MomsRising participates in recent White House Conference on Hunger, Health, and Nutrition
What an honor it was for me to attend the White House Conference on Hunger, Health, and Nutrition and represent MomsRising at this Sept. 28 event! Although the conference started at 9 am at the nearby Ronald Reagan Administrative Building, guests were asked to show up two hours early to go through the screening process. The two hours went by quickly as I chatted with other attendees, including people with the lived experience of hunger, anti-hunger advocates, food bank representatives, and school nutrition staff.
President Biden opened the conference by announcing the Biden-Harris Administration goal to end hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030. It was actually quite thrilling to see the President of the United States in person, especially since he talked about advancing many of the policies that MomsRising supports. The excitement was palpable; at some points during his speech, the crowd erupted in cheers.
He outlined the Biden-Harris administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, offering tangible actions for reaching the goal of ending hunger. This strategy builds on lessons learned from the pandemic, and addresses root causes of hunger. For example, he talked about the success of the Child Tax Credit implemented last year, which lowered the number of households reporting not having enough to eat by 26% in 2021, and said that he would work with Congress to permanently expand this fully refundable Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. He also committed to working with Congress on investing in affordable housing and child care, raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, and improving transportation options to improve food access.
A key element of the strategy is to help more individuals experiencing food insecurity benefit from federal assistance programs. The White House will accomplish this by working with Congress to provide a pathway to reach 9 million more children with healthy, free school meals by 2032; to expand SNAP eligibility to underserved populations such as formerly incarcerated people and to college students; to provide the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program to more children, to help states identify people eligible for WIC and advance its WIC modernization strategy; and more.
After President Biden spoke, the bipartisan sponsors of the conference, Chairman Jim McGovern, Senator Cory Booker, and Senator Mike Braun took the stage. They shared that it has been more than 50 years since the last– and only– other White House conference on hunger. That conference led to the creation of school lunches and the WIC program and greatly expanded SNAP, among other things. Because of these significant accomplishments at the 1969 conference, there was a lot of anticipation in the air about what might be possible at this conference.
Other speakers throughout the day included the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, and NY Mayor Eric Adams. Chef Jose Andres, founder of the World Central Kitchen, gave an energetic keynote address that fired up attendees as we headed into small problem-solving workgroups. The day closed on a hopeful note for the future, with a conversation between Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and Ambassador Susan Rice with two phenomenal youth anti-hunger activists, Joshua Williams and Avani Rai.
Although the conference was only one day long, much of the work took place before the conference and will continue afterwards. Leading up to the conference, the White House hosted a series of regional virtual listening sessions across the country to provide feedback that informed the National Strategy. People with the lived experience of hunger were encouraged to participate in these listening sessions. I attended one of these sessions along with about ten of MomsRising’s anti-hunger advocacy fellows, who have all shared their stories about struggling to put food on the table. We all spoke up in the listening session, giving our input and recommendations for the National Strategy.
Now that the conference is over, the White House conference committee is holding monthly update calls that are open to the public. To stream conference presentations, visit the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health website. Visit this link to sign up for email updates and information about the monthly calls.