WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Wednesday his administration's goal of ending hunger in the U.S. by the end of the decade was ambitious but doable, if only the nation would work together toward achieving it.
(click below to watch the President's remarks)
Click here to read the White House plan that indicates the U.S. faces an urgent, nutrition-related health crisis.
“I know we can do this," Biden told an auditorium full of public health officials, private companies and Americans who have experienced hunger. They were gathered for the first White House conference on hunger, nutrition and health since 1969.
It was the president at his most optimistic, sketching out a future where no child in the U.S. would go hungry, and diet-related diseases would diminish because of better, healthier food alternatives and access to vast outdoor spaces.
“That’s why we’re here today, to harness our greatest resource: Our fellow Americans," Biden said. “Everyone, everyone has an important role to play.”
The 1969 conference, hosted President Richard Nixon, was a pivotal moment that influenced the U.S. food policy agenda for 50 years. It led to a major expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, and gave rise to the Women, Infants and Children program, which serves half the babies born in the U.S. by providing their mothers with parenting advice, breastfeeding support and food assistance.
And yet, 10% of U.S. households in 2021 suffered food insecurity, meaning they were uncertain they could get enough food to feed themselves or their families because they lacked money or resources for food, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Scientific advances have helped Americans better understand how the foods they eat contribute to disease. One of the administration’s goals is to decrease obesity and diet-related disease like diabetes and hypertension through better promotion of healthy eating, good nutrition and physical activity.
Some of the conference attendees have known hunger. Jimmieka Mills, co-founder of Equitable Spaces, a nonprofit that connects those working on hunger solutions with people who have experienced hunger, said it was “an historic opportunity for us to learn directly from those impacted.”
She spoke of growing up and experiencing first-hand the impact of poverty, hunger and homelessness.
“I know what it’s like to not know where your next meal will come from," she said, adding she wanted solutions so that no one in the “country with the most abundant food system in the world ever goes hungry again.”
Before the kickoff, the administration released a list of more than $8 billion in commitments to the cause from private companies, charitable foundations and industry groups. They range from outright donations to in-kind contributions of services and include:
—A $20 million commitment from the Novo Nordisk pharmaceutical company to improve access to healthy foods and safe spaces for physical activity in marginalized communities.
—A $3.85 million commitment from the Publix grocery store chain to supply food to local food banks and establish free mobile food pantries.
—$22 million from the Danone food company to fund a program to help “at least 300 million Americans to build healthier dietary habits.”
—A commitment from the Meijer grocery store chain to offer up to a 10% discount to incentivize users of the SNAP program to buy fruits and vegetables.
While Biden is touting the successful buy-in campaign from the private sector, some of the strongest potential obstacles to his proposals lie in the increasingly partisan Congress.
Proposed policy changes include an expansion of SNAP eligibility, expanding access to free meals in schools and extending summer meal benefits to more schoolchildren. All of those changes would require congressional approval.
The president called on Congress, too, to revive and make permanent the expanded child tax credit that has expired. The number of children in America living in poverty jumped dramatically after just one month without the expanded child tax credit payment.
“Meeting our bold goals requires a whole of government approach ... And a whole of society effort," he said.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is laying out its plan to meet an ambitious goal of ending hunger in the U.S. by 2030, including expanding monthly benefits that help low-income Americans buy food.
The administration, in a plan released Tuesday, is also seeking to increase healthy eating and physical activity so that fewer people are afflicted with diabetes, obesity, hypertension and other diet-related diseases. It said it would work to expand Medicaid and Medicare access to obesity counseling and nutrition.
“The consequences of food insecurity and diet-related diseases are significant, far reaching, and disproportionately impact historically underserved communities,” Biden wrote in a memo outlining the White House strategy. “Yet, food insecurity and diet-related diseases are largely preventable, if we prioritize the health of the nation.”
Biden is hosting a conference this week on hunger, nutrition and health, the first by the White House since 1969. That conference, under President Richard Nixon, was a pivotal moment that influenced the U.S. food policy agenda for 50 years. It led to a greatly expanded food stamps program and gave rise to the Women, Infants and Children program, which serves half the babies born in the U.S. by providing women with parenting advice, breastfeeding support and food assistance.
Noreen Springstead, executive director of the anti-hunger organization WhyHunger, said the whole-of-government nature of the summit will hopefully produce greater alignment across the multiple federal agencies that deal with hunger issues — from the USDA and Health and Human Services to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. That, ideally, would help Biden “set the North Star that nutritious food is a human right for all people.”
Springstead noted that a truly comprehensive approach to hunger and nutrition would have to include a major commitment from charities and philanthropic foundations. It would also likely include raising baseline salaries and employers paying their workers "wages that are livable so that they’re not standing in a food line.”
Over the years, cuts to federal programs coupled with stigmas over welfare and big changes to how food and farming systems are run have prompted declines in access to food.
Biden, a Democrat, is hoping this week's conference is similarly transformative. But the goal of Nixon, a Republican, also was “to put an end to hunger in America for all time.”
And yet 10% of U.S. households in 2021 suffered food insecurity, meaning they were uncertain they could get enough food to feed themselves or their families because they lacked money or resources for food, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
To succeed, Biden needs buy-in from the private sector and an increasingly partisan Congress. Some of the goals sound reminiscent of former first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative to tackle childhood obesity and promote healthy eating. The conference also will highlight the need for access to better, healthier food and exercise.
In response to the Biden plan's release, Partnership for a Healthy America hailed the emphasis on nutrition and health, saying that simply providing more food without prioritizing nutritional value would simply create different problems.
"We applaud the administration’s stated desire to shift from a mindset of treating diet-related diseases to preventing them from occurring in the first place," the organization said in a statement.
Biden said in his memo that over the past 50 years, “we have learned so much more about nutrition and the role that healthy eating plays in how our kids perform in the classroom and about nutrition and its linkages to disease prevention.”
Under the White House plan, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program eligibility would be expanded, children would get better access to free meals, and summer benefits would be extended to more schoolkids. Such changes would require congressional approval.
The other tenets of the strategy include the development of new food packaging to truth-check the “healthy” claims for some products, expanding SNAP incentives to select fruits and vegetables, providing more programs to encourage people to get outside and move, and boosting funding for research.