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On September 28, 2022, President Biden convened the White House Hunger Conference. He unveiled a National Strategy to end hunger and reduce diet-related disease by 2030.

Part of the national strategy requires legislative action. The administration successfully worked with Congress on changes that are will provide summer meals to many more children. But Congress failed to extend the expanded Child Tax Credit, and House Republicans are now pushing for deep cuts in WIC and other low-income programs.

But part of the Biden-Harris plan is an outline of strategic actions that companies and non-profit organizations can take, and the administration has done a good job of promoting private-sector commitments.

What most excites me about the White House action plan is a long list of administrative actions that would reduce hunger and diet-related disease. In the run-up to the conference, the White House pushed all the departments and agencies of government to consider ways they could help achieve the President's ambitious goal of ending hunger and reducing diet-related disease by 2030.

These were administrative actions that don't require congressional approval, and the Biden administration is following up on its commitments. Some examples to date:

  • Approved large-scale Medicaid tests of ways that Medicaid can support improvements in nutrition.

  • Invited proposals for research on food as medicine.

  • Took steps to (a) make school meals even healthier and expand access to free meals to more students and (b) make it easier for mothers to use WIC and allow them to buy fruits and vegetables with their WIC benefits.

  • Took steps to reduce sodium in the food supply and update the criteria for when foods and beverages can use the claim “healthy” on their packaging.

  • Took steps to improve the front-of-package label for foods and beverages.

  • Expanded food as medicine programs at Veterans Administration health care facilities and launched a food as medicine program in the Indian Health Service.

My one disappointment is that the White House hasn't yet done very much to publicize the administration's serious commitment to progress against hunger and diet-related diseases.

I hope the President will talk about what he's achieved on this front as he explains "Bidenomics."

  • Writer's pictureDavid Beckmann

Religion News Service just published an essay I wrote about new data from the United Nations on global progress against poverty: It shows that the pandemic has caused a tremendous setback, but that some progress against poverty continues.

Those of you who receive my blog posts know that I find the world's dramatic progress against poverty religiously important. It's like the exodus of the Bible, a contemporary experience of God's love for humanity. God is surely calling for us to do what we can to continue the progress that is so clearly feasible.

I don't think it's feasible anymore to overcome hunger and extreme poverty by 2030, but the fact that hundreds of millions of the world's poorest people have managed to climb back from their losses during the pandemic is encouraging.

U.S. government leadership on global poverty issues is an important part of what's needed to get back on a trajectory toward virtually ending hunger and extreme poverty. Yet House Republicans, swayed by their most extreme members, are this week poised to approve brutal cuts in poverty-focused international aid.

Notes from home to Democrats and centrist Republicans can encourage them to protect poverty-focused international aid in the compromise that will be needed to re-open the government. The current attack on international aid also adds further to the case for giving time and money to Democrats in the upcoming elections.

  • Writer's pictureDavid Beckmann

New Census data show hat Congress' failure to continue pandemic assistance programs has led to the biggest jump in poverty in 50 years. Census data from prior years show that Congress substantially reduced U.S. poverty during the pandemic, but then allowed it to surge again - a clear demonstration of the importance of government programs that help poor and hungry people.

I tell this important story in my new Religion News Service op-ed, which I urge you to read:

I also want to flag the immediate need for advocacy with our senators to secure needed funding for WIC (Women, Infants, and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program).

House Republicans are again insisting on deep cuts to poverty-focused programs and threatening to shut the government if they don't get their way. The Senate is trying to approve part of the appropriations package this week. Because of recent rises in food prices and participation, they need to add $1.4 billion to what the Senate Agriculture Committee approved. Otherwise, WIC will, for the first time in a very long time, have to turn away some mothers and children who are clearly in need of nutrition assitance.

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