October 27, 2022

Takeaways of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health

Takeaways of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health

By: Sydney Sheffield

At the end of September, the Biden Administration held the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The event ties into one of the administration’s goals to end hunger in America by 2030 through proposed legislation, regulatory changes, and public-private partnerships. This is the first time in over 50 years a conference of this kind has taken place.

During the conference, the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health was released. The strategy includes 5 goals:

1.     Improving food access and affordability

2.     Integrating nutrition and health

3.     Empowering all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices

4.     Supporting physical activity for all,

5.     Enhancing nutrition and food security research,

The strategy also notes that real change cannot happen without the help of the private sector, state, Tribal, local, and territory governments, academia, and nonprofit and community groups. Companies showed commitment to the strategy, with Tyson Foods committing $250 million over seven years to increase protein products at food banks. Agriculture groups, such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCAB) were present at the conference and eager to provide representation for American beef.

“The White House has prioritized ending hunger and increasing access to nutritious food and America’s cattle producers are ready to help by providing safe, sustainable, and nutritious protein to the world,” said NCBA CEO Colin Woodall. “We will continue to highlight beef’s role as an excellent source of protein for all ages, especially for those Americans lacking iron and other essential beef nutrients.”

The conference came amid rising food inflation, the end of pandemic benefits that staved off hunger rates, and storms on both coasts threatening the food security of millions. However, many of the commitments and plans were seen as part of a partisan agenda. Five Republican members of the House sent a letter to White House Director of Domestic Policy Susan Rice, stating, “What began with a promise to engage stakeholders in a bipartisan process has deteriorated into a partisan gathering lacking the direction and clarity needed to drive significant, long-lasting change.”

In response to the claims of a partisan agenda, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told NPR, "There's clearly support for looking at food as medicine, there's clearly support for addressing nutrition to get you to better health, there's clearly support for more fitness for all Americans. To me, those are nonpartisan issues. There are any number of people who are suffering from diabetes, heart disease, and I guarantee you they have Ds and Rs back behind their name."

Other critics believe that the conference did not go far enough to address the real issues relating to food and hunger. Michael Fakhri, professor at the University of Organ School of Law and UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food said, “They don’t talk about the [roots of the] problem. Structural inequality is the underlying cause of hunger. Time and time again the problem is governments that don’t listen to their people. The people are speaking, the people are organizing, the people are mobilizing. Now the challenge is for governments to listen to their people.”

Check out the White House’s fact Sheet, which details the list of commitments from different sectors, here.