The Biden administration releases a five-part plan to end hunger and diet-related diseases by 2030 at the first White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health in more than 50 years. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 27 (UPI) -- The Biden administration is calling on lawmakers and businesses to end hunger and diet-related diseases in the United States within the next eight years. The bold five-part plan would put nutrition labels on the front of packages and expand food programs to underserved communities.
In the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health since the start of food stamps in 1969, the administration will urge lawmakers, activists and business leaders Wednesday to improve food access, integrate nutrition and health, help consumers make healthy choices, increase physical activity and bolster nutrition research.
The goal is to end food insecurity and reduce the toll taken by diet-related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity by 2030.
"This national strategy will serve as the playbook to meet this vital goal. It calls for a whole-of-government and whole-of-America approach to addressing the challenges we face," President Joe Biden said in a statement before the conference in Washington.
"This important conference and the commitment to a national strategy on ending hunger and healthier eating will build on the research and knowledge we now have to make America truly a stronger, healthier nation," Biden said.
The first part of the plan calls for improving food access and affordability. It would provide more free and nutritious school meals and make it easier for children to get food during the summer months. The plan also calls for an expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to access more underserved communities.
"When families can't afford healthy food options, it's harder for children to succeed in school, and it can lead to mental and physical health challenges for the whole family," Biden said.
"For so many families -- including families of color, those living in rural communities and territories, and low-income families -- structural inequality, such as disparities in educational and economic opportunities and lack of access to health care, safe housing and transportation, make the impact of hunger and diet-related diseases even more severe," Biden said.
The second pillar of the plan asks Congress to allow Medicare coverage of medically tailored meals by treating food as medicine. It would also give Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries access to nutrition and obesity counseling.
Among the biggest changes the Biden administration is calling for, is front-facing nutrition labels to help consumers make healthier food choices. The plan also calls for more stringent nutrition criteria for foods labeled "healthy." Food-makers would also face voluntary sodium and sugar targets, while SNAP participants would have stronger incentives to buy fruits and vegetables.
In an effort to get people moving, the White House wants to invest in ways to increase physical activity, by spending money on "efforts that will connect people to parks and other outdoor spaces." There are also plans to invest in nutrition and food security research to help improve equal access to nutritious choices.
The first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health was held in 1969 by the Nixon administration. That conference led to nutrition labels and the Food Stamp Program known today as SNAP.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tens of millions of Americans, including children, continue to experience food insecurity, and millions more suffer from diet-related diseases and disparities largely rooted in structural barriers that may limit their access to healthier foods.
The USDA announced earlier this month it would provide almost $2 billion in additional funding to school meal programs and food banks for purchasing foods grown in America.
Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana's Hungry, a statewide network of 11 Feeding America food banks, told UPI that she hopes Wednesday's White House conference examines the growing food insecurity in the United States as food prices rise and COVID-19-era assistance programs end.
"Today's emergency is families don't have enough food," she said. "But food is the short-term solution to a much deeper problem... so I hope that by pulling in multiple government agencies, we can address the root causes of hunger."