Have you heard of the National Food Agency? That’s because it doesn’t exist…yet.
Let’s talk about the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health
Hello, People of Substack!
On Wednesday, I am joining the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, a rare meeting of leaders from the worlds of food, business, health, and local and state governments. I have to say, I am excited about this…and I usually don’t get excited about meetings! But here we have a Conference that for the first time in 50 years will provide us with an opportunity to build longer tables, to enact bold changes to increase access to healthy, nutritious food for all Americans, while ensuring those changes protect the dignity of all people. So it’s very exciting!
America, the most powerful country in the history of mankind, has seen persistent food insecurity, the increase of diet-related diseases, and widening health disparities. What we also are seeing is that these health problems are disproportionately affecting people from racial and ethnic minority groups, people with lower incomes, residents of rural areas, and other groups impacted by systemic and historic inequities.
(If you have a moment, watch this Town Hall with President Biden which took place in the Spring of 2020, that we believe is the first time a presidential candidate has dedicated an entire event just to food security).
Then there is the Covid-19 pandemic, which, you know, exposed overlapping, chronic food-related crises in the United States: vulnerable populations concentrated in economically challenged areas, a fragile food economy unable to withstand systemic shocks, and a fragmented and unfocused public sector.
I have listed a lot of problems here, I know, and that’s overwhelming, sure. But we can only fix the big problems by making bold changes across all areas of nutrition and food.
One of those bold ideas is the creation of a National Food Agency, a new cabinet level federal food agency that would have a mission to not only ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply, but also for all Americans to have access to fresh, healthy, and nourishing foods.
While there are multiple agencies and departments with responsibilities for food, there is no single organization that prioritizes our citizens’ food and nutrition.
If everyone is responsible for food, then nobody is held accountable for it! The recent disruption to the nation’s infant formula supplies makes it clear how we are failing American families.
To me this “national strategy approach” makes a lot of sense, and it’s one I’ve written about before. The United States has a national energy strategy and a national security strategy, along with the agencies, departments and processes to implement them. Food is our most important energy source! It has a profound impact on our nation’s security, yet there is no agency dedicated to the needs of Americans as food consumers, which is where the NFA would come in.
The NFA would bring together the nutritional programs of the USDA, and the food inspection duties of the FDA and USDA. It would serve as the lead for food-related issues when partnering with the FEMA and the US Agency for International Development in responding to domestic and international crises.
The NFA would focus on school food, directing investment in the nation’s school kitchens so that every school can prepare nutritious and tasty meals. Upgraded school kitchens can serve as community kitchens.
We already have some good news ahead of the Conference! The USDA announced last week that it will provide almost $2 billion in additional funding to school meal programs and food banks for purchasing food grown in America. This is great…and it adds to last week’s announcement by President Biden at the UN that the US will provide over $2.9 billion in new assistance to address global food insecurity, which builds on the $6.9 billion in U.S. government assistance to support global food security already committed this year. Now we need to keep the momentum going.
You’ve heard me say this so many times, my friends: Food is not the problem. Food is the solution. Food is a universal human right. It requires equitable access for all Americans at times of peace, prosperity, hardship, and crisis.
There’s much more to the mission of the NFA, many details we will share at the Conference, and we’ll be back on Monday with takeaways. You can follow along live if you like.
This is only the beginning, there is still a lot of work to be done. I can’t wait to get started.
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