The White House centers hunger for the first time in over 50 years
President Biden hopes a conference this fall will help shape the country’s food policy agenda for the next 50 years.
The White House announced on Wednesday morning a conference on food, nutrition and health this September to accelerate progress on the administration’s goal of ending hunger and increasing healthy eating and physical activity in the US by 2030.
The conference is the first of its kind since 1969 when the Nixon administration used the event to shape the country’s food policy agenda for the next 50 years.
The administration believes its efforts will help fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity and hypertension.
“This milestone event in September comes as the nation grapples with the short-term fallout of the public health and economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center, said in a statement shared with Supercreator. “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.”
Guardia added that the conference is a long-overdue opportunity to enact policies that reflect the lessons learned during the pandemic to not only end hunger but also its root causes.
Food insecurity — which the United States Department of Agriculture defines as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways — had been steadily declining since 2014 after a spike following the 2008 financial crisis until the pandemic hit.
The conference will also focus on strategies and policies to reduce obesity-related conditions like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer — among the leading causes of preventable premature death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 38 million people, including 12 million children in the US, are food insecure, according to the USDA. Many of these people are from communities of color who already faced hunger at much higher rates before the pandemic.
Data from UNICEF finds many kids are “multi-dimensionally poor” — without access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation or water — and this inequality leads to grave outcomes including, living in shelters, transitional housing or on the streets or being uninsured, in addition to food insecurity.
The organization finds that poor children are more likely to have poor academic achievement, drop out of high school and later become unemployed, experience economic hardship and be involved in the criminal justice system. And as a nation, we lose $700 billion a year — about 3.5 percent of gross domestic product — in lost productivity, worsened health and increased crime stemming from child poverty. (It's not just children and teens who are affected by hunger in America though: FRAC reports that nearly 9 million people age 50-plus are threatened by hunger every day.)
“This important conference will be a crucial step in addressing the high numbers of Americans with diet-related chronic disease, the ever-growing numbers of families experiencing food insecurity, as well as health inequities in the United States,” Kevin L. Sauer, president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a registered dietitian nutritionist, said in a statement provided to Supercreator. “The Academy has supported holding this conference and we will provide input to the White House throughout the process.”
The expanded Child Tax Credit, once the crown jewel of President Biden’s economic agenda, cut child poverty by nearly half by providing automatic direct deposits of $250 or $300 to most families per child instead of a refund when they filed their taxes. But the benefit expired at the end of 2021.
Biden initially proposed funding the tax through 2025 with the ultimate goal of making it permanent, but congressional Democrats compromised on a one-year extension to keep it in a final package that could earn the support of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has opposed the expanded CTC unless it has a work requirement and ended up killing the bill that the extension would have been included in. (FWIW, an analysis published earlier this year from Washington University in St. Louis found that the expanded CTC did not reduce employment. And although the researchers only analyzed three months of data, their findings are consistent with the bulk of evidence concerning the CTC and employment that demonstrates the monthly payments have not led to employment declines.)
A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the administration’s efforts to renew the expansion in future legislation.
The White House said the administration will host listening sessions so that it can hear from every region of the country leading up to the conference and incorporate their ideas into its national plan.
“No one should have to wonder where their next meal will come from,” Susan Rice, White House Domestic Policy Advisor said in a statement. “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.”