FRAC Applauds White House National Strategy to Address Hunger and Its Root Causes
Statement attributed to Luis Guardia, president, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)
WASHINGTON, September 27, 2022 — The Food Research & Action Center is pleased that the “National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health,” released today by the Biden-Harris administration, heeds the calls of anti-hunger organizations to build on the lessons learned from the pandemic, including bolstering federal nutrition programs, to effectively end hunger in the U.S. by 2030.
The strategy reflects some of the priorities FRAC laid out in its recommendations for the administration, which will be discussed at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, taking place on September 28.
The last conference of its kind was held in 1969 and proved to be a monumental catalyst for change, advancing policies and legislation that greatly improved access and expansion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and school meals.
More than 50 years later, the strategy released today recognizes that the federal nutrition programs remain among our nation’s most important, proven, and cost-effective public interventions. The COVID-19 pandemic has created unacceptable levels of food insecurity in America, disproportionately impacting Black, Latinx, and Native American households, and households with children. The dramatic spikes in hunger caused by the public health and economic fallout of the pandemic would be far worse if not for federal nutrition programs.
FRAC is pleased to see that the national strategy includes expanding access to SNAP, the nation’s first line of defense against hunger, to the formerly incarcerated and to college students. We also commend the administration for setting the stage to work with Congress to support granting territories the option to expand nutrition assistance through SNAP. Still, more must be done to expand equitable SNAP access and make SNAP benefits more adequate.
The last two years have proved that offering school meals to all children at no charge is a game changer for students, families, and schools. FRAC has been working tirelessly with its network of advocates across the country in urging Congress to make this approach permanent. The strategy outlined today moves us closer to achieving that goal by providing a pathway to reach 9 million more children with free school meals by 2032. We will continue to work with the administration and Congress to move forward on Healthy School Meals for All as quickly as possible to ensure that every child has access to the nutrition they need to learn and thrive in school. Too many families find themselves struggling to provide their children with the nutrition they need during the summer when school meals are no longer in reach. We are encouraged to see the White House is committed to expanding the Summer EBT program to ensure families have the resources they need when school lets out.
WIC has played a key role in keeping hunger at bay for infants and young children and expectant or postpartum individuals. The Biden-Harris administration plans to work with the Department of Health and Human Services to help states identify individuals eligible for WIC, among other programs, and advance its WIC modernization strategy.
Indian Country has long faced ongoing challenges of food security, which only deepened during the pandemic. According to the national strategy, the administration will continue to expand the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations Self-Determination projects and partner with Tribal communities when creating enhancements to the food package. Additionally, the Biden-Harris administration aims to expand the number of Indigenous and traditional foods in the Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs.
As effective as the nutrition programs are, they alone cannot end hunger, which is why we applaud the administration’s efforts to tackle the root causes of hunger. These include working with Congress to permanently expand the fully refundable Child Tax Credit, which kept nearly 4 million children out of poverty and lowered the number of households reporting not having enough to eat by 26 percent last year, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helped low-to-moderate-income workers and families get a tax break, as well as needed Congressional investments in affordable housing and child care.
The pandemic has been dubbed the most unequal in modern history with job losses from the pandemic overwhelmingly affecting low-wage, minority workers most. When people do not earn enough to cover basic needs, families must choose between paying for food, rent, transportation, or medical care. To address this challenge, the Biden-Harris administration says it plans to continue working with Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The strategy also includes improving transportation options to improve food access.
The strategy is a big step in the right direction, and I look forward to being in attendance at the conference alongside FRAC Board Member Kofi D. Essel, MD, MPH, FAAP, a pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital, who will be speaking at the event. I’m also looking forward to hearing from people with lived and living experience with hunger and poverty — their voices are critical to shaping effective, equitable, and meaningful policy.
Ensuring that no one in this country goes hungry is foundational to health, education, well-being, national security, economic priorities, and a more equitable America.
FRAC stands ready to work with the administration, Congress, and a wide array of diverse stakeholders that include various federal, state, local, and Tribal leaders and community officers, members of the anti-hunger, health, and private sector, and people with lived expertise of hunger.
Together, we can end hunger in America by 2030. Hungry people can’t wait.
The Food Research & Action Center improves the nutrition, health, and well-being of people struggling against poverty-related hunger in the United States through advocacy, partnerships, and by advancing bold and equitable policy solutions. To learn more, visit FRAC.org and follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.