Berit Christensen, RD, LD
Member, ANDPAC Board of Directors
The Academy must have a voice in Congress. You might ask, but how? The answer is the Academy’s Political Action Committee, ANDPAC.
All Academy members are represented by ANDPAC, a non-partisan political action committee broadly focused on food, nutrition and health. By supporting pro-nutrition candidates for federal office, ANDPAC voices the Academy's public policy priorities on Capitol Hill. It also provides opportunities for Academy members to interact and educate members of Congress about important nutrition issues.
ANDPAC is essential to having our voices heard and our issues kept in front of the policy makers. Without it, communicating our messages to key Congressional leaders would be very difficult. Nutrition advocates generally don't show up on political action lists, which is why ANDPAC empowers the Academy and its members to be a leader within the nutrition community.
Members of Congress hear from different nutrition "experts" every day. Registered dietitian nutritionists and dietetic technicians, registered compete with large industries, other health care professionals and other political action committees (PAC) for time with key decision makers.
In the last election period, 76 health service PACs contributed over $5 million to federal candidates. In 2009 and 2010, 109 pharmaceutical and health product PACs contributed over $15 million to federal candidates. These contributions do not reflect the other health care professional PACs associated with doctors, nurses, physical therapists, chiropractors and others who have contributed as much, if not more than ANDPAC.
How can we be heard above the noise? A Maryland Senator once explained how candidates devote their time and accrue resources. A constituent stands out when that individual starts donating their time and money to a candidate's election campaign. Additionally, those who are registered to vote and are likely to vote, grab the attention of candidates. Donating your time and money to a campaign distinguishes your voice from another person or group. The same is true for PACs, which is why the Academy created ANDPAC to represent our members and our issues on Capitol Hill.
Thanks to ANDPAC, I had the opportunity to introduce U.S. Senator Ben Cardin at the Maryland Academy annual meeting. I had visited Sen. Cardin’s office several times but never had significant face to face time with him. During the event, I shared with him the process of becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist and our message of optimizing the public's health through food and nutrition legislation. We also discussed nutrition bills important to Academy members. ANDPAC provided Academy members, like me, the opportunity to start a dialogue about nutrition policy with the Senator in his home state.
The political climate is competitive for both candidates and interest groups who want to be heard. ANDPAC is essential to having our voice heard in this environment and providing us -- the nutrition experts -- the opportunity to set the table.
Your involvement and donation to ANDPAC is important for face to face opportunities with key decision makers in Congress. Work with your affiliate Public Policy Coordinator if you would like to attend or host a local fundraising event to support a federal candidate.
If dietetics is your profession, then policy should be your passion!