Historic White House Conference addresses hunger, nutrition and health, with $8B commitment

Grocers and food industry representatives from around the country will participate in Wednesday's event, the first such gathering in half a century. The president has outlined the lofty goal of ending hunger by 2030.
Photograph: Shutterstock

With food inflation hitting forcefully right now, the Biden-Harris administration is hosting the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health Wednesday—the first gathering of its kind in more than 50 years—with the lofty goals of ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases in the U.S. by 2030; all while closing the gap for families struggling to afford food. 

The White House on Wednesday announced an $8 billion public-private commitment to help achieve its goals. 

Grocery retail leaders will gather with government officials, academics, activists and others for the all-day conference, which is being livestreamed.

Participating food retailers, tech companies, industry associations and others include DoorDash, FMI-The Food Industry Association, Hy-Vee, National Grocers Association, Publix, Shipt, Instacart, Meijer, Kroger and others. 

A day before the conference, the Biden-Harris administration outlined five pillars to advance its goals, including improving food access and affordability; integrating nutrition and health; empowering all consumers to make and have access to healthy choice; supporting physical activity for all; and enhancing nutrition and food security research.

A handful of topics mentioned in the White House's national strategy directly relate to food retailers, including “improving transportation options to and from grocery stores, farmers’ markets and commercial districts.”

Another critical step is increasing access to food, the administration said, noting that nearly 40 million Americans live in areas where grocery stores are not nearby. The White House is also looking at ensuring food affordability through expanding federal assistance programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Child Nutrition Programs.

On Wednesday, Iowa-based Hy-Vee announced it would deliver 30 million meals to "vulnerable" communities by 2025 and that it would deploy its team of registered dietitians to educate 100,000 residents of low-food access areas about healthy eating by 2026. 

“During these challenging economic times, we know more families are turning to food banks and community resources for assistance, and that’s where we can help,” Hy-Vee CEO Randy Edeker said in a statement. "Our ultimate goal is to help eliminate hunger and connect with those in need, because no one should ever have to worry about where their next meal will come from.”

For consumer packaged goods, the Biden administration is proposing a new "front-of-package labeling scheme" to more quickly and effectively communicate nutrition information.  

The call to action to develop a front-of-package (FOP) labeling system already has some in the food industry feeling a bit wary.

The Consumer Brands Association (CBA), the Arlington, Va.-based CPG trade group, on Tuesday issued a statement from Sarah Gallo, vice president of product policy at CBA, regarding the proposed labeling system.

“As the administration proceeds, we urge against implementing policies that may inadvertently hurt consumers, especially in the volatile economic environment that has caused a spike in the cost to manufacture grocery products,” Gallo said. “Focusing on incentive-based and voluntary initiatives, such as voluntary interpretive front-of-pack labeling schemes that are fully backed by extensive research, has the potential to positively affect our shared hunger, nutrition and health policy goals."

FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin, who was invited to participate in Wednesday's in-person White House gathering, said in a statement that the food industry plays a critical role in solving issues of hunger and nutrition.

"Grocery stores serve as accessible, convenient, community-based destinations for feeding assistance, preventive care, nutrition guidance and nourishing, practical meal solutions," Sarasin said. "It will take all of us working together to achieve these goals; I have full confidence in the food industry’s spirit of innovation and collaboration to not only reach these goals, but far exceed them. We look forward to continuing to work with the White House, members of Congress, our industry partners and other stakeholders to ensure all Americans have access to healthy, nourishing foods.”





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