Advocacy in Action: A Day with Chefs on Capitol Hill

Chef advocates join No Kid Hungry for a day of advocacy on Capitol Hill

Last week I had the opportunity to step out from behind my computer and away from my desk for a day of activism in action on Capitol Hill. Walking alongside 15 chefs, I witnessed in person the kind of advocacy that changes hearts and minds and leads to the type of policy change that can impact the lives of millions of families and children. 

For more than thirty years, the culinary community has been the not-so-secret ingredient to our organization’s mission to end hunger. It might not be immediately obvious why chefs are some of our staunchest supporters, but it makes sense. They’re in the business of feeding people. They know and appreciate the power of food. And they’re real people with real stories and real experiences, some of which include facing food insecurity themselves.

On June 21, they brought those stories to Washington, DC for our annual Culinary Advocacy Day where they answered the “why” behind their reason for advocating for smart SNAP policy. 

SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is one of our nation’s most powerful tools to end hunger. There’s data to back that up. And this year, Congress has the opportunity to protect and strengthen SNAP in the Farm Bill, a roughly once-every-five-years piece of legislation that governs a wide array of food and farm programs.  

Our chef advocates come from many backgrounds. Some are on the rise, opening their first businesses. Others are household names who frequent our TV screens on popular cooking shows and competitions. And some might be behind your favorite dishes at your local restaurant. But they all have one thing in common: their infectious passion for the power of food and their compassion for those in our community who need support and resources, not more red tape from Washington. 

The influence of their voices as constituents can’t be overstated. Numbers, data and policy analyses have their place, but they don’t compare to the compelling call-to-action a voting member in a district or state can deliver to someone they have the power to elect.

These are the voices that put the urgency behind the need to protect SNAP benefits, which are only around $6 a day per person, and the voices that ring the alarm that SNAP recipients aren’t allowed to buy prepared meals like rotisserie chicken with their benefits. What chef can curate a meal for that price? What parent can purchase enough food for their family for that amount? Who doesn’t deserve the convenience and option to buy the types of groceries they need with dignity?

These are the real-life scenarios that Congress needs to hear. Sitting in conference rooms (and reception areas and hallways - these meetings happened everywhere!), the exchanges between members of Congress, their staff and our advocates was moving and inspiring. Some shared personal experiences from when their families used SNAP to get by. Others spoke about growing up in families living just on the brink of needing SNAP benefits - one emergency room visit or car engine repair away from needing help. And some shared how ending childhood hunger matters to them as business owners, employers and community members who care about the issues affecting their cities and hometowns.

These are the stories that Congress needs to hear, and they need to hear from you, their constituents, too. 

For those who feel like their voice, their ability to make change, is too small or too insignificant, I want to assure you that you are no different from the chefs I walked the halls of Congress with last week. You have the power to make real change in the lives of your family, your neighbors, your community, your state and your nation. 

It’s aspirational, sure, but it’s also achievable. We’ve always believed that childhood hunger is a solvable problem. And solving it requires political will, which depends on all of our voices in the conversation. 


I’m grateful for this community of advocates who have shown up in the halls of Congress almost every year since we began hosting these events nearly a decade ago. And I’m thankful for this year’s participants fighting to protect and strengthen SNAP:

  • Karen Akunowicz, Chef & Owner, Fox & the Knife, Boston, MA
  • Auzerais Bellamy, Chef & Owner, Blondery, Peeksill, NY
  • Michael Fojasek, Chef & Owner, Olamaie, Little Ola’s, Maie Day, Austin, TX
  • Nelson German, Executive Chef & Owner, alaMar Kitchen & Bar and Sobre Mesa, Oakland, CA 
  • Dan Jacobs, Co-Executive Chef & Co-Owner, DanDan & EsterEv, Milwaukee, WI
  • Micah Klasky, Executive Chef, 21c Museum Hotels Bentonville, AR  
  • Rebecca Masson, Chef & Owner, Fluff Bake Bar, Houston, TX
  • Ryan Nitschke, Executive Chef & Owner, Luna Fargo, Sol Ave Kitchen and Nova Eatery, Fargo, ND 
  • Josh Poling, Chef & Owner, Hickory & Oak, Bowling Green, KY 
  • Kevin Scharpf, Chef & Owner, Brazen Reserve, Brazen Open Kitchen + Bar, Otto's, and Co-Founder, Project Rooted, Dubuque, IA
  • Reginald Scott, Chef & Owner, The Smoke by Chef Reginald Scott, Houston, TX
  • Paola Valez, Bakers Against Racism, Washington, DC
  • Luke Venner, Chef, Elm Restaurant, New Canaan, CT
  • Emily Ward, Co-Owner of Southern Belle and Georgia Boy, Atlanta, GA
  • Joey Ward, Chef & Owner of Southern Belle and Georgia Boy, Atlanta, GA