White House Releases National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health

The White House released a National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on September 27. The strategy identifies actions the Biden-Harris administration will take to reach its goal of ending hunger and increasing healthy eating and physical activity by 2030, so that fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases. The administration hosted the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in over 50 years on September 28. The national strategy calls for a whole-of-government approach to addressing hunger, which will build on the efforts the administration has taken to bolster economic security for families. The strategy outlines specific actions HUD will take to increase access to affordable and nutritious food and highlights the need to address systemic inequities that contribute to food insecurity, including housing insecurity.

NLIHC, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), and the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign sent a letter on September 21 urging the Biden administration to ensure that the national strategy focuses on the underlying causes of hunger, including America’s homelessness and rental housing affordability crisis (Memo, 9/26). The letter emphasizes that any national strategy to address hunger must include the need for large-scale, sustained investments and reforms to ensure that renters with the lowest incomes have affordable places to call home and can afford to buy adequate and nutritious food. Ending hunger requires expanding proven housing solutions – including Housing Choice Vouchers, the national Housing Trust Fund, and public housing – to help the lowest-income and most marginalized families pay rent and make ends meet.

The Biden administration emphasizes in its national strategy that an essential step to reducing hunger and associated disparities is helping all people become economically secure. To that end, the White House will continue working to reduce food insecurity by urging Congress to expand the Housing Choice Voucher program to ensure that low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities can afford decent, safe, accessible, and sanitary housing; permanently extend the expanded Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit; invest in affordable, high-quality child care; raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and close the Medicaid coverage gap.

The strategy details how federal agencies, including HUD, can facilitate participation in federal assistance programs, leverage housing and other community programs to increase food access, and better understand social determinants of health to help achieve health equity. HUD, for example, will promote flexibilities that allow owners of HUD-assisted properties and public housing authorities to use federal funds to renovate and maintain spaces in public housing developments to improve food access. Further, HUD will propose the use of Community Development Block Grants, Section 108 loan program funding, and Choice Neighborhood funding to support food access and provide case management to help residents connect with health providers. Additionally, the strategy states that HUD will promote the use of Indian Community Development Block Grant dollars to expand food access through the development of food banks and pantries, physical activities, and more in tribal communities, especially those with limited access to affordable and nutritious foods.

The Biden administration emphasizes that social determinants of health are a significant driver of health disparities and can be a strong predictor of health outcomes. Given this, a better understanding of these factors is critical to advancing health equity. HUD will partner with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Census Bureau to better understand and address persistent food insecurity among HUD-assisted individuals who are already connected with nutrition assistance programs. HUD will compare USDA’s Food Access Research Atlas with HUD data to identify areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious foods and prioritize outreach to HUD grantees in those areas. Further, HUD will incorporate enhancing nutrition and food security research into the next HUD learning agenda for research publications.

The Biden-Harris administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health is available at: https://bit.ly/3UFsY8W

Read the joint letter to the Biden administration at: https://bit.ly/3QVANUY