President Biden addresses food insecurity at White House conference: “If you can’t feed your child, what else matters?”
30 Sep 2022 --- At its latest conference, the White House addressed some of the biggest health problems affecting the nation. Though it acknowledged serious problems affecting the population’s nutrition and health – including access to healthy food, poverty, a lack of resources and a lack of necessary information – it placed a majority of the onus for solving these problems on America's citizens, companies and organizations.
“In America, no child should go to bed hungry, and no parent should die of a disease that can be prevented,” said President Joe Biden in his opening statement. “If we work together, I really do know we can do this: end hunger in this country by the year 2030 and lower the toll that diet-related diseases takes on too many Americans.”
“This goal is within our reach,” he explains. “Just look at how far we’ve come on child poverty. Thirty years ago, one in four children lived below the poverty line. Today, 1 in 20 (3.65 million) live below the poverty line, so I know we can end hunger as well, and I’ve released a national strategy to meet that bold goal.”
Ending US food insecurity could be a SNAP
According to President Biden, the first part of the national strategy is to make sure people have the access and means to procure healthy and nutritious food. He admits that the US has many “food deserts.”
Furthermore, the President confirmed that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, most families used the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) stimulus checks to purchase food.
However, the expanded CTC and other programs like it have, so far, not been renewed. Even with the added benefit, Biden states that one in ten (12.4 million) US households still suffer from food insecurity.
Many of these families rely on the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – a program that provides monthly funds for food on an electronic benefits transfer card that works similar to a debit card – to help offset the rising cost of food.
“Until recently, the way SNAP benefits were calculated hadn’t been updated for over 45 years,” Biden underscores. “So, last year, my administration changed the formula, and now folks are getting an average of US$36 extra dollars in their pockets per month.”
“My strategy calls for Congress to expand incentives to purchase fruits and vegetables for low-income families who rely on SNAP benefits to buy groceries so it’ll be easier to afford the food that’s good for you.”
It takes a village
The administration has stated that it would gladly sign off on any legislation that would help to increase the SNAP benefit as well as its eligibility guidelines. Moreover, Biden and the administration stated they would support legislation expanding free school lunches as well as renewing the CTC.
Yet, passing such legislation entails getting the congressional and senatorial houses to agree and pass such laws with a majority vote.
“I also firmly believe the work ahead should be bipartisan, there shouldn’t be anything partisan about any of this,” Biden affirms. “Just as it was when President Nixon first convened this conference or when Senator George McGovern and Bob Dole transformed America’s role in reducing hunger in America and around the world.”
He continues: “And this work on hunger and nutrition and physical health is critical to addressing our mental health and wellness as well, which is a key pillar to my unity agenda that I called for in my State of the Union Address. This is something that we should be all rallying the country to work on together.”
“What else matters?”
Finally, Biden asked for companies and non- and for-profit organizations to help address the US’ health and nutrition problems. For their part, many companies and organizations heeded the President’s call. Danone North America announced that it would invest US$22 million over the next eight years to improve food access, nutrition quality and affordability.
Other companies, like Kroger, announced that they were on track to donate three billion meals by 2025 and are beginning new initiatives and funding programs to advance the “food is medicine” initiative as well as investing in startups with solutions that can further their own “Zero Hunger/Zero Waste” program.
Additionally, the US-based grocery delivery company Instacart announced the launch of “Instacart Health” to make healthy ingredients and foods more affordable and accessible in rural and urban areas that are often underserved. This includes attempts to expand SNAP use across online grocers and companies.
According to Biden, food security is something all US citizens, businessmen and organizations should be able to come together to help end.
“In every country in the world and in every state in this country, no matter what else divides us, if a parent cannot feed a child, there’s nothing else that matters for that parent,” he stresses. “If you look at your child and you can’t feed your child, what the hell else matters?”
By William Bradford Nichols
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