A White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health was held in September for the first time in over 50 years. The Conference coincided with the Biden Administration’s release of the National Strategy to improve our overall health and nutritional well-being.
Chances are, you may not have heard about these things. And maybe they sound pretty official (they are) and kind of, ahem, dry (they can be). However, an event like the Conference brings together the public and private sectors, along with academics, agricultural representatives, and others. Together they share opinions and experiences, success stories and failures, and learn from each other. Ultimately, they arrive at cohesive and inclusive recommendations that can improve the health of all Americans. There are examples of this from the previous Conference, which was held in 1969. The national school lunch program was created, and new food labeling regulations were established, among other changes.
It’s difficult to identify just five important points from the 44-page National Strategy. I’ll cover some of the other key recommendations at another time. But for today, here are some Strategy highlights I think you should know about.
First, the overarching goals are to eliminate hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity in the U.S. by 2030. To accomplish this, the Strategy focuses on targeted actions around these five pillars:
- improving food access and affordability
- integrating nutrition and health (connecting Medicaid and Medicare to nutrition services more thoroughly and directly)
- increasing consumer access to nutrition information and healthy food choices
- supporting physical activity for all
- enhancing nutrition and food security research
And here are just a few objectives that support the goals and pillars:
Improve food labeling so consumers can make healthy choices quickly and easily.
At Guiding Stars, we’ve been helping consumers make nutritious choices quickly and easily since 2006! The Guiding Stars icons on in-store signage, food packaging, and while shopping online lead people to better food and beverage choices every day. So, the Strategy Recommendation to develop a front-of-pack (FOP) labeling system is pretty familiar to us. And we’re able to help drive action on this — in fact we already are in cooperation with other stakeholders. The recommendation applies to online grocery shoppers too. The Strategy requires that nutrition information be consistently provided on grocery store websites.
Continue to lower sodium levels in foods, and start doing the same with added sugars.
This is not new territory for the government or the food industry. But updated sodium reduction targets and regulations may make it easier to lower sodium levels. Added sugars are also called out in the Strategy, so expect to see some movement on regulations regarding them, too.
Improve how we connect all people with healthy food.
This is a far-reaching recommendation with many areas of focus. Enhanced transportation to farmer’s markets, increased mobile food distribution, fewer barriers to food-recovery efforts, and new policies to reward food donors. Another big task on the list: expanding nutrition-related services through private insurance and programs beyond Medicare and Medicaid. Addressing food insecurity across the populace is also important (including Veterans, Tribal populations, students of all ages, and underserved populations).
Ensure diversity and inclusion in nutrition, health, and food security research.
This effort is about determining whether or not our nutrition and health policies, based on research, accurately reflect the population. For example, should the US Dietary Guidelines include additional eating patterns based on the country’s current population? And is the Dietary Guidelines development committee itself a diverse entity? Holding a health equity “lens” up to various policies and guidance documents is also part of this initiative.
Do you have ideas or comments about any of these points, or anything else about the National Strategy or White House Conference? The administration invites you to share them! Make your voice heard. You can also stay informed about developments related to the National Strategy by signing up for the email updates list.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the policies and recommendations on food, health, and nutrition in our nation. As a result of the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, more changes are coming. And when Guiding Stars has news about our role in any of these efforts, we’ll keep you in the know!