Home Precision Agriculture Is It Time for a Second White House Summit on Food?

Is It Time for a Second White House Summit on Food?


Sen. Cory Booker continues to be a relative beginner on the Senate Agriculture Committee, however that hasn’t stopped the New Jersey Democrat from considering massive relating to American farming and meals. “We must urgently rethink the way we approach food and nutrition policy,” he informed a group of agriculture reporters late final week.

To call simply a few of Booker’s targets: further federal assist for Black and different deprived farmers past the historic $5 billion he helped safe for them earlier this 12 months, tens of billions of {dollars} in incentives to push farmers and ranchers to undertake climate-friendly practices, a nationwide moratorium on concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFOs, and a everlasting USDA meals field program that will ship recent vegatables and fruits to communities. The merchandise on his want record with essentially the most potential for sweeping change, nonetheless, shouldn’t be of the legislative selection; it’s a second White House convention on meals and vitamin, an thought to which Booker lent his assist final week.

A nationwide summit could not sound all that bold, particularly provided that such occasions are designed to incorporate way more discuss than motion. However to grasp the potential influence of a second convention, it’s useful to revisit the primary one, held approach again in 1969 when Richard Nixon was president.

The unique White House Convention on Meals, Diet and Well being was a seminal occasion that basically reshaped US meals and vitamin coverage in methods each massive and small. The three-day occasion included roughly 3,000 attendees and generated greater than 1,800 particular suggestions—practically 1,600 of which would ultimately be carried out in a single kind or one other. Not each advice was huge nor essentially lasting, however a number of actually have been. Diet consultants and public coverage sorts credit score the convention report with resulting in main expansions of the meals stamp and college lunch packages, the event of federal dietary pointers, enhancements to vitamin and ingredient labeling and the creation of the Particular Supplemental Diet Program for Girls, Infants and Youngsters, or WIC. Generally, discuss does result in motion.

The convention, nonetheless, didn’t present itself nor did Nixon name for it in a vacuum. It was the results of a confluence of occasions, some distinctive to the period and a few that also echo at this time.

Right here’s an abbreviated timeline (a fuller model of which you could find right here): In 1967, civil rights lawyer Marian Wright testified earlier than a Senate subcommittee about poverty and malnutrition, significantly within the American South. At Wright’s invitation, then-Sens. Robert Kennedy and Joseph Clark went on a fact-finding mission to Mississippi later that 12 months, within the course of bringing with them the nationwide highlight. Then, in 1968, CBS Information aired a particular report, Starvation in America, which introduced beforehand unimaginable pictures of malnutrition into thousands and thousands of middle- and upper-class American dwelling rooms. On the identical time, activists have been within the streets demanding motion, together with on the Poor Folks’s March on Washington, which Martin Luther King, Jr. helped organized shortly earlier than his assassination. The next 12 months, Nixon referred to as for the summit, at which he declared a “national commitment to put an end to hunger and malnutrition due to poverty in America.”

The federal authorities didn’t fairly stay as much as that lofty aim, in fact—an estimated 54 million Individuals are meals insecure at this time—however the enlargement of federal vitamin efforts prompted by the convention had a main and nearly instant influence. The variety of kids within the faculty lunch program, for occasion, quadrupled through the two years after the convention, whereas the variety of Individuals within the meals stamps program (since rebranded because the Supplemental Diet Program or SNAP) climbed even quicker, to 11 million in 1971 from 2 million in 1968, in accordance with a 2019 report from Tufts College and the Harvard T.H. Chan Faculty of Public Well being.

A half-century later, the American vitamin panorama has modified—the priority is now much less in regards to the amount of our meals and extra in regards to the high quality of it, significantly within the face of rising charges of weight problems and diabetes. There’s additionally elevated consideration being paid to dietary inequities, the numerous position that the American weight loss program performs in world local weather change and the vulnerabilities within the meals provide chain uncovered by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a group of public well being consultants and former authorities officers put it earlier this 12 months when floating the concept of a second summit: “Our food system is complex, touching multiple aspects of our lives, economy and planet. Fixing it will require innovative solutions.”

After all, whether or not a second White House summit can be as profitable as the unique is an open query. Notably, the primary had important bipartisan buy-in, from Democrats reminiscent of George McGovern and Republicans reminiscent of Bob Dole. However the GOP is now studying from a completely different script than it was a half-century in the past when Nixon referred to as ending malnutrition each a “moral imperative” and a “national responsibility.” As president, Donald Trump tried to slash SNAP advantages, a Republican aim he inherited from the extra staid get together leaders who got here earlier than him, and a few within the GOP now declare that increasing SNAP would create “a moral hazard.”

On condition that partisan chasm, it’s onerous to think about a second White House summit delivering the form of holistic method the primary one did. However given the interrelated dietary, farming and local weather challenges at the moment going through the nation, it’s additionally onerous to think about the form of coordinated response that’s wanted occurring with out one.


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