The Biden administration has launched a new strategy to end hunger in the United States by 2030 through the expansion of benefits such as free school meals and food stamps.
One in 10 households struggled to feed their families in 2021 due to poverty and an extraordinary level of food insecurity in the world’s richest country, which has barely budged in the past two decades in a context of worsening economic inequalities and reduced social benefits. Of these, children in 274,000 households went hungry, skipped meals or did not eat for days on end because there was not enough money to buy food.
The plan, released on Tuesday, aims to reduce the number of hungry households from four to less than one percent by 2030, and half the number food insecure.
The food strategy also aims to reduce diet-related illnesses by increasing access to healthy foods and exercise, as new data shows that more than 35% of people in 19 states and two territories are more obese. double the number of states in 2018 while one in 10 Americans have diabetes. The use of food banks has increased over the same period.
It includes proposals for food packaging reform and voluntary salt and sugar reduction targets for the food industry, as well as efforts to expand Medicaid and Medicare access to obesity counseling and nutrition. . Healthy food and meal prescriptions could be tested for Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes and other preventable diet-related conditions. It requires research but not direct action on the impact of the climate crisis (droughts, extreme heat, floods) on food security and nutrition.
According to Andy Fisher, researcher and author of Big Hunger, the document contains many good ideas but the strategies are too small for such huge problems.
The national strategy comes a day before the White House hosts the first conference on hunger, nutrition and health in 53 years. Since then, food security has improved but remains stubbornly high, while consumption of unhealthy processed foods and diet-related illnesses have increased.
It includes multiple ambitious proposals to increase safety nets, but few concrete steps, as the plans hinge on winning the support of a polarized Congress that has so far refused to extend the tax credit for children and universal free school meals, both of which have led to historic improvements in nutrition. security in the face of the pandemic.
The strategy states that the administration pledges to press Congress to permanently extend the expanded, fully refunded Child Tax Credit and expanded Income Tax Credit to raise the minimum wage to 15 $ per hour; closing the Medicaid coverage gap; investing in affordable, high-quality child care; and developing the right choice of housing.
Food inequalities are caused by structural and systemic racial and economic inequalities. Inequality of access to healthy, affordable food is disproportionately more difficult for people of color, Indigenous communities, rural residents, and low-income households due to structural disparities in access to health care , decent housing, transportation, educational and economic opportunities, all of which increase the risk of hunger and hunger. diet-related diseases.
The plan states that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will help communities convert vacant spaces into grocery stores, urban gardens and food hubs. About 40 million people live far from the nearest grocery store, with rural and indigenous communities most likely to live in the worst food deserts.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will conduct research and propose to develop an easy-to-understand food packaging label to help consumers make healthier choices, which the food industry has spent huge amounts of money on to delay and derail in countries around the world.
The industry is more or less spared although they will hate front-of-pack labelling. There is no discussion of the role of misogyny or racism in this document, [yet] these are central to the existence of health disparities and hunger, Fisher said.
According to Raj Patel, a public policy researcher at Austin’s LJB school and author of Stuffed and Starved, the strategy aims to expand social safety nets to prevent hunger, but fails to explain why people fall into starvation. poverty in the first place.
There is no mention that seven of the 10 lowest-paying jobs in the United States are in the food system, nor that the food system has largely obscured public health attempts to curb its sale of obesogenic foods. . [obesity causing] food. By ignoring how bad food depends on low-wage labor, backed by government safety nets, this strategy only facilitates the profitability of an industry dependent on low wages and unhealthy food.
Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, said the plan would start an important series of conversations and welcomed the White House’s call to end hunger by 2030, as well than the emphasis on widespread economic security and health. incentives to eat.
I wish they had addressed benefit adequacy and Snap as an automatic stabilizer, work requirements and immigrant participation, added Whitmore Schanzenbach.
Two-thirds of undocumented migrant children do not receive enough nutritious food and their parents are mostly excluded from food stamps and other benefits.
Essentially, the strategy is more a set of broad goals and a call to action than a set of political commitments. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said: We need all local, state and tribal governments, Congress, private businesses, nonprofits and ordinary citizens to work together to achieve them.
The last food conference hosted by Richard Nixon in 1969 was a pivotal moment in American food policy that led to the expansion of food stamps and gave birth to the Women, Infants and Children program that today provides parental advice, breastfeeding support and food aid for the mothers of half of the babies born each year.
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