Biden administration announces $8 billion in pledges to address hunger, nutrition and health issues

Today, President Biden and key senior officials hosted the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. The goal behind the conference is clear: to address issues related to food insecurity and diet-related chronic diseases that affect millions of Americans annually.

The White House highlighted how nearly $8 billion in private and public sector commitments have been secured and distributed for a variety of causes, from philanthropic efforts to funding new ways to deliver health care and even startup companies dedicated to ending food insecurity.

The White House highlighted five key pillars of focus:

  • Pillar 1: Improving food access and affordability
  • Pillar 2: Integration of Nutrition and Health
  • Pillar 3: Empower consumers to make and access healthy choices
  • Pillar 4: Supporting physical activity for all
  • Pillar 5: Improving nutrition and food safety research

Each of these pillars will be supported by initiatives led by a variety of business, political, academic and philanthropic leaders, with the primary goal of ending hunger and improving health.

For example, popular food delivery company DoorDash has committed to contributing to Pillar 1 (Improving Food Access and Affordability) by working with 18 cities to address transportation barriers to accessing healthy food. Mass General Brigham will establish teaching kitchens to promote healthy meals, nutritional counseling and healthy cooking classes to community members in an effort to address Pillar 2 (Integrated Nutrition and Health). One notable name to address Pillar 3 (Empowering consumers to make and access healthy choices) is Instacart, a major delivery service company. Instacart will work with the USDA to integrate SNAP and TANF services into its platform to provide more families with access to food. MyFitnessPal, a renowned fitness and nutrition phone app, will work to address Pillar 4 (Supporting Physical Activity for All) by providing free premium memberships to people at risk of diet-related diseases to improve their physical condition and dietary choices. The American Heart Association will partner with the Rockefeller Foundation to address Pillar 5 (Strengthening Nutrition and Food Security Research) by launching a research initiative, with the goal of ultimately achieving health equity and reducing overall health care costs.

It is important to note that the above list is by no means exhaustive. There are many other worthy companies under each pillar who have dedicated their time and efforts to this critical initiative.

Why is this initiative so important? Because food subsidies are incredibly widespread across America. The US Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as “low-income census tracts with a significant number or share of residents with low levels of access to retail outlets that sell healthy and affordable foods.” It was reported that in 2009 alone, 2.3 million “Americans lived more than a mile from a supermarket and did not own a car,” posing a significant challenge to safe access to healthy food. Even as recently as 2017, sources report that “Nearly 39.5 million people — 12.8% of the US population — [are] living in low-income, low-access areas’. Indeed, these numbers also represent a significant portion of the population at risk for chronic disease, poor long-term health outcomes, and ultimately higher mortality rates.

Undoubtedly, the primary challenges of uninterrupted access to healthy food and healthier living conditions are systemic and will require grassroots efforts to effect lasting change. However, initiatives like the above are promising steps forward and provide hope for a better future.

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