As Prepared For Delivery:
Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be here with leading anti-hunger, nutrition, and health leaders, and to be joined by so many others who are watching online.
Six months ago, the Biden-Harris Administration convened the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in more than 50 years. At the same time, the Administration published a National Strategy to lay out President Biden’s vision for ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases by 2030—all while closing disparities.
We were grateful to have Americans from all corners of the country attend this historic Conference. Many of you have reflected on how that event ignited action to address the interrelated challenges of hunger, nutrition, and health. But, as you heard me say then, it was not the end; it was just the beginning. Implementing the National Strategy is a top priority, and we’ve kept our foot on the gas.
For example, improving food access through the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer program was a key priority in the Strategy. And President Biden did just that—making the Summer EBT Program permanent and nationwide in last year’s omnibus 2023 budget agreement. This is a huge step towards reducing hunger among children and ensuring kids have nutritious meal options, even when school is out. It’s also the first new nationwide Child Nutrition Program to be permanently authorized in almost five decades.
In addition, we’re taking numerous administrative actions to reduce hunger and improve nutrition and health, including releasing several proposed rules to support nutritious meals for students; removing barriers to using WIC online; and updating the “healthy” claim on food packages.
Today, the Food and Drug Administration is issuing a proposed rule that will help reduce sodium in our food supply. Under the proposal, salt substitutes would be allowed in many foods where salt is an ingredient, like canned vegetables and cheeses. Many food manufacturers are already using salt substitutes to lower their sodium content without changing a food’s taste or texture. The FDA is also releasing draft guidance on the recommended statements food companies place on the front of their products to help consumers better understand how a food fits into healthy eating.
The President’s Budget for fiscal year 2024 further builds on this progress. It proposes investments to expand school meals to 9 million more children; broaden and enhance access to Medicare and Medicaid coverage of nutrition and obesity counseling; connect more people to parks; and bolster nutrition research at the National Institutes of Health.
These are just a few of the steps we’ve taken. But we can’t do this work alone. At the White House Conference, we asked you—private companies, non-profits, state and local governments, community leaders, non-governmental organizations, philanthropies, health care providers, workers, and everyone in between—to come together to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030.
And many of you delivered. More than 60 public and private organizations made generous, impactful commitments, totaling more than $8 billion. Many of those in the audience today represent these organizations—thank you for being leaders in your sectors. Since September, organizations that made commitments have reported serving over 9.4 million meals, raised nearly $40 million to support their commitments, and helped underserved communities access healthy food. For example, the grocery chain Meijer enabled over 740,000 SNAP beneficiaries to purchase fruits and vegetables at a 10% discount. And the National Grocers Association is helping grocers—particularly smaller, independent stores—sell food to SNAP participants online.
But, hunger and diet-related diseases continue to affect far too many Americans. We need to keep up the momentum.
Today—as March is National Nutrition Month—we are announcing the White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities. Through this Challenge, we are rallying a second round of commitments that will help us achieve our urgent goals.
For the Challenge, we’ve outlined priority actions that we’re encouraging organizations and communities to take. We’re seeking big, bold actions that help eliminate disparities, test new models, scale up evidence-based strategies, and go beyond what the federal government can do. Check out www.whitehouse.gov/hungerhealth conference to learn more.
Local elected officials, non-profits, foundations, and private companies have already responded to this new Challenge by making commitments to improve access to nutritious food, promote healthy choices, and increase physical activity. They are showing us that this work not only can be good for individuals and communities, but can be good for a company’s bottom line.
Today, we also announced the nominees for the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. José Andrés, star chef and founder of World Central Kitchen, and Elena Delle Donne, star basketball player with my hometown Washington Mystics, are the co-chairs of this Council. Both are MVPs on the issues of hunger and health. We are excited to work with them and the rest of the Council to champion the White House Challenge.
We’re eager to start this next chapter by hearing today about the inspiring steps that individuals and organizations are already taking. I hope today’s stories leave you even more inspired to participate in the Challenge. It’s going to take all of us—from all sectors, all communities, and all political parties—to transform our food and health systems. We’re counting on you.
With that, now we will hear some remarks from Senator Stabenow, and then Secretary Becerra will moderate a panel on action that is being catalyzed in communities across the country. Thank you.