around the farm bill,” the publicly political chef noted. “Quite frankly, I think there are a lot of scare tactics being used. You constantly hear things like ‘Lottery winners are using SNAP!’…or like, ‘people are walking into liquor stores buying beer and cigarettes.’ And that’s not true.” He went on to clarify:
“The majority of people who are receiving SNAP are working, or from families that are working. The majority of SNAP is going out to children and the elderly. I think there’s a lot that needs to be done to change the perception of who is receiving SNAP and how it’s being used, and I think we have a long way to go. But I think it’s really disingenuous for members of Congress to put this information out there, and that it’s widely accepted.”
Whether the public can actually be rallied to affect the outcome of the vote is a totally different story, though: the five-year omnibus Farm Bill will be voted on this week, and the Wall Street Journal predicts that despite the near-universal think tank opposition to the House’s version of bill in general (though not to the specifics), it will likely pass.
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