Child Watch: New steps toward ending hunger

“In every country in the world and in every state in this country, no matter what else divides us, if a parent cannot feed a child, there’s nothing else that matters for that parent.  If you look at your child and you can’t feed your child, what the hell else matters?”

In his remarks at the September 28 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, President Biden summed up the heart of the matter for any family that has ever struggled to put food on the table. This event was the first time the White House had convened a conference on hunger in more than 50 years. The first one, held in December 1969, led to the beginning of a series of expansions of the federal food safety net programs that so many tens of millions depend on today. But there is a critical need to do more right now. The 2022 conference emphasized once again that hunger, along with disparities in access to healthy food and in health outcomes linked to nutrition, is preventable—and we have the ability to do something about it.

The Children’s Defense Fund joined other organizations urging the White House to hold this conference, signing a letter earlier this year that read in part: “We can end hunger in America, and a public commitment to a White House Conference, with ending hunger as a key priority, is an essential step in accomplishing this goal…The 1969 Conference led to an expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the National School Lunch Program, as well as the establishment of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The Conference created meaningful and necessary conversations to address hunger and food insecurity in America at the time. Now, more than half a century later, conversations on how we will finally put an end to hunger in America are long overdue.”

The White House responded, and this new conference reinforced its goal of ending hunger and increasing healthy eating and physical activity by 2030. As they put it: “Millions of Americans are afflicted with food insecurity and diet-related diseases—including heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes—which are some of the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. The toll of hunger and these diseases is not distributed equally, disproportionately impacting underserved communities, including communities of color, people living in rural areas, people who are differently-abled, older adults, LGBTQI+ people, military families, and military veterans.