Politics & Policy

Quinoa Apocalypse

Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio (image via Facebook)
The food movement is cooked under the Trump administration

Liberal foodies are crying in their craft beer about what’s to come under a Trump administration.

For the last eight years, the food movement — a collection of celebrity chefs, food writers, and organic-food executives — has been a star player in the Obama administration, dictating policies that range from expanding subsidized school meals to micromanaging food labels. These are the same folks who lecture us about what we should and shouldn’t eat, force-feed us the idea of local, organic, non-GMO food, and tie food production to climate change. And yes, they are mostly elites who vilify the people who make and grow our food (guess what, foodies? the farmers won).

All of that will likely end under fast-food lover President Trump. The president-elect said little about food policy on the campaign trail, but there’s plenty of reason to believe he will roll back some of the most ineffective policies and stop bad ones from advancing on his watch. The culinary elites were hoping to use food issues to promote their overall agenda of higher taxes and more regulations under a Clinton administration; that agenda is now toast.

Trump’s win curbs the political influence of top food activists, who were all-in on a Hillary Clinton victory. That includes celebrity chef Tom Colicchio (head of the liberal Food Policy Action group, which worked against Republican candidates), who stumped for Clinton in Pittsburgh the day before the election. In his rambling introduction, Colicchio slammed Ronald Reagan and said the Republican party “refuses to include everyone, that fights your right to vote, that is out there right now, making sure that people can’t vote” (if you’re a Republican, you might want to think twice about patronizing Mr. Colicchio’s pricy restaurants). His Twitter timeline is a non-stop rant against Trump and the GOP. A few days after the election, a still-stung Colicchio tweeted out, “Sure let’s rally around the racist” and compared the feeling in New York City to the days following 9/11.

Another food-movement leader, Stonyfield Farm chairman Gary Hirshberg, raised more than $600,000 for Clinton and is a close ally of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Hirshberg’s pet project is mandatory GMO (genetically modified organism) labels, and several e-mails released by WikiLeaks reveal that he lobbied hard to get Clinton to come out in favor of those labels (she did not). President Obama signed a GMO-labeling bill last summer, but the details still need to be worked out at the Department of Agriculture over the next two years, and Hirshberg was poised to get his way if Clinton won. Now there’s a chance that anti-labeling Republicans could reverse the policy altogether. And other Obama-era labeling laws pushed by food activists could be on the chopping block: The American Action Forum recommended last week that Congress repeal two costly labeling rules, including newly revised nutrition labels.

Trump could help Congress overhaul some of the foodies’ favorite programs, such as Michelle Obama’s Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The program is being heavily criticized from both sides of the aisle, and nearly five years after its enactment, there’s no evidence that kids are any healthier as a result. Schools are reporting huge increases in food waste as kids toss mandatory fruits and vegetables into the garbage can. Fat-free dairy rules and whole-grain and sodium limits make most of the food inedible.

Trump could help Congress overhaul some of the foodies’ favorite programs.

The House will consider the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act, which will ensure that federal guidelines are based on nutritional science, not the political agenda of food activists. The bill will also roll back the costly expansion of subsidized school breakfasts and lunches; under the Community Eligibility Provision, entire school districts, rather than individual families, now qualify for free meals, expanding this program to middle-class families who don’t need it and giving taxpayers the bill.

The food movement also opposes reforming the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), i.e., food stamps. Trump did talk about the high number of Americans on food stamps during the campaign, so changes to that program would probably earn his support. Next month, the House Agriculture Committee will release its findings after a two-year review of SNAP and make recommendations to improve the program, which could include block grants to states and tighter eligibility requirements. In a hearing on November 16, committee chairman K. Michael Conaway said “SNAP dollars that are used inefficiently are SNAP dollars that are not feeding people, or helping them learn about healthy eating, or helping them find work and ultimately lifting them off of the program,” signaling that tougher rules could be forthcoming. Food activists will undoubtedly fight that effort.

Foodies were also hoping to help pass a higher minimum wage and subsidies for organic farmers under a Clinton presidency, two policies that will go nowhere under President Trump. And if the foodies were hoping to make progress at the state level, that looks even more bleak. Republicans governors control at least 33 states now; 25 of those states have Republican legislatures, too. Bashing Ronald Reagan won’t get you very far there.

If foodies change their tone and approach, they might find some common ground with the GOP, including farm-subsidy reform, access to fresh produce, and efforts to limit food waste. But for now, it looks like the foodies’ agenda will go hungry the next four years.

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