Booker Releases Top Policy Priorities for White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ahead of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) outlined his top policy objectives that have the potential to dramatically improve nutrition and reduce hunger and diet related diseases in the US. The Conference will be held on September 28, 2022 and is the largest whole-of-government initiative to improve the national food system in more than 50 years. 

Booker urged for better integration of Food as Medicine –programs that integrate the power of food to prevent and treat diet-related disease– into federal healthcare. “Our healthcare system largely ignores nutrition as a targeted opportunity for improving health and lowering healthcare spending, despite it being the top cause of poor health. Innovative new strategies can integrate nutrition and healthy eating for both treatment and prevention across federal healthcare programs,” wrote Sen. Booker in a letter to Ambassador Susan Rice. “Programs such as medically tailored meals and produce prescriptions should become covered benefits by Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration in order to prevent and manage chronic disease.”

Additionally, Booker pushed for the Food and Drug Administration to use its existing legal authority to protect consumers. “Front-of-package labeling—such as warning labels or stoplights that signal to consumers if the food product is too high in salt, added sugar, or saturated fat—can promote more equitable access to nutrition information, encourage companies to reformulate their products to be healthier, and encourage healthier diets,” Booker noted. 

“The majority of sodium and added sugar intake in our diet come from ultra-processed foods. Very little progress will be made to improve our diet and reduce diet-related disease if ultra-processed foods go unchecked,” Booker continued. “In order to substantially reduce diet-related disease, the FDA should require mandatory reductions of excessive sodium and added sweeteners including sugars.” 

Booker also called upon President Biden to issue an Executive Order to require use of the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities (FSG) for food and beverages sold and served at federally owned and operated facilities, which would ensure that healthy food is available on federal property. “Millions of people rely on federal food service operations, including federal employees, veterans in Veterans Affairs hospitals, members of the armed services, and people who are incarcerated in federal prisons,” Booker explained. “An executive order requiring the use of the FSG would change our government purchasing to improve health and reduce long-term healthcare costs. Procurement consistent with the FSG would also support healthy food purchases from independent family farmers and help address climate change. In addition, all federal agencies should make a vegetarian entrée available everywhere that federal government cafeterias are serving meals.”

Sen. Booker worked with Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) and U.S. Representatives James P. McGovern (D-MA) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) on bipartisan, bicameral legislation (S.3064/H.R.5724) to help establish the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. In August, he hosted a listening session with New Jersey anti-hunger advocates, state officials, and agricultural stakeholders in advance of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health scheduled for September. 

 

Full text of the letter can be found here.