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The Biden-Harris Administration announced its goal to eliminate hunger in America, improve diet and physical activity, and reduce diet-related disease by 2030 during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on Sept. 28, 2022 – the first such conference in over 50 years.
The goal is based on five pillars of strategic action:
- Improve food access and affordability.
- Integrate nutrition and health.
- Empower all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices.
- Support physical activity for all.
- Enhance nutrition and food security research.
President Joe Biden also shared three foundational principles for the goal.
“Help more Americans access the food that will keep their families nourished and healthy, lot of food deserts out there. Second, give folks the option and information they need to make healthy dietary choices. Thirdly help Americans be more physically active, people want to be, lots of times there are no places to go to be active from where they live,” Biden said in his opening remarks.
Let’s explore the outcomes of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.
Improve Food Access and Affordability
The White House’s national strategy calls for increasing access to free and nourishing school meals, with a frequent call for universal lunch for all students mentioned several times throughout the conference panels.
“By offering [universal school meals], we would cut out the stigma, we’d cut out the lunch debt. No teachers would be hounding the kids, no managers would be calling up those parents. No manager in the line would be taking the tray away from Johnny, his favorite meal of spaghetti and giving him a bologna sandwich,” said Donna Martin, Director of School Nutrition Programs at Burke County Public Schools in Georgia.
Also included in Pillar 1 in the national strategy is:
- Providing Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) benefits to more children
- Expanding Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility to more underserved populations is also included in the strategy.
- Increase funding for the Older Americans Act (OAA) nutrition programs.
- Make it easier for eligible individuals to access federal food, human services, and health assistance programs such as SNAP, WIC, and Medicaid.
- Modernize federal programs so enrolled individuals can more easily utilize benefits.
- Leverage housing and other community programs to increase food access.
- Improve transportation options to and from grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and commercial districts.
Increase historically underserved communities’ access to affordable and healthy foods.
- Reduce barriers to food recovery and improve access to emergency food, including during natural disasters.
Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack also highlighted a key proposal of the strategy, to ensure all Americans are financially secure, including through a child tax credit.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to continuing progress in reducing food insecurity for American households by pushing for Congress to permanently extend the expanded, fully refunded CTC and expanded Earned Income Tax Credit,” according to the national strategy on hunger, nutrition and health. “The Administration will continue to work with Congress to: raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; close the Medicaid coverage gap; invest in affordable, high-quality child care; and expand the Housing Choice Voucher program to ensure low-income families, older adults, and people with disabilities can afford decent, safe, accessible, and sanitary housing.”
Integrate Nutrition and Health
To integrate nutrition and health, the national strategy calls for working with Congress to pilot coverage of medically tailored meals in Medicare and testing Medicaid coverage of nutrition education and other nutrition supports using Medicaid.
Further, a goal is to also expand Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries’ access to nutrition and obesity counseling.
Pillar 2 also looks to:
- Increase access to nutrition-related services through private insurance and federal programs beyond Medicare and Medicaid.
- Better support prevention and management of diabetes.
- Support wellness and nutritional care for children, especially those from low-income families.
- Universally screen for food insecurity in federal health care systems. Incentivize payors and providers to screen for food insecurity and other SDoH, too.
- Supporting data infrastructure for food insecurity and other SDOH screenings. At a conference panel on cultivating community development and advancing health equity to improve nutrition and health, panelists discussed the importance of investing in the communities to better assist people experiencing things like food insecurity and housing insecurity.
- Comprehensively address food insecurity among Veterans.
- Bolster the health care workforce, including nutrition professionals, and ensure other medical professionals receive nutrition education.
“Receiving health care to help prevent, treat, and manage diet-related diseases can optimize Americans’ well-being and reduce health care costs. However, access to and coverage for this care varies significantly,” the national strategy mentions.
Empower All Consumers to Make and Have Access to Healthy Choices
The Biden-Harris administration proposes a front-of-package labeling scheme for food packages.
The strategy also proposes to update the nutrition criteria for the “healthy” claim on food packages expanding incentives for fruits and vegetables in SNAP and facilitating sodium reduction in the food supply by issuing longer-term, voluntary sodium targets for industry.
“Most consumers are familiar with the iconic Nutrition Facts label, which the FDA recently updated with a refreshed design and additional information such as added sugars. But, consumers may not always understand information on food labels or have access to it when shopping online,” according to the national strategy.
Growing partnerships to expand local food options was encouraged during the conference.
Ideas included partnering local farmers partnering with schools to provide nutritious foods, as well as further bolstering local food systems to offer healthy food, strengthen local economies, and support farmers and ranchers.
“When it comes to procuring local food from these farms in the neighborhood, there’s going to be so many different obstacles that pop up and I think that the USDA should expand their funding for some of these programs and allow it to be easier for farmers to sell to schools and for schools to buy from farms,” said Phoebe Wong, student at College of the Holy Cross.
The national strategy for Pillar 3 also aims to:
- Adequately fund HHS FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) to prioritize its nutrition and labeling work.
- Facilitate making nutrition information easily available when grocery shopping online.
- Facilitate lowering added sugar consumption.
- Expand access to healthier environments in federal facilities.
- Address marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages.
- Leverage federal nutrition assistance programs to promote healthy habits.
- Create healthier food retail, restaurant, and college campus environments.
- Increase access to local food to better connect people to nutritious foods.
- Support regular updates to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and carry out a national education campaign.
- Develop tailored nutrition education.
Support Physical Activity for All
The national strategy aims to support physical activity for all by expanding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) State Physical Activity and Nutrition Program to all states and territories to implement successful state and community-level policies and activities for physical activity.
Another goal for the administration is to invest in efforts to connect people to parks and other outdoor spaces, as well as fund regular updates to and promotion of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Pillar 4 also entails:
- Promote active transportation and land use policies to support physical activity.
- Support physical activity among children both in and out of school.
- Tailor physical activity messages to resonate with specific demographic groups.
- Facilitate physical activity in federal facilities.
“Personal efforts to be physically active can be made easier or harder by the surrounding environment,” the national strategy states.
Conference panels discussed creating communities designed for activity by promoting physical activity and building communities with safer roads and greater access to parks.
Supporting physical activity for kids through promoting children’s lifelong health through physical activity in schools and communities was also highlighted.
Panelist, Ann Marie Krautheim, CEO of GENYOUth spoke of how nutrition and physical activity in schools are linked.
“[They are] essential to building high-achieving students,” Karutheim said.
Enhance Nutrition and Food Security Research
For enhancing nutrition and food security research, the national strategy calls for bolstering funding to improve metrics, data collection, and research to inform nutrition and food security policy, particularly on issues of equity and access.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to developing innovative, inclusive, impactful, and science-based, policy solutions to address nutrition and food insecurity,” according to the national strategy.
One conference panel session discussed advancing equitable research through developing innovative and inclusive policy solutions.
“There’s a number of barriers that disabled people face when they are trying to access these [food programs] and aces food in general,” said Mia Ives-Rublee, Director of the Disability Justice Initiative, Center for American Progress.
Pillar 5 also has these aims:
- Implement a coordinated federal vision for advancing nutrition science.
- Ensure diversity and inclusion in nutrition, health, and food security research.
- Expand and diversify the nutrition science workforce.
- Invest in creative new approaches to advance research regarding the prevention and treatment of diet-related diseases.
- Evaluate federal assistance programs and innovative models to understand impact and areas for improvement and scalability.
- Better understand the SDOH to help achieve health equity.
- Research the intersection of climate change, food security, and nutrition.
The Next Steps
This past summer, the White House launched a national call to action to meet the ambitious national strategy on hunger, nutrition, and health laid out by President Biden.
At the conference, the White House announced that the call yielded more than $8 billion in private- and public-sector commitments.
- Hispanic Communications Network (HCN). HCN has pledged to reach an audience of 6 million with culturally appropriate nutrition- and exercise-related content in the United States by creating new landing pages on its La Red Hispana and LatinEQUIS websites.
- YMCA. YMCA commits to serving more than 140 million meals to kids in need, teaching more than 5 million children and youth to swim, delivering sports programming to 6 million youth, and providing safe and healthy play environments to more than 4 million preschool children by 2030.
- UnidosUS. The organization will expand the Comprando Rico y Sano (Buying Healthy and Flavorful Foods) program to 25 additional community-based organizations across the United States and Puerto Rico to reduce food insecurity among Latino Americans through culturally relevant nutrition education and enrollment assistance in federal food benefits.
“Each of these commitments demonstrates the tremendous impact that is possible when all sectors of society come together in service of a common goal. The Biden-Harris Administration looks forward to working with all of these extraordinary leaders and to the many more that will come forward to end hunger and reduce diet-related disease by 2030,” according to the White House.
Advocates hope the conference was just the beginning in making systemic change to improve health.
In support of the national strategy, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has released Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
“FNS programs, staff, and research—strengthened by complimentary activities across USDA—look forward to meaningfully contributing to the goals of the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health,” according to the document. “Ending hunger and increasing healthy eating and physical activity in the U.S. by 2030 will be a game changer, putting us on a path toward fewer Americans experiencing diet-related diseases and an even more prosperous future for the country.”
Programs and services administered by the USDA FNS include:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- School Breakfast Program (SBP)
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP)
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR),
along with several others.
“People made reference to the conference you know, some 50 years ago and it was a tremendous success. SNAP, WIC, breakfast, lunch, menu labeling, so many other pieces were there and I am optimistic that we are going to have the same kind of direction that we had back then as we are now in making sure that we are leading the way in these efforts as we did all those years ago,” said US Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.
To view the full conference, visit the White House YouTube channel.
How Can You Get Involved in Improving Nutrition and Food Access?
What does food security and nutrition look like in your community?
Find out with the help of Salud America’s Health Equity Report Card!
Select your county and see details regarding food and nutrition including:
- food access
- percentage of population with SNAP Benefits
- grocery store rate
Email your Health Equity Report Card to community leaders, share it on social media, and use it to make the case to address food and nutrition insecurity where help is needed most!