The White House announced the long-awaited White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, to be held in Washington this September, with the specific date yet to be announced.
As the White House announcement said: “The Biden-Harris 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.” There will be regional listening sessions, held virtually, leading up to the conference in order to gain stakeholder input on topics for the conference. The task will be to involve anti-hunger and nutrition advocates; food companies; the health care community; local, state, territorial, and Tribal governments; people with lived experiences; and all Americans to gain input on how to successfully move towards the 2030 goal.
Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) are to be commended and thanked for their tenacious efforts to secure this conference. As you may recall, $2.5 million was included in the FY 2022 final Labor-HHS Appropriations measure for this conference and said: “In preparation for the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger, and Health, HHS shall consult with other Federal agencies and report initial findings to the Committees no later than 120 days after enactment of this Act. The findings shall identify current programming that directly or indirectly impacts food and nutrition insecurity and diet-related diseases; specific statutory, regulatory, and budgetary barriers to ending hunger and improving nutrition and health in the United States and the Territories; existing examples of coordination mechanisms between Federal agencies; Federal agencies and State, local, and Tribal governments; and all levels of government and program implementers; and additional authorities or resources needed to eliminate hunger and improve nutrition and health.”
The first White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health in 1969 was the essential stepping stone for the series of nutrition initiatives by Senators George McGovern (D-SD) and Bob Dole (R-KS). They included Food Stamp reform, eliminating the purchase requirement (now SNAP); the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDIPR); expansion of school lunch and breakfast; creation of WIC. It also led to the publication of Dietary Goals for the United States, the model for the current USDA-HHS Dietary Guidelines. Then nutrition labeling and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) followed later, along with the International School Lunch Program working with President Bill Clinton. (Marshall Matz served as Counsel to both Senators McGovern and Dole.)
In announcing the White House Conference, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said: “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.”
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said: “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.”
Information about the upcoming Conference will continue to be posted at WhiteHouse.gov/HungerHealthConference.