For the first time in over 50 years, the White House will host a conference on hunger, nutrition, and health this September. The conference and the preparatory work leading up to it will accelerate progress and drive significant change to end hunger, improve nutrition and physical activity, reduce diet-related disease, and close the disparities around them.
The first White House conference on hunger held in 1969 was a game-changer in identifying effective solutions for addressing hunger, shares Luis Guardia, president, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). It led to the creation of proven federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, school meals and the Special Supplemental Feeding Program for Women, Infants and Children.
The Biden administration has set a goal of ending hunger and increasing healthy eating and physical activity in the U.S. by 2030 so that fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases, such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension. In a statement from the White House, it says the conference will galvanize action by anti-hunger and nutrition advocates; food companies; the health care community; local, state, territorial and Tribal governments; people with lived experiences; and all Americans, and it will launch a national plan outlining how the administration plans to achieve this goal.
“Hunger, diet-related disease, and the disparities surrounding them impact millions of Americans, and the COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the urgency of addressing these issues. No one should have to wonder where their next meal will come from. We must take bold steps now—with government, the private sector, non-profits and communities working together—to build a healthier future for every American,” says Ambassador Susan E. Rice, domestic policy adviser.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says USDA is proud to be a partner as the administration works on a whole-of-government effort to end hunger and increase healthy eating by 2030.
“For our country and our children to reach their highest potential, we must not only keep food on the table, but also aim for everyone to enjoy nutritious and affordable food that contributes to their overall health. The Biden-Harris administration is committed to tackling both food and nutrition insecurity in order to prevent the diet-related diseases that plague our country, address health disparities in underserved communities and give all Americans a chance for a healthy future,” says Vilsack.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra adds that tackling food insecurity is key to boosting our nation’s health.
“Our understanding of science and social determinants that affect nutrition and physical activity has evolved in the past five decades, and it is high time we prioritize nutrition more for the sake of saving lives. As we prepare to gather for this conference, HHS—in partnership with federal agencies—continues to make new discoveries tied to healthy eating and physical activity, and advance guidance and policy to reduce type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension. Strengthening access to affordable and healthy food cuts down on chronic disease and helps us advance health equity for all Americans,” she says.
“This milestone event in September comes as the nation grapples with the short- and long-term fallout of the public health and economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has only deepened America’s hunger crisis while shining a light on the racial disparities that have existed for far too long in this country,” adds Guardia. “We appreciate the bipartisan effort that House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern, D-Mass., spearheaded to make this initiative a reality. It is urgent for our nation to enact effective and equitable policies that end hunger and its root causes now and for the future.”
Leading up to the Conference, the Biden administration will host listening sessions to hear from every region of the country. Anyone with ideas will soon be able to share their stories to help inform the national plan. For more information, visit WhiteHouse.gov/HungerHealthConference.
National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern says the dairy industry looks forward to the conversation on ending hunger and increasing healthy eating and physical activity, adding dairy products -- and the 13 essential nutrients they provide -- are a key ingredient in this effort.
“The Dietary Guidelines for Americans shows that dietary patterns including dairy are associated with beneficial health outcomes, including lowered risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. The dietary guidelines also identify dairy products as a critical source of calcium, potassium and vitamin D, three of the four nutrients of public health concern, and note that dairy is under-consumed across all age categories," Mulhern says. “NMPF looks forward to working with the White House and both public and private partners toward advancing these incredibly important goals as we work to ensure all Americans have access to healthy food.”
FRAC says it looks forward to collaborating with a myriad of people and organizations at the national, state and community level to bring attention to the reality of hunger and the policy solutions that exist.
This is why FRAC says it is encouraging broad, diverse participation in the White House’s forthcoming listening sessions this summer, which will be open to the public. In the meantime, FRAC will work with advocates and individuals across the country to share stories on how anti-hunger programs and policies have provided much-needed nutrition support and can be further improved in recommendations for the conference via the White House website.
“We know federal nutrition programs alone can’t solve hunger. We need broad-based solutions that address the root causes of hunger, such as inadequate wages and lack of affordable housing, among other barriers. The fact is no one should have to choose between putting food on the table and other basic necessities,” Guardia says.