The National Strategypublished before Wednesday White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, represents a significant step forward in the national fight against food insecurity and diet-related diseases. The 44-page report is packed with creative solutions to some of the biggest hunger, nutrition and health challenges.
CSPI is pleased to see several of our highest priorities, summarized in our July 15 letter to President Biden, included in the strategy.
The first of these is the nutrition labeling on the front of the package. Front-of-package nutrition labeling will reach more consumers than nutrition facts labels, help them choose healthier foods at a glance, and inspire companies to reformulate their products in a healthier direction. Americans typically consume too much sodium, added sugars, and saturated fats in their packaged foods, so being able to quickly identify foods high or low in these nutrients would be a huge advancement for public health. As one of the organizations that called on the Food and Drug Administration to adopt mandatory, standardized, and evidence-based labeling, we are excited to have this policy at the center of the strategy.
Importantly, the national strategy commits the administration to accelerating sodium reduction in packaged and restaurant foods by expanding the voluntary sodium reduction goals it released last year to cover long-term goals. term. We are also pleased that the national strategy calls for a parallel effort to reduce Americans’ sugar intake, including, potentially, setting new sugar reduction goals for different food categories.
The national strategy also says it will “push the way” toward healthy school meals for all, in line with the administration’s previous commitments, such as expanding access to free breakfast and lunch for 9 million. more children by 2032. That pathway already exists, Congress just has to take it, having failed to extend waivers by providing healthy school lunches for all.
The national strategy also calls for much-needed expansion of eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including for formerly incarcerated people, and proposes expanding incentive programs for fruit and vegetable purchases in the SNAP, thereby increasing the purchasing power of nutrient-dense foods for people. likely to experience food, nutrition and economic insecurity.
The National Strategy calls for leveraging the federal government’s purchasing and procurement power, including by “implementing and updating” federal foodservice guidelines for use in facilities and workplaces of the government. Millions of government employees, members of the armed forces, visitors to parks and memorials, patients at Veterans Administration facilities, and inmates in federal prisons will benefit from strict safety guidelines. food services. We urge the administration to put this in the form of an executive order to signal its commitment to implementing the food service guidelines in the dozens of federal agencies involved in the provision or service of food.
Other highlights of the report include improving online nutrition, ingredient, and allergen information, as requested in CSPI’s comments to the FDA in November 2021, and increased funding and better coordination of nutritional research (although no endorsement of a National Institute of Nutrition).
These measures would go a long way towards solving our current situation. But there are also missed opportunities. There is no mention of a national tax on sugary drinks, an evidence-based approach to reducing consumption while generating funds for critical local needs.
The administration is to be commended for embedding health equity concerns throughout the report, including leveraging housing and other community programs to increase underserved communities’ access to affordable food and health, diversity and inclusion in research and in the nutritional science workforce, and a focus on social determinants of health. The report also elegantly integrates hunger and public health concerns in a mutually reinforcing way. We encourage the administration to further develop strategies to advance health equity and justice, including prioritizing food sovereignty in U.S. territories.
I look forward to attending the White House Conference in person tomorrow, but the real work begins the next day. The CSPI will continue to participate actively in the process while hoping to transform the many useful proposals of the Strategy into concrete actions.