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The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health & the Farm Bill

Jessica Grubesic and Naomi Jennings are law students in the HLS Food Law & Policy Clinic and guest contributors on this blog.

To launch its ambitious five-pillar strategy to end hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030, the Biden-Harris Administration held the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in over 50 years on September 28. Below, we assess the published strategy and identify policies that align FBLE’s 2023 Farm Bill Recommendations (Column 1) and suggest additional policy adjustments outlined in detail in FBLE’s Food Access and Nutrition Report (Column 2).

Published to promote policy solutions that address “the intersections between food, hunger, nutrition, and health,” the National Strategy calls for a combination of legislation, executive action, regulatory changes, and public-private partnerships to achieve the following goals:

  1. Pillar 1: Improve food access and affordability
  2. Pillar 2: Integrate nutrition and health
  3. Pillar 3: Empower all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices
  4. Pillar 4: Support physical activity for all
  5. Pillar 5: Enhance nutrition and food security research

The National Strategy envisions a systemic approach to transforming U.S. food, nutrition, and health policy by leveraging existing programs and implementing new public-private partnerships for which the Administration has secured $8 billion in funding commitments.

FBLE-Aligned White House Strategy:Additional FBLE Recommendations:
Work with Congress to ensure formerly incarcerated individuals and college students have access to SNAP benefits.Include service members and military families, residents of U.S. territories, immigrants who have not met the five-year bar for SNAP eligibility, and able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) in the classification of “other vulnerable populations” for whom the Administration will expand access to SNAP. Further, Congress should eliminate asset limits and update and improve SNAP deductions for medical and shelter deductions. 
Support food sovereignty by expanding FDPIR Self-Determination Projects in partnership with Tribes, creating Indigenous Food Hubs offering culturally relevant foods at select BIE schools and BIA detention centers, expanding HHS resources for food security in Tribal communities, and using HUD’s Indian Community Development Block Grant to establish food banks in Tribal communities.Allow Tribes to manage SNAP administration and allowing people to use both SNAP and FDPIR. FBLE would also direct policymakers to the  Native Farm Bill Coalition’s recent report entitled “Gaining Ground: A Report on the 2018 Farm Bill Successes for Indian Country and Opportunities for 2023.” 
Modernize SNAP by making the online shopping program permanent.Expand SNAP online purchasing and assisting small and mid-size retailers to begin accepting online EBT payments, expanding SNAP funding to cover certain delivery fees, and creating a permanent mobile payment platform to modernize EBT. 
Allow SNAP participants to purchase prepared foods with their SNAP benefits. Expand eligibility for the SNAP Restaurant Meals Program and require USDA to base SNAP benefit calculations on the Moderate- or Low-Cost Food Plan rather than the Thrifty Food Plan. 
Improve access to emergency food by increasing American Rescue Plan and TEFAP funding and expanding USDA and FEMA capacity in responding to emergency food needs, including natural disasters.Enact automatic stabilizers to increase SNAP benefits during crises, allow states to automatically issue D-SNAP replacement benefits, and allow SNAP recipients to purchase hot foods during natural disasters. 
Use SNAP-Ed to promote healthy foods, limit marketing of unhealthy foods in military facilities, and use FTC enforcement action to prevent deceptive marketing aimed at children.Allocate funds for evaluating the success of SNAP-Ed programs and researching the long-term impacts of SNAP-Ed and direct the USDA to study marketing practices broadly in order to standardize those used by SNAP retailers. 
Expand nutrition incentive programs in SNAP to increase purchase of fruits and vegetables; expand Medicare and Medicaid to provide “food is medicine” services and access to nutrition and obesity counseling.Strengthen GusNIP’s Produce Prescription Program, expands GusNIP and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), and integrates nutrition incentives into SNAP using the GusNIP model.Establish a common enrollment platform for Medicaid, SNAP, and WIC to improve access to each of these services.

Sessions at the White House Conference were designed to parallel the five pillars outlined in the National Strategy and featured a variety of speakers who offered insight into both opportunities and challenges that will likely arise as the White House, Congress, and other stakeholders strive to realize the Strategy’s goals.

 Takeaways on Farm Bill Nutrition Programs from Speakers at the White House Conference

At the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, speakers from both the public and private sector voiced their support for SNAP while providing comments on possible updates or expansions.

Speaking directly on the Farm Bill, Senator Debbie Stabenow, the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, emphasized the importance of protecting and expanding the Farm Bill’s food access programs and committed to protecting SNAP from cuts in the upcoming Farm Bill. She also spoke in support of pilot programs, citing the success of past programs including Double-Up Bucks (i.e., nutrition incentive programs), a dairy donation program, and a produce prescription program. More generally, she emphasized the importance of the Farm Bill for food access, nutrition, land and water conservation, local foods, supporting farmers, and food affordability.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, spoke in support of expanding nutrition programs, raising the SNAP benefit to at least 30 dollars, expanding the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) to the territories, boosting older adult participation in SNAP,  supporting local farms, increasing access to plant-based food, increasing research in alternative proteins and diet-related diseases, and expanding Food is Medicine programs. Congresswoman DeLauro also promoted non-farm bill programs and advocated for extending WIC eligibility until the sixth birthday or first day of kindergarten, preventing WIC from lapsing, and providing free school meals to every child. As chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, Congresswoman DeLauro’s comments are likely more relevant to future appropriations bills, but these goals could also inform Farm Bill policy.

Throughout the conference, individuals from the private sector spoke on a range of innovative community food access programs that could provide guidance on creating food access programs within the Farm Bill. These include expanding the reach of SNAP benefits, including through vending machines , creating new food marketplaces in underserved areas (discussed by Mary Blackford, the founder of Market 7), and grocery delivery  (discussed by Kamau Witherspoon, the CEO of Shipt). Speakers like Karen Pearl, Dr. Sachin Jain, and Dr. Kofi Essel also discussed the necessity of Food is Medicine programs and integrating nutrition and medicine.

Across the board, speakers at the White House Conference emphasized the need for increased access to healthy food through federal assistance and through public-private partnerships. As detailed in the table above, the Farm Bill Law Enterprise echoes many of the sentiments expressed at the conference.  For more detail on the Farm Bill Law Enterprise’s recommendations, please refer to FBLE’s Food Access and Nutrition Report.

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