BFI’s Comments to the White House Food Conference

The BFI policy team details how the American food policy agenda can be based on racial equity, good food access, fair jobs, and agroecology.

September 27, 2022
By Berkeley Food Institute

Photo by jpellgen (@1179_jp)/Flickr

A few months ago, the Biden-Harris administration announced its goal to end hunger in the United States by 2030, starting with a food conference this week. This Wednesday’s White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health marks the first food conference of its kind since 1969, when the Nixon administration hosted a conference often credited with reshaping US food policy. In the two years after the 1969 conference, hundreds of policy recommendations were completed, including expansions to the former food stamps and school lunch programs.

Biden’s conference could make a similar imprint on the American food policy agenda. That’s why we submitted comments to inform the conference and the national strategy that comes from it.

Biden’s 2030 goal is an ambitious target, spurred by rising rates of diet-related diseases and food insecurity that disproportionately impact underserved communities. But it’s a goal that motivated our policy team to speak up about these food systems challenges, to express how we can address the root causes of hunger and diet-related diseases by prioritizing the people most impacted these diseases, the stewards of land where our food is grown, the researchers who generate and advance knowledge in this space, and those who labor in the food system.

In a letter submitted to the White House, we map out our recommendations to the Biden-Harris administration’s hunger strategy according to BFI’s four key pillars: good food access, fair and healthy jobs, urban and rural agroecology, and racial equity in the food system. Specifically, we urge the administration to prioritize food sovereignty as a pathway to ending hunger in Native American communities, raise the federal minimum wage to level the playing field for restaurant, grocery, and farm workers, invest in soil health research and practice, and redress the injustices experienced by Black farmers and producers — to give just a few examples.

This morning, in preparation for tomorrow’s conference, the White House released its National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. According to Sakeenah Shabazz, BFI’s Policy Director, the strategy contains details worth celebrating: advancing pathways for school meals, incorporating urban agriculture into public spaces, improvements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, for example. Shabazz is also excited to see that Indigenous food sovereignty and farmworkers’ rights are also on the administration’s radar.

“There are several levers of policy change and the Biden-Harris Administration should be commended for planning this conference and for actively gathering feedback from stakeholders across every state. That is a monumental task,” Shabazz says. “We also have our eyes set on the 2023 Farm Bill Reauthorization as another vehicle for making positive, systemic changes in the food system and will use this strategy as an additional resource in that process.”

For more information about the conference, reporter Helena Bottemiller Evich of Food Fix has been putting together a series of explainers on the conference, including a guide to the White House food conference, a close look at Biden’s national strategy for hunger, nutrition, and health, and an archive of comments and letters submitted to the White House in preparation for the conference.