USA Rice Takes Part in Historic White House Hunger Conference

Chef Jose Andres (left) and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack
Sep 29, 2022
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, the Biden Administration hosted the first White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health since 1969 with the goal of ending hunger in the U.S. by 2030 and increasing healthy eating and physical activity to reduce diet-related diseases.

USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward joined a select group of private and public industry leaders who participated in the historic conference.

The scope of the conference covered five pillars that were meant to help identify actions that can be taken by the public and private sector.  The pillars are: improve food access and affordability; integrate nutrition and health; empower all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices; support physical activity for all; and enhance nutrition and food security research.  

Leading up to the conference, the White House held a series of stakeholder listening sessions and asked the public to submit recommendations, comments, and experiences that were incorporated into the conference agenda and the National Strategy, a 44-page summary of policies and recommendations to make healthy food more affordable and accessible and invest in expanding physical activity options and enhancing research on food and nutrition.

USA Rice participated in the listening sessions and signed on to submitted comments that provided pillar-specific recommendations.  USA Rice also authored a letter that was sent to the White House Domestic Policy Council asking for the agriculture industry to be well represented at the conference (see USA Rice Daily, September 8, 2022).

“We commend the Biden Administration for the goals laid out to combat food insecurity and diet-related diseases,” said Ward.  “It is important for USA Rice to be part of this conversation since rice can play a significant role in helping to end hunger, improve nutrition, and decrease health disparities.  Rice’s versatility combined with its accessibility, affordability, and its status as a culturally accepted healthy food option must be part of the equation to address these critical issues.”
Key proposals from the report include: expanding free school meals; allowing more people to qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); broadening the summer feeding programs to include more children; increasing funding for nutrition programs for senior citizens; improving transportation to and from grocery stores for an estimated 40 million Americans who have low access; reducing food waste; the development of new food packaging to truth-check “healthy” claims; conducting more screenings for food insecurity; educating health-care providers on nutrition; and boosting funding for research.
During the conference, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack provided an overview of the National Strategy and President Biden stressed the importance of the bi-partisan nature of the conference and reiterated his goal of essentially ending food insecurity for all Americans.

Following remarks from the President and Secretary Vilsack, conference participants broke into panel discussions for each of the pillars and heard from Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra in conversation with House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, and Eric Adams, mayor of New York City.

The conference wrapped up with a keynote address from Chef José Andrés and a working group session to collaborate and identify additional actions to help achieve the goal of ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases.

“USA Rice will continue to engage with the Biden Administration on this initiative to insure rice is at the table and that any new programs take a science-based approach to health and nutrition,” Ward said.