The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, the first such conference in 50 years, took place on September 28, 2022. The Biden-Harris administration hosted the conference with the goal of identifying strategies to end hunger, improving nutrition and physical activity, and closing disparities surrounding them for Americans by 2030. Given rising rates of diet-related chronic illness in the U.S., the urgency of this convening is pressing.
Ahead of the conference, PBFA and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities College of Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine (HBCU-PLM) hosted a partner-led convening workshop for PBFA members and affiliates, partner organizations, and the HBCU-PLM network of medical professionals, in an effort to inform the White House of potential strategies and pathways to advance the national nutrition strategy. We also collaborated with the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and other coalition partners to advocate for the inclusion of a plant-based option served across all public sector institutions. This effort was endorsed by nearly 30 Members of Congress and almost 100 chefs. Additionally, the Plant Based Foods Institute partnered with Green America’s Soil and Climate Alliance to call on the White House to include soil health and agriculture as part of the conference agenda.
Our primary goal at the Plant Based Foods Association and Institute is to promote a shift to a plant-based food system that sustainably provides healthy, nutritious foods and increases accessibility for all. Collaborating with policymakers and aligned organizations is a key focus for our organizations and we are pleased to share the fruitful outcomes from our efforts around the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.
Key outcomes and PBFA’s role in advancing the White House strategy
We are proud to share that PBFA’s commitment in partnership with EWG was included in the White House’s Fact Sheet, the official package of actions agreed upon at the conference by business, civic, academic, and philanthropic leaders. Working alongside Chef Andrew Zimmern, EWG, the James Beard Foundation, and the Independent Restaurant Coalition, PBFA will support efforts to encourage chefs, restaurant owners, and operators to offer at least one plant-based or vegetarian option on their dinner menus. The Environmental Working Group will track and report progress on a quarterly basis.
In parallel to the White House effort, PBFA, PBFI, and Green America’s Soil and Climate Alliance have committed to:
- Leveling up on regenerative practices within our farms and companies to deliver healthier food to consumers at a price they can afford;
- Working across the food system to enable food brands and companies the ability to improve their domestic sourcing through and encourage regenerative practices that promote biodiversity, nutrient-dense food, and healthy soil;
- Building diversity into the supply chain with the structure necessary for BIPOC and underserved populations to engage with large-scale purchases of raw ingredients; and,
- Collaborating with the broader food space to ensure that the way food is being grown in the U.S. contributes to the goals outlined by the White House.
Plant-based foods garner local and federal support
The role of plant-based foods and efforts to increase access to healthy, sustainable, and nutrient-dense options for Americans took center stage at the conference. The day began with the Biden-Harris administration releasing their National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, including their commitment to “expand access to healthier environments in federal facilities. Implementing and updating the Federal Food Service Guidelines in federal facilities will promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and low sodium options; increase the availability of healthy beverage choices as well as plant-based options; and encourage healthy choices through behavioral design.” We applaud the Administration for including this important initiative as it helps to advance PBFA’s goal of ensuring that plant-based options are offered wherever the federal government serves a meal.
There were a number of other encouraging efforts to expand access to plant-based foods announced during the conference. As part of his remarks, New York City Mayor Eric Adams shared that plant-based meals would be provided as the default to patients across 11 NYC hospitals and shared his intention to grow this effort. In addition, the Partnership for a Healthier America announced its commitment to add 100 million additional servings of vegetables, fruits, and beans to the marketplace around the country by 2025 to increase access to healthy foods. These are just a few examples of initiatives that will further advance our collective mission to expand access to plant-based foods. If you’re interested in viewing the full recordings of the mainstage sessions at the conference, click here (Mayor Adams’ speech begins at 1:37:16) – videos of breakout sessions are also available.
New commitments will advance conference goals
At the close of the conference, President Biden announced the encouraging news that the response to advance key strategies garnered over $8 billion in private- and public-sector commitments. These non-profit and philanthropic contributions range from community-based programs to investing in new ways to incorporate nutrition into healthcare. Of this funding, $2.5 billion is being allocated to start-up companies pioneering solutions to hunger and food insecurity and over $4 billion will go toward philanthropic efforts to improve access to nutritious food, raise awareness around healthy choices, and increase physical activity.
We thank the Biden-Harris administration for their leadership in bringing together partners from across the food and health system in support of ending hunger and reducing diet-related disease by 2030. This Administration’s commitment to closing disparities among the communities that are impacted most comes through in the outcomes from this conference and we look forward to doing our part to bring these goals to pass.