WASHINGTON, DC – Today, US Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Mike Braun (R-IN) and US Representatives James P. McGovern (D-MA) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would convene a second National White House conference on food, nutrition, hunger, and health. The first such conference occurred just over 50 years ago, culminating in the creation and expansion of programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the National School Breakfast and Lunch Program.
The proposed second conference would take a whole-of-government approach to ending hunger and combatting nutrition in security in America, featuring diverse voices and those with lived experience. The conference would also explore weaknesses within the current food system, highlighting the fragility created by hyper-consolidation that has led to fewer choices for consumers and economic insecurity for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities, many of which are now considered food deserts.
“Fifty years ago, our nation convened a conference to address the widespread hunger crisis in America, leading to the creation and expansion of programs such as WIC and the National School Breakfast and Lunch Program,” said Sen. Booker. Despite the progress made, America is grappling with a hunger crisis and now faces a second crisis—one of nutrition insecurity—that is pleading our nation and hindering the success of our nation’s youth as a result of decades-long policy failures in our food system. This bicameral, bipartisan legislation will, in the spirit of 50 years ago, convene a second conference of advocates, healthcare professionals, and farmers and ranchers to address the failures and inequities of our broken food system that is poisoning our communities and preventing us from achieving true justice.”
“The time has come to address our nation’s food insecurity with a bipartisan, commonsense approach. There is no reason that millions of Americans in rural and urban areas alike should be going to sleep hungry, not knowing where their next meal will come from, or with poor nutrition,” said Senator Mike Braun. “I am eager to convene a conference food, nutrition, and health to help reach nutrition goals in the most efficient way possible.”
“Each night, tens of millions of our fellow Americans go to bed hungry. That’s just plain wrong,” said Congressman McGovern. “What we lack isn’t food or resources; we lack the political will and moral courage to act. The COVID pandemic showed that hunger isn’t just a problem for someone else. It’s something anyone can struggle with in the blink of an eye. It’s time for us to bring together experts and create a holistic, whole-of-government plan to end hunger and nutrition in security. I look forward to working with our bipartisan group to make this White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger and Health a reality.”
“No neighborhood in Indiana or around the country is immune from hunger. Combating food insecurity in America and eliminating barriers that are holding back families from success are bipartisan priorities,” said Congresswoman Walorski. “To be responsible stewards of taxpayer resources, we must discern what works best to address hunger and food insecurity in our communities at the local, state, and federal levels. The White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger, and Health will be an important forum for bipartisan collaboration on data-driven and evidence-based solutions to deliver real results for families in need.”
“I am proud to support the efforts of Chairman McGovern and Senator Booker to introduce bipartisan legislation convening a White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger, and Health,” said Chef José Andrés, founder of the food relief nonprofit World Central Kitchen. “Whether after disasters, in our schools, or fighting ongoing hunger in our local communities, I believe in the power of food to bring all Americans together. We must build longer tables where nutrition insecurity becomes a problem of the past. I look forward to working closely with President Biden, the White House, and Congress on making this long-overdue conference a reality.”
“As a country, we can end hunger. 36 million Americans went hungry even before the pandemic – we should not aspire to just going back to the way things were before the pandemic, we should aspire to do better,” said Top Chef judge and food activist Tom Colicchio. “Ending hunger in America isn’t just some dream or slogan, it’s something that we can and will make into a reality, and that starts with convening this White House conference.”
“The time is ripe for a White House Conference to develop a national strategy to fix food. Our country faces a nutrition crisis, harming our health, economy, equity, military readiness, and natural resources,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University. “Current federal policies, research, and investments in food and nutrition are fragmented across 21 agencies. A Conference will be critical to re-imagine and re-design our food system toward one that improves health, ends hunger, reduces healthcare spending, advances science and innovation, and boosts our economy for all Americans.”
In the United States currently, nearly half of the adult population and a quarter of the young adult population is pre-diabetic or has Type 2 diabetes. Nutrition insecurity and diet-related chronic diseases disproportionately affect racial and ethnic groups as well as low-income, rural, and other underserved populations in the United States. In just over 10 years, Type 2 diabetes rates have doubled for African American children and increased 50 percent for Native American children and Hispanic children between the ages of 10 and 19. Black Americans are also 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure and 30 percent more likely to die of heart disease than white Americans. Recent data has shown that the healthcare costs attributable to diet-related diseases exceed $600 billion annually, with such diseases leading to worse outcomes from COVID-19.
Although new census data shows that recent actions have brought hunger in America to its lowest level since the pandemic began, returning to the pre-COVID status quo would leave tens of millions of people hungry in every congressional district in the nation. More than 35 million people, including 10 million children, were going hungry in America even before the COVID pandemic hit. Nonprofit groups estimate that hunger costs the United States over $160 billion each year in poor health outcomes, chronic disease, and lost productivity.
This White House conference would bring together the heads of food banks, hospitals, government agencies, nonprofits, educators, farmers and ranchers, individuals with lived experiences, and more, with the goal of crafting a real plan with benchmarks for ending hunger, reducing nutrition insecurity, and reducing diet-related disease.
Full text of the legislation can be viewed here. A list of endorsing organizations can be found here.