A new consumer-oriented research and lobbying organization, guided by a cast of nationally known Democrats that includes former senator George McGovern, has been formed here as a partial response to Reagan administration food and health policies.
Public Voice for Food & Health Policy, a national membership organization set up and headed by Ellen Haas, intends to monitor federal food policy activities, lobby and conduct public education campaigns.
Although Haas said Public Voice will be nonpartisan, she indicated that its formation was prompted in part by the administration's policies on food safety, nutrition assistance and agricultural subsidies.
"Overall, in food and health, this administration has not been particularly responsive to the public and it has cut off avenues of public access in policy-making in a number of areas," she said. "There have been drastic cuts in food assistance programs at a time when joblessness is high."
She said, "Consumers spent the 1970s building positions on issues and the time has come now to work on educating the public, to communicate more effectively about those issues -- both with and for consumers."
"We are going to focus on education, dealing with government programs like agricultural supports that inflate prices without really helping the farmer, such as in the dairy program . . . sugar price supports . . . the loosening of public-health protections in meat and poultry inspections," Haas said.
Public Voice's board of directors, still being formed, includes McGovern, who chaired a Senate nutrition committee; Bob Bergland, who was secretary of agriculture in the Carter administration; Esther Peterson, who was consumer affairs adviser to presidents Carter and Johnson, and Ann Brown of Americans for Democratic Action.
Others include Carol Tucker Foreman, who was an assistant secretary of agriculture in the Carter administration; Susan Sechler, a Department of Agriculture economist under Bergland, and Peggy Charren, of Action for Children's TV (ACT).
Haas most recently has been director of the Community Nutrition Institute's consumer division. She will continue as president of the Consumer Federation of America while overseeing Public Voice.