The highly anticipated White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health took place on September 28, and delivered an ambitious plan in three areas: hunger, nutrition, and health.
Months ago, in a piece published in Institute Insights, we called on the White House and Congress to use the conference to think “expansively,” looking beyond just improvements to federal nutrition programs (for example, SNAP and WIC) to eradicate persistent hunger and food insecurity in the United States. We are pleased to see many of our recommendations included in the Biden-Harris administration’s national strategy.
It’s especially rewarding to see the administration set a goal to end hunger in the United States by 2030. Bread for the World has been arguing for a goal to end hunger for more than a decade. Nearly every nation around the world signed on to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, including the global goal of ending hunger by 2030. Bread was one of the few U.S. anti-hunger organizations to call for the United States to use the opportunity of the SDGs as motivation to develop and carry out a plan to end hunger in this country.
Another aspect of the plan that feels particularly rewarding is the explicit linkages made between hunger, nutrition, and health. Bread for the World’s 2016 Hunger Report, The Nourishing Effect: Ending Hunger, Improving Health, and Reducing Inequality, was a seminal contribution to a national dialogue on these linkages that was just beginning. The role of hunger in the ever-rising costs of medical care did not receive much attention. The 2016 Hunger Report framed hunger as one of the social determinants of health, factors outside the healthcare system with major impacts on medical costs. Bread argued that healthcare professionals needed to play a much bigger role in fighting hunger. Fast forward to 2022, and it is clear from the significant presence of the healthcare sector at the conference that our argument has had some resonance.
The new national plan to end hunger includes several of Bread’s priorities for the 2023 farm bill. Bread argues that ending hunger in America is virtually impossible if people from several highly vulnerable groups remain ineligible to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP. These include people who were formerly incarcerated and low-income college students who do not work at least 20 hours per week. It also includes any adult who is able to work and does not have dependents but is out of work for more than three months in a three-year period. The national plan calls for ending these exclusionary laws. The 2023 farm bill reauthorization is clearly a good opportunity to do this. Another provision that Bread supports is extending eligibility for SNAP to people in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, replacing the current inferior program.
Stay tuned for a complete list of Bread’s priorities for the 2023 farm bill, which will be released by the end of the year.
It was particularly exciting that in his opening remarks at the conference, President Biden mentioned the astounding progress against child hunger and poverty made possible by the temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) in 2021. The expansion increased the value of the tax credit significantly. For several months, millions of previously ineligible low-income families, disproportionately Black and Latino, were eligible to receive the CTC. President Biden declared his commitment to working for a permanent expansion of the CTC.
Bread has long maintained that federal nutrition programs, while essential and helpful, are not enough to end hunger. Parents struggling to feed their kids and themselves need more income. Paying higher wages would be the best way to increase family incomes, but the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009, losing value every year to inflation. CTC expansion is the next best option. It has been proven effective and it is immediately available. Bread members and everyone celebrating the release of the national plan to end hunger should ask their elected leaders to make permanent expansion of the CTC, as an integral component of ending U.S. hunger, an urgent priority.
Todd Post is senior domestic policy advisor with Bread for the World.