The Biden Administration will be hosting the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on September 28, 2022. The conference was preceded by months of meetings between White House officials and nutrition and health experts to strategize how to end hunger and increase healthier outcomes by 2030 to reduce the risk of Americans experiencing diet related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. The first and only Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health up until now was held 63 years ago in 1959, and was pivotal in galvanizing authorities to create programs that address food insecurity and nutrition that continue to this day. The Natural Products Association (NPA; Washington, D.C.) was among those who participated in discussions and submitted comments on how to address nutrition and health integration.
“We thank the Biden Administration for providing NPA with the opportunity to provide our analysis of how increasing access to essential vitamins and minerals empowers consumers to make healthcare choices and have access to nutritional products,” said Daniel Fabricant, PhD, president and CEO of NPA, in a press release. “NPA has long championed expanding access to nutritional supplements through social programs such as SNAP/WIC and through employer-funded programs like Health Savings Accounts. We look forward to our continued work with the Administration and Congress to find legislative solutions to address our common goals.”
The Conference has established five pillars defining the scope of the event. They include: 1) Improve food access and affordability, 2) Integrate nutrition and health, 3) Empower all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices, 4) Support physical activity for all, and 5) Enhance nutrition and food security research.
In considering these pillars, NPA’s comments highlight the prevalence of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the U.S. and the need to expand access for nutritional supplements for at-risk populations. The Association cites the need for legislation such as “The Dietary Supplement Tax Fairness Act,” which would allow vitamins and minerals to be a medical expense so that people with a health savings account, flexible spending account, or health reimbursement dollars could use that money toward supplements.
NPA also suggests that one of the best ways to approach these pillars is to rely less on foreign entities for our food and nutraceutical products, listing a number of opportunities that have presented themselves via legislative and executive action. These include the recently passed “CHIPS and Science Act,” which will provide $52 billion for manufacturing, scientific research, and workforce development to expand domestic biomanufacturing and speed up commercialization of new biotechnology products. There is also the executive order signed by President Biden to launch a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative that ensures what is invented in the United States is made in the United States.
“Growing domestic biomanufacturing capacity is foundational to our security and national infrastructure for biomanufacturing but also strengthens the U.S. supply chain. Just as modern software engineers draw on existing libraries of code to write new programs, our biotechnology engineers start from our codebase of cells, enzymes, and genetic programs to jumpstart new projects, driving new discoveries across different industries. We hope that the Administration and Congress continue to invest in and support the biotechnology industry through the various mechanisms at their disposal,” wrote NPA in its comments.
“Supporting the biotechnology and nutraceutical industries will solve consumers’ access and cost problems by including these high-tech nutrients in mass-market food products. Millions of Americans are afflicted with food insecurity and diet-related diseases, including heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes – which are some of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States,” NPA continues. “The toll of hunger and these diseases is not distributed equally, disproportionately impacting underserved communities, including but not limited to communities of color and people living in rural areas. The lack of access to healthy, safe, and affordable health products contributes to hunger- diet-related diseases, and health disparities, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges further, and as the federal government continues to support these industries, technological advances will help drive down the cost of mass-market food products.”