White House releases national hunger, nutrition, health strategy
The Biden-Harris administration has released its national strategy on hunger, nutrition and health that will form the basis of its White House conference on the same topics on Wednesday.
The 44-page document is largely a compilation of all the proposals that anti-hunger and nutrition advocates have made in recent years, while avoiding issues that would divide the advocates and the food industry that support federal nutrition programs.
The document does not propose restricting purchases of foods that some nutritionists consider damaging to people’s health, which would divide the food industry, but instead proposes incentives to help beneficiaries of federal nutrition programs gain access to healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Biden will “unify Americans” around these goals in his speech to the conference, said one of the administration officials who briefed reporters Monday afternoon. Whether the many advocates and the food companies who have called for this conference view agree with the White House that these proposals are “bold” is yet to be seen.
Besides Biden, Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra will speak at the conference, according to a schedule released by the White House.
The report focuses on five previously announced pillars:
▪ Pillar One: Improve Food Access and Affordability — Acknowledges that poverty is an issue in food insecurity and proposes extending the low-income child tax credit, raising the minimum wage and advancing “a pathway to free, healthy school meals for all.”
The pillar does not directly call for free meals but says the first step will be to expand the community eligibility program to make an additional 9 million children eligible for free meals, a White House official said. The pillar would also extend benefits to formerly incarcerated individuals.
▪ Pillar Two: Integrate Nutrition and Health — Would expand Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to various nutritional interventions.
▪ Pillar Three: Empower All Consumers to Make and Have Access to Healthy Choices — Calls on the Food and Drug Administration to develop a front-of-package labeling system to quickly communicate nutrition information. It also calls for expansion of fruit and vegetable incentives under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
This pillar also says the FDA will revise its voluntary, short-term (2.5-year) sodium reduction targets for a broad range of processed, packaged, and prepared foods and “begin assessing the evidence base for further strategies to reduce added sugar consumption.”
▪ Pillar Four: Support Physical Activity for All — Would expand the Centers for Disease Control’s State Physical Activity and Nutrition Programs to all states and territories to implement state and community-level policies and activities for physical activity and increase access to parks.
▪ Pillar Five: Enhance Nutrition and Food Security Research — Would bolster research, particularly for marginalized groups.
While each pillar focuses on needy people in its governmental proposals, each also contains a “call for a whole-of-society response” that asks states, localities, tribes and the private sector to address many of these issues with the middle class.
Although the report does not directly address calls for changes to agribusiness regulation, a section on increasing historically underserved communities’ access to affordable and healthy foods includes actions that the Federal Trade Commission, the Small Business Administration and the Commerce Department will take to help small business.
White House officials noted repeatedly that the most important initiatives will require congressional action.
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