The Tisch Food Center welcomes the recent White House announcement of a Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The convening is scheduled to take place in September 2022 and will be the first White House gathering dedicated to these topics in over 50 years. The conference represents an opportunity to address critical food systems issues, ranging from food and nutrition security to the unequal distribution of diet-related chronic diseases in the population. The prospect of resolving these challenges through coordinated government action that engages multiple stakeholders is exciting but highlights the importance of ensuring that diverse communities and populations are represented.
The Tisch Food Center signed on to the letter below alongside dozens of other organizations in support of the conference. The letter encourages conference organizers to commit to creating an inclusive event that will produce recommendations and an action plan to create a more just, equitable, and sustainable food system.
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The Honorable Joseph R. Biden Jr.
President of the United States of America
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
The undersigned organizations write to convey our enthusiastic support of the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger, and Health.
Given the widely held disappointment in the recent UN Food System Summit, we applaud you, Mr. President, for ensuring that this conference will include a diversity of participating stakeholders from every link in our food chain and focus on everyone’s right, especially our children’s, to enjoy ample, healthful, culturally meaningful, sustainably, regeneratively, and humanely produced food. We hope the conference will consider the negative contributions of food production to climate change and its effect on our food future and address the equitable treatment of all those who work to produce our food.
More than 50 years have passed since the first, landmark White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health. The momentum of that conference led to progress in key federal food and nutrition programming including major expansions of the Food Stamp Program (now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP) and the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, the authorization of the Special Supplemental Food (now Nutrition) Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the publication of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and improved food nutrition and ingredient labeling.
However, our work is not done.
- Black, Indigenous/Native American, Latinx, and other People of Color suffer disproportionately the negative impacts of historic and present policy failings at every link in our food chain.
- Hunger persists, with more than 30 million suffering food insecurity, and troubling levels of nutrition insecurity leave many without access to nutritious, whole foods.
- The proliferation of ultra-processed foods directly contributes to the soaring epidemic of diet-related disease, resulting in the disproportionate dedication of finite healthcare resources to avoidable disease management.
- Disparities in nutrition security contribute to disproportionate increases in chronic disease rates in BIPOC communities, which also experience inequalities in access to adequate healthcare.
- Major food corporations’ marketing practices exert undue influence over what our children eat in and out of school.
- Only 22 of 30 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program benefit from free and reduced-price lunches.
- School meals fail to meet the nutrition standards of the landmark Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Additionally, our food chain:
- Contributes significantly to and suffers the effects of climate change,
- Faces the diminution of critically necessary human, land, water, habitat, and biodiversity resources, and
- Suffers the vulnerabilities and inequities associated with ever increasing corporate consolidation of our food production and distribution capacities.
As the social disruption of the 60s informed the 1969 conference, so must persistent food chain racial inequity and the food production and distribution challenges of the Pandemic inform the next conference. Equity and inclusion must be central. The voices and rights of eaters, family-scale, beginning, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers; urban farmers; community-based and Tribal fishers; and farm and food chain workers must be foursquare, as must be federal engagement and direct support of all farmers, ranchers, and fishers in conserving and regenerating our food production resources.
We look forward to this momentous and timely conference and working with the White House, Congress, and Agencies to chart policies that will support a universally sustainable, healthful, and equitable food system far into the future.
Laurie M Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy, Teachers College, Columbia University
Slow Food USA
American Grassfed Association
North American Marine Alliance
To learn more about Slow Food USA and other organizations that signed the letter, visit SlowFoodUSA.
To learn more about the conference visit the White House announcement.