- The Washington Times
Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The White House announced Wednesday that it will hold a conference in September on hunger and nutrition, the first such meeting in more than 50 years.

The conference is aimed at reducing rates of diabetes, obesity and hypertension among Americans. It will also focus on reducing hunger and improving Americans’ physical activity and nutrition.

“Too many families don’t know where they’re going to get their next meal,” President Biden said in a video announcing the conference. “Too many empty chairs around the kitchen table because a loved one was taken by heart disease, diabetes or other diet-oriented diseases, which are some of the leading causes of death in our country.”

Mr. Biden said the COVID-19 pandemic was “a stark reminder of the need for urgent, sustained action” on healthy food.

“As more Americans experienced hunger, we saw diet-related diseases heighten the risk of severe COVID. It’s time we make real change,” he said.

The last time the White House hosted a conference on hunger, nutrition and health was in 1969 during the Nixon administration. That summit, known as the Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health, produced expansions of the food stamp and school lunch programs, improved nutrition labeling and the creation of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children that’s known as WIC.

This year’s conference comes amid soaring grocery prices and a supply chain bottleneck that has delayed some products from reaching store shelves. Grocery prices are the highest in a decade, rising more than 9% this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Prices Outlook report released in March.

The report predicted food prices will increase by another 5% this year. Americans who are eating out will see the highest increases, with restaurant prices expected to rise between 5.5% and 6.5% according to the report.

Rising food prices have contributed to food insecurity in America, especially in lower-income neighborhoods.

The Biden administration last year allocated $10 billion to combat hunger and invest in food systems both overseas and at home. 

Sen. Cory Booker, New Jersey Democrat, blasted Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during a closed-door lunch last week about the Biden administration’s inability to address food deserts and the increase of junk food in the inner cities, according to reports. Mr. Booker reportedly pressed the Biden cabinet secretary on what the administration was doing to provide healthier foods to low-income Americans. 

Mr. Booker, who chairs the Agriculture Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics and Research, has made access to quality food a key issue. He fought to allocate $2.5 million for the conference on hunger and nutrition. 

“By bringing together stakeholders of different backgrounds, including anti-hunger, nutrition, and health experts as well as family farmers and ranchers, I am confident we will begin to chart a new path forward,” he said in a statement hailing the conference. 

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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