Advocacy groups have had their work cut out for them following September’s White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which set up an ambitious vision to end hunger in the United States.
During the summit, the White House urged Congress to make permanent “the child tax credit, raise the minimum wage, and expand nutrition assistance programs,” according to NPR, while also highlighting a range of other solutions including private sector collaborations.
"If you look at your child and you can't feed your child, what the hell else matters?" President Joe Biden said at the summit. "In America, no child should go to bed hungry. No parent should die of disease that can be prevented.”
The scale of hunger in the US has risen in the past few years, driven largely by the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing cost of living. In fact, more than 38 million Americans struggle with ongoing hunger, according to the Alliance to End Hunger, including 11.7 million children who are severely impacted by the lack of nutrition.
Ensuring that everyone in the country has access to as much nutritious food as they need to stay healthy will require broad government investments and poverty-reduction policies, but NPR noted that Congressional Republicans may block action on this front.
Nearly 30,000 Global Citizens signed a petition ahead of the conference, urging Biden to make poverty and the cost of living crisis central to the conversations around hunger. More than $8 billion in food-related commitments were made from a variety of parties, including the AARP, National Grocers Association, and DoorDash, and the White House unveiled a national strategy to end hunger in the US by 2030.
“This strategy is a beacon lighting the road we must now take,” said Eric Mitchell, executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger. “We look forward to discussing these ideas and recommendations with the White House and Congress to promote greater equity, improve access to nutritious foods, and ultimately ensure that every American has food on the table every day.”
In an effort to maintain momentum and advance tangible policies, Global Citizen teamed up with nutrition impact investment fund Food Systems for the Future for a virtual discussion on Oct. 26, featuring some of the leading voices in the fight to end hunger.
The "Better Food, Better Health" discussion focused primarily on the role that the private sector can play in promoting nutritional well-being and invited everyday people to share their stories.
Global Citizen Prize: Citizen Award USA winner Barbie Izquierdo, a food security activist and consultant, spoke about her lived experience with hunger and how that informs her ongoing community work and advocacy — a theme she also brought up during the White House summit.
“We know what it is to have to go to bed without feeding our children,” she said in September. “We know the importance of nutrition and how kids who aren’t eating don’t do well in school. These are the things people need to hear so they can take the fight seriously and to end the stigma of ‘welfare queens.’ There are so many more people who are suffering through these things, who want to become a part of the solution and just aren’t given the opportunity to be in the right room with the gatekeepers.”
While ending hunger domestically is an urgent undertaking, advocates also urge for an international approach that recognizes the dysfunctional nature of the global food system. Currently, more than 828 million people struggle with hunger and nearly half of the global population can’t afford a healthy diet. At the same time, an estimated 40% of all food produced is wasted and industrial factory farms and forms of agriculture are degrading ecosystems and fueling the climate crisis.
Countries need to first raise the $33 billion needed to eliminate current levels of hunger. Then, they must address root causes of hunger by investing in sustainable forms of agriculture and shift the purpose of food production to feeding families rather than making profits.
Ahead of the COP27 climate conference in Egypt and the G20 summit in Indonesia this November, Global Citizen is calling on G20 members, including the US, to mobilize the funds needed to begin this transition, prevent 50 million people in 45 countries from experiencing starvation, and avoid future food crises.
In the months ahead, we must build on the momentum of the White House summit and keep the spotlight on the urgent crisis of hunger. You can join us by taking action here.