On September 28th, President Biden convened the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health – the first of its kind since 1969. 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. The event ties into one of Biden’s goals: end hunger in America by 2030 through proposed legislation, regulatory changes, and public-private partnerships.¹
One: Current Landscape: in 2021, 1 in 10 households experienced food insecurity, meaning their access to food was limited by lack of money or other resources. Nearly 4% of households in 2021 experienced very low food security, meaning they were regularly skipping meals or reducing their intake because they could not afford more food. When someone experiences very low food security, they are most likely to also experience hunger.
Two: The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated food insecurity, diet-related diseases, and health disparities. At the start of the pandemic in early 2020, the percentage of food insecure households with children reached 14.8%, up from 13.6% in 2019. This increase disrupted a decade-long downward trend.²
Three: The impacts of food insecurity and diet-related diseases can be summarized on 2 levels, individual and societal.²
Poor overall health
|Reduced workforce productivity|
Poor mental health
Increased health care costs
|Decreased academic achievement||
Reduced military readiness
Increased financial stress
Four: The causes for food insecurity can be complex, these can include,³
- Poverty, unemployment, or low income
- Lack of affordable housing
- Chronic health conditions or lack of access to healthcare
- Systemic racism and racial discrimination
- Climate change
In the past few years, extreme weather conditions have become more and more common. The most recent episode of flooding in Pakistan has crippled Pakistan’s agricultural sector, and damaged most of the country’s livestock and stores of wheat and fertilizers, prompting warnings of a looming food crisis.⁴
Five: Food insecurity disproportionately affects people of color, older adults, and people with disabilities. Disparities in food insecurity and diet-related diseases exist in part because of persistent structural inequities and system racism.² ⁵ In the year of 2021, the prevalence of very low food security was highest in households with children headed by a single woman (8.0%), with reference persons who are black (7.9%), and with income below 185 percent of the poverty line (10.2%).⁶
Six: To advance the President’s goal, the Biden-Harris Administration’s strategy will be built on five pillars:
- Improving food access and affordability, such as increasing access to free and nourishing school meals and expanding Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility to more underserved populations.
- Integrating nutrition and health, including passing legislation for pilot programs that would cover medically tailored meals for people who are on Medicare, and to expand access to nutrition and obesity counseling for people on Medicare and Medicaid.
- Empowering all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices, including by proposing to develop a front-of-package labeling scheme for food packages; proposing to update the nutrition criteria for the “healthy” claim on food packages; expanding incentives for fruits and vegetables in SNAP; facilitating sodium reduction in the food supply by issuing longer-term, voluntary sodium targets for industry; and assessing additional steps to reduce added sugar consumption, including potential voluntary targets.
- Supporting physical activity for all, including 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; investing in efforts to connect people to parks and other outdoor spaces; and funding regular updates to and promotion of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
- Enhancing nutrition and food security research, including by bolstering funding to improve metrics, data collection, and research to inform nutrition and food security policy, particularly on issues of equity and access; and implementing a vision for advancing nutrition science.
Written by Jennifer Shu-Ping Chen
- NPR. (2022). Key takeaways from Biden’s conference on hunger and nutrition in America. Retrieved October 1, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/2022/09/28/1125575122/biden-hunger-america-conference
- The White House. (2022). Biden-Harris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, And Health. Retrieved October 1, 2022, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/White-House-National-Strategy-on-Hunger-Nutrition-and-Health-FINAL.pdf
- Feeding America. (2022). Hunger in Ameria. Retrieved October, from https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/food-insecurity#:~:text=Some%20of%20the%20causes%20of,lack%20of%20access%20to%20healthcare
- New York Times. (2022). ‘Very Dire’: Devastated by Floods, Pakistan Faces Looming Food Crisis Retrieved October 1, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/11/world/asia/pakistan-floods-food-crisis.html
- Washington Post. (2022). We can — and should — end hunger before 2030. Retrieved October 1, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/09/16/virginia-hunger-charity-advice-white-house/
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. (2021). Food Security in the U.S. – Key Statistics & Graphs. Retrieved October 1, 2022, from https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-u-s/key-statistics-graphics/#householdtype