Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) is urging the Biden Administration to incorporate “food is medicine” proposals into the White House’s platform for the upcoming Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Pingree, along with Reps. Kim Schrier and Derek Kilmer, detailed the important role that Food is Medicine interventions play in addressing hunger and improving nutrition and health.
“Poor diets are a leading contributor to the development of chronic illness, often with a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged and rural communities. Numerous studies have shown that interventions to improve access and affordability of healthy, nutritious foods are effective, improving health outcomes and lowering health care spending,” Pingree, Schrier, and Kilmer wrote.
“This Conference, the first of its kind in over 50 years, represents a significant opportunity to spur whole-government action, engage with partners across the country, and ensure that all Americans have reliable access to healthy food,” they continued. “We urge you to incorporate food is medicine into the White House’s platform for the Conference. We appreciate your leadership as we strive to enact policies that will end hunger and improve both nutrition and health across the nation.”
The full letter is available online here and copied below.
On Wednesday, September 28, the Biden-Harris Administration will host the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The first and only national, government-led conference to address hunger was in 1969, which led to transformational legislation to combat hunger in America, creating crucial programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, also known as WIC.
Pingree, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee and is a cofounder of the bipartisan Food is Medicine Working Group, championed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus spending bill that provided $2.5 million for a White House food conference. The White House says the conference will focus on ending hunger and increasing healthy eating and physical activity by 2030 to help cut down on the number of Americans suffering from diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.
Pingree is an original cosponsor of the Medically Tailored Home-Delivered Meals Demonstration Pilot Act, which would pilot the delivery of nutritious, medically-tailored meals to Medicare recipients, and address the critical link between diet and chronic illness.
In April 2021, Pingree reintroduced the Kids Eat Local Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill to support local and regional food systems and encourage healthy meal choices among school-aged children.
It’s estimated that 62% of U.S. adults over the age of 65 live with one or more chronic conditions. A poor diet contributes to COVID risks, especially for those with underlying chronic health conditions, and a growing body of research demonstrates that medically tailored meals can be a cost-effective strategy for improving health outcomes.
The number of undernourished people in the world has been on the rise since 2015 and has reached the levels seen in 2010. Prolonged conflict, extreme weather events, and economic slowdowns and downturns are key driving factors reversing the progress made for over a decade. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic made the path toward the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to achieve zero hunger by 2030 even steeper.
Pingree launched the first-ever Bipartisan Food Recovery Caucus in 2018, and including provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill to create the first full-time food loss and waste liaison at USDA, a composting and food waste reduction pilot program, and the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) to reduce on-farm waste.
She has also introduced and cosponsored several bills to combat food waste and food insecurity, including the Food Date Labeling Act, FIND Food Act, School Food Recovery Act, Zero Waste Act, COMPOST Act, Agriculture Resilience Act, National Food Waste Reduction Act, and Food Donation Improvement Act. Many of these initiatives were included in the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’s first-ever comprehensive report on climate change.
Dear Ambassador Rice,
We look forward to the upcoming White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health and appreciate the opportunity to share input on topics to address. As you develop the Administration’s goals for the Conference, we urge you to consider the important role that Food is Medicine interventions play in addressing hunger, nutrition, and health and advance strategies to integrate them across the federal government.
Food is Medicine seeks to strengthen the role of food access and nutrition in maintaining good health and preventing disease. Poor diets are a leading contributor to the development of chronic illness, often with a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged and rural communities. Numerous studies have shown that interventions to improve access and affordability of healthy, nutritious foods are effective, improving health outcomes and lowering health care spending.
A broad coalition of stakeholders comprised of health care providers and payers, food retailers, foundations and community-based organizations have developed a wide range of programs advancing the idea of Food is Medicine, from medically tailored meals to produce prescription programs. As Members of Congress, we strongly support expanding access to these models to allow more Americans to benefit.
Medically tailored meals, for example, can be customized by medical providers to meet the needs of a patient based on their condition and have been shown to reduce inpatient hospital admissions and emergency department visits. H.R. 5370, the Medically Tailored Home-Delivered Meals Demonstration Pilot Act, would establish a Medicare demonstration program to improve access for beneficiaries and further show the value of the service. With more than half of U.S. adults over 65 suffering from one or more chronic conditions, advancing this legislation and similar efforts would have a major impact for vulnerable populations.
Produce prescriptions provide low-cost or free access to fruits and vegetables for Americans experiencing food insecurity or diet-related health risks. The 2018 Farm Bill established a Produce Prescription Program under the Nutrition Incentive Program at USDA, which supports community partners in demonstrating and evaluating the impact of these programs. Recent appropriations bills have further expanded these efforts, including pilot programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service.
This Conference, the first of its kind in over 50 years, represents a significant opportunity to spur whole-government action, engage with partners across the country, and ensure that all Americans have reliable access to healthy food. We urge you to incorporate food is medicine into the White House’s platform for the Conference. We appreciate your leadership as we strive to enact policies that will end hunger and improve both nutrition and health across the nation.