Tomorrow, the White House is hosting the first conference in over 50 years that focuses on food, nutrition, and health. With the ambitious goal of ending hunger and diet-related disease by 2030, President Biden and his team of Cabinet Secretaries, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, have released a national strategy today. It includes five pillars addressing the challenges we face in meeting the stated hunger and nutrition goals. Check out the strategy here.
We listened in on the White House call today and were pleased to hear that the strategy has come together through input from diverse stakeholders from across the country – farmers, academics, food justice, social services, and other actors in the food sector.
The strategy is jam packed with activities and actions for federal agencies, Congress, local leaders, and community-based organizations. Here are a few that caught our attention:
- Advance a pathway to free healthy school meals for all. This is a big one! The plan suggests going beyond free school meals and taking a “healthy meals for all” approach to reorient the school meal programs to make it an integral component of the school day. This approach also helps with expanding efforts to increase access to local and regional food systems which benefits kids and farmers.
- Support food sovereignty, improve access to traditional foods, and ensure Tribal communities are equitably served in federal programs. Despite the highest rates of diet-related disease, American Indians and Alaska Native populations face barriers in utilizing federal nutrition programs which directly address diet-related health issues.
- Expand Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to “food is medicine” interventions. “Food is medicine” interventions—such as produce prescriptions (fruit and vegetable prescriptions or vouchers provided by medical professionals for people struggling with diet-related diseases or food insecurity)—can effectively treat or prevent diet-related health conditions and reduce food insecurity.
- Create healthier food retail, restaurant, and college campus environments. Modifying the food environment to increase the availability of healthy foods can improve people’s eating patterns.
- Increase access to local food to better connect people to nutritious foods. This approach supports sourcing local foods to help increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, and other under consumed foods. This effort improves attitudes about healthy eating and supports local farmers and local economies.
- Research the intersection of climate change, food security, and nutrition. Climate change has direct relevance for the future of food security and human health, altering the nutrient content of crops and increasing the risk of undernutrition, infectious diseases, respiratory illness, allergies, cardiovascular diseases, food and waterborne illness, and mental illness. Better understanding how nutrition security is interrelated with challenges and opportunities in the use of natural resources is important to ensure long-term food and nutrition security.