The White House created its first conference to explore hunger and nutrition in the United States in 1969. Since then, hunger has not only remained constant, but has regularly increased to staggeringly high levels.
Now, in the wake of the health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden-Harris administration is gearing up for another conference on hunger, nutrition and health next September. The mandate is ambitious: “End hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030, so fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.”
More than 38 million people in the US, including 12 million children, struggle with food insecurity, meaning they can’t get enough food to stay healthy. according to the United States Department of Agriculture. During the pandemic, more than 53 million Americans turned to food banks as bank accounts dwindled and fridges emptied.
Barbie Izquierdo, a food security activist and consultant and winner of the 2022 Global Citizen Award: Citizen Award USA, is all too familiar with the deprivations of hunger, having struggled with it for much of her life. She will bring the insights she gained from her lived experience to the White House to hold leaders accountable.
On June 29, he was part of a listening session in which he shared several recommendations for action the White House can take to end hunger.
First, he wants the White House to recognize poverty as one of the main causes of hunger.
“Not having adequate living wages, a safe environment full of support, resources, networks, education, affordability, accessibility, [and] health care by the constraints of poverty contribute to food insecurity,” he said during the session.
“Without these things, we are failing millions of families and communities by not addressing the social determinants of health that affect their safety, mental health, and well-being,” he added. “People who have experienced poverty know the difference between surviving every day and having the opportunity to thrive. We all want to be closer to financial freedom and to be heard with access to those opportunities to prosper, without having to further sacrifice basic needs.”
She also wants the White House to empower people who actually experienced hunger and poverty into decision-making roles because they know best how to end this crisis, she argued. That means allowing people like Barbie to inform, guide and monitor policies aimed at making nutritious food more accessible.
Recognizing the role of poverty in hunger means developing policies that mitigate the problem, such as raising the thresholds for what counts as poverty so that more people can take advantage of welfare programs. Today, many people encounter what is known as the “profit precipice” when they start earning more money than the upper limit of the poverty category. Paradoxically, even though the person is now earning more money, the end of benefits leaves them even poorer.
Barbie also called for a wide expansion of food and nutritional support for families, mothers and students, while helping families cope with the growing effects of inflation.
“I ask that we work together to fix and secure better safety nets so that fewer families suffer from benefit cliffs that keep the cycle of poverty alive,” he said during the session.
the world today produces enough food to end hungerwhich means that the continued presence of hunger is simply a failure of governments around the world.
The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health is an opportunity to put in place policies that will end this crisis once and for all, enabling people everywhere to achieve healthy bodies and thrive.
But listening to defenders like Barbie Izquierdo is the first step.
Global Citizen is working with Barbie to share with the White House the experiences and recommendations of people who know firsthand the impacts and realities of hunger. If you have been hungry or have worked to fight hunger in your community, she can share her comments. We will collect your responses and send them to the White House team working on the new hunger strategy by the July 15 deadline to ensure they are considered.
Barbie asks White House hunger conference organizers