(Washington, DC – May 4, 2022) – Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) applauds the Biden-Harris Administration’s announcement that it will hold a White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this coming September. The conference, which was authorized and funded by Congress with bipartisan support, will be the second of its kind. The first, held in 1969, resulted in critical legislation to support Americans’ nutritional needs.
The conference will be held at a time the country is facing epidemic level numbers of diet-related health problems including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6 in 10 Americans have a chronic disease, many associated with having obesity or being overweight. Over 42 percent of all U.S. adults have obesity and social determinants, such as poverty and neighborhood resources, contribute to persistent disparities in obesity prevalence. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic and its related economic and social stressors led to an increase in food insecurity and weight gain for many American families. Food insecurity–being unable to access enough affordable, nutritious food–is related to obesity and other nutrition-based diseases.
“This conference will be an important opportunity to create an action plan to address America’s nutrition and hunger crisis,” said J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, President and CEO, Trust for America’s Health. “A growing number of Americans are dealing with diet-related chronic health problems, and parts of the population – individuals and families who live in rural areas, people with lower income and many people of color – face even higher rates of diet-related diseases and food insecurity. The stark amount of preventable disease that is related to the nation’s current food system and food environment needs urgent attention. Addressing these issues will make our country healthier and more equitable.”
TFAH tracks the nation’s obesity crisis in its annual report, State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America which includes recommendations for policy action in five broad areas:
- Ensure access to healthy school meals for all children, which would decrease food insecurity, improve educational achievement, and decrease rates of diet-related disease. Nutrition standards of school meals and snacks should also be strengthened.
- Expand access to nutrition support programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and maintain eligibility and flexibility provisions created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, nutrition support programs should expand voluntary pilots to evaluate innovative approaches to healthy eating, such as providing increased incentives for the purchase of fruits and vegetables.
- Advance health equity by targeting obesity prevention programs in communities with high levels of individuals living with obesity and unhealthy excess weight, including expanding CDC’s obesity-prevention programs like the State Physical Activity and Nutrition program and the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health program.
- Strengthen obesity prevention programs within the healthcare system by expanding access to healthcare coverage and requiring health insurers to cover obesity-related prevention services, such as the Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration program.
- Call on the private sector to change marketing strategies that lead to poor nutritional choices and pursue pricing strategies that tax sugary drinks and eliminate business-cost deductions related to the advertising of unhealthy food to children.
- Make physical activity safer and more accessible for everyone by providing funding for programs in the CDC’s Division on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, which increase physical education in early care and education systems and create activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations.