Tom Colicchio wants every child to taste an apple by the age of three. That’s just one of the many odd comments the celebrity chef and restauranteur makes in a new video for his liberal political action committee (PAC), Food Policy Action. Over the past several years, Colicchio has worked really hard to position himself as a political mover-and-shaker. He endorsed Hillary Clinton and introduced her at a rally in Pittsburgh the day before the election (didn’t help).
Last summer, he visited the Republican and Democratic conventions to promote his “Plate of the Union” campaign, passing out free nibbles from a food truck while urging lawmakers to make food policy a priority. He has testified on Capitol Hill for mandatory genetically modified food labels and against any cuts to subsidized school meals.
The Twitter timeline of this temperamental chef is a nonstop rant against President Trump and Republicans. (He tweeted me the day after the election, demanding to know where Trump stood on climate change and what I told my two daughters about Trump’s election. Then he blocked me.)
Colicchio is rounding up his foodie friends, many of whom were pals with the Obamas but are now marginalized by the GOP, to fight the administration and Congress over the 2018 Farm Bill, a massive piece of legislation that directs spending on hundreds of programs from crop insurance to food stamps. This bureaucratic behemoth is renegotiated every five years; the 2014 farm bill cost nearly $500 billion.
In his video, the same guy who charges $275 for an eight-ounce Wagyu beef filet at his Las Vegas steakhouse says that “providing good, healthy, affordable and safe food is not just my job, it’s my passion.” Colicchio declares “we all have a right to healthy food” and accuses the Trump administration of putting “Big Ag and their profits ahead of health, safety and consumers.”
Foodie Policies Hurt Average Americans
Colicchio lives in some alternative universe that does not reflect the reality of America, where most of us have quick access to the cheapest, safest, and most abundant food supply in the world. Instead, Colicchio bemoans how “healthy food should not be a luxury afforded to a few or for those who live near farmer’s markets. A tomato shouldn’t cost more than a fast food burger.” A tomato does not cost more than a fast food burger, except maybe in Manhattan, where the chef resides.
In April, Colicchio visited House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers in DC to lobby for his liberal policy agenda. He manages to tie every issue from immigration to national security back to food. He told MSNBC that our system “doesn’t support food that we eat. We are really great at producing corn and soy, but we’re not great when it comes to producing food that’s nutritious that people want to eat.” Must be news to American ranchers and fishermen, not to mention all the wheat, citrus, vegetable, potato, and nut farmers across the country.
What’s galling about Colicchio is he professes to be a champion of affordable-food-for-all but pushes ideas that will raise the price of food, limit consumer choice, and prevent farmers from using technologies like genetic engineering that boost crop yields. For example, Colicchio is demanding federal funding for organic agriculture in the Farm Bill: “We can counter abundant pesticide use by diverting some of our tax dollars from supporting chemically intensive conventional crops…to supporting organic agriculture, giving farmers greater incentives and assistance to ease the transition to organic production.”
This is not only a bad idea but contradictory to Colicchio’s professed goals. Organic food is more expensive. Organic food is not healthier or more nutritious. And there are reasons American farmers refuse to grow organic crops (only about 1 percent of U.S. farmland is dedicated to organic crops): it’s more labor-intensive, time-consuming, and produces lower yields. Contrary to the wistful, “locally-grown” appeal of organic food, most of it is imported here from Mexico, Eastern Europe, and South America.
Give This Guy a Reality Check, Please
Colicchio’s false claims about dangerous pesticide use on non-organic crops may actually prevent lower-income people from buying fruits and vegetables. Some recent studies find poor people may avoid purchasing fruits or vegetables if they can’t afford the organic version because they believe regular produce is full of harmful pesticides. Organic farms do use pesticides, just non-synthetic types, but Colicchio and his foodie buddies insist on peddling an organic fantasyland where weeds never grow and farmers tenderly pick tiny bugs off plants with their bare hands before releasing them unto a rainbow sky where they live happily ever after.
The chef’s long knives will also be out to defend Michelle Obama’s school lunch program (he thinks school lunch should be free “across the board”) and the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which he says needs to be “more robust.” He and his foodie fighters want more subsidies for fruit and vegetable growers and higher wages for farm workers. Kinda funny from a guy who just closed his second restaurant in New York City in less than a year and blamed skyrocketing rents, which are mostly due to that city’s labyrinth of taxes and government regulations.
Colicchio’s agenda is not really a food fight; it’s just another big-government mandate dressed up in kale and quinoa.