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Local residents receive food during a food distribution event in New York City on May 26, 2021. (Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Food Bank for New York City)

Applauding Biden Push to End US Hunger, Groups Demand 'Deeper' Structural Reforms

"To end hunger we need a serious effort to address poverty and its root causes," said one anti-hunger campaigner. "A framework that is focused on dismantling structural inequities and ensuring broad based prosperity for all is essential."

Julia Conley

Anti-hunger groups in the U.S. on Tuesday applauded the White House's new strategy to ensure everyone in the U.S. has sufficient, healthy food by 2030—while warning that though there are more than enough resources in the wealthiest country in the world to eradicate hunger, ending the crisis by the end of the decade will require major systemic changes as well as increased assistance to low-income households.

"This strategy builds on existing programs to ensure the food and nutrition security of the millions of Americans who face challenges putting food on the table."

The Biden administration announced its National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health as it prepares to hold the White House's first national conference on the issue in more than 50 years on Wednesday.

The strategy includes five pillars of eradicating hunger and food insecurity: Improving food access and affordability; integrating nutrition and health; empowering consumers to make healthy choices; supporting physical activity; and enhancing nutrition and food security research.

The plan would eliminate eligibility barriers for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which have historically kept formerly incarcerated people from using benefits, and would support expanded benefits for people in U.S. territories, college students, and young people who have aged out of foster care.

Food access would also be improved by ramping up funding for nutrition programs in the Older Americans Act, increasing outreach to eligible families and modernizing federal assistance programs so enrolled people can shop for food online, increasing public transportation to grocery stores, reorienting "the school meal programs from an ancillary service to an integral component of the school day," and expanding the Summer Electronic Benefits Program which in 2021 ensured more than 36 million children had school meals when school was not in session.

The strategy was unveiled weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report showing that the expanded child tax credit, universal free lunches in many school districts, and other food assistance significantly cut down on food insecurity in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2021, one in 10 American households struggled to access sufficient healthy food.

"This strategy builds on existing programs to ensure the food and nutrition security of the millions of Americans who face challenges putting food on the table," said Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger relief group. "By expanding access to these programs, centering equity, and focusing on ways to reduce disparities and poverty, we can help ensure everyone has access to the food and resources they say they need to thrive, regardless of their race, background, or ZIP code."

The grassroots social justice organization WhyHunger applauded the White House for setting "a high bar" for agencies throughout the federal government to enact reforms to end hunger in the U.S., but noted that food insecurity is the product of decades of destruction to the social safety net and the consolidation of corporate power.

"We know that 50 years of chronic hunger in America demonstrates that this crisis is caused by low wages, worker exploitation along the food chain, structural racism, and policies that bend to big food companies," said Noreen Springstead, executive director of WhyHunger. "Too many people go hungry because they are working and don't earn enough to afford food, let alone the nutritious food they need, especially with the strain of high inflation."

"To end hunger we need a serious effort to address poverty and its root causes," she added. "A framework that is focused on dismantling structural inequities and ensuring broad based prosperity for all is essential."

Warning that it is "hard to tell if the intention for transformational change matches the plan" unveiled by the Biden administration, Springstead said that "we at WhyHunger are joining those most impacted by the hunger crisis in pushing for even deeper, transformational change that goes beyond modifications and tweaks to our current systems."

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) offered praise for the portion of the strategy aimed at increasing access to vegetarian and plant-based foods at federal facilities including national parks, prisons, and museums.

"We applaud the Biden administration for making hunger and health an urgent priority," said Scott Faber, EWG's senior vice president for government affairs. "The Biden plan makes it a priority to improve access to healthy options, including plant-based and vegetarian options. Everyone has a role to play if we want to address diet-related disease, and the federal government should lead by example."

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who has pushed the White House to convene a national policy conference on hunger, called on his fellow members of Congress to work with Biden to enact the proposed improvements to food access and affordability.

"The strategy announced today marks a historic moment in the fight to end hunger," said McGovern. "It's now our job to turn these plans into action."


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