Read on for how the new National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition & Health could affect you and your family.
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illustration of plates around healthy foods
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For the first time in 50 years, the White House is launching a new set of goals to reshape access to food, nutrition and health for Americans. The strategy includes a goal to end hunger and increase healthy eating and exercise by 2030, which the Biden administration hopes will help reduce health disparities that became clearer than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"For so many families—including families of color, those living in rural communities and territories and low-income families—structural inequality, such as disparities in educational and economic opportunities and lack of access to health care, safe housing and transportation, make the impact of hunger and diet-related diseases even more severe," Joe Biden wrote in his announcement letter. "The pandemic made these problems worse, reinforcing the need for urgent, sustained action."

The strategy announcement includes some of the statistics that encouraged the White House to treat food insecurity and health with such urgency—including the fact that one in 10 households experienced food insecurity in 2021 and that four in 10 Americans have hypertension.

The plan has five "pillars," three of which will have direct impacts on accessing healthy foods. The first prong of the plan is all about improving access and affordability for all—that means expanding access to free school meals and summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) for kids, plus working to increase access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for more people. Right now, SNAP benefits aren't available to people who were previously incarcerated, some young people who have aged out of foster care and even many college students who may have low income. Expanding that coverage would mean empowering folks in those populations to take greater control of their health.

The second pillar aims to bring together nutrition and health, for which some doctors have long been campaigning. Two of the goals in this pillar include a Congressional plan to cover "medically tailored meals" under Medicare and testing Medicaid coverage of nutrition education and counseling. That could mean insurance-covered dietitian consultations for folks who need to change their eating habits after a diabetes or heart condition diagnosis, which could be huge for folks feeling overwhelmed by the idea of overhauling their eating pattern.

The plan also includes a pillar about making it easier for folks to find healthy choices when they're at the grocery store or a restaurant. That pillar includes a proposal to add nutritional labeling to the front of food packages, reducing sodium in the food supply—that's a goal the FDA is already working on—and adding more incentives for SNAP recipients to buy fruits and veggies.

There's even a proposed update to what makes a food product "healthy"—as in, what criteria a food has to meet in order to use the word healthy on its packaging. The old definition was established in 1994, and the new definition would expand some of the nutritional requirements and add bonus points for foods that supply a "certain amount of food" from one of the major food groups or subgroups. The result is that water, avocados and nuts, which are currently ineligible for "healthy" status, could be labeled "healthy", while items like white bread and sweetened yogurts would be demoted from healthy to ineligible for the "healthy" label.

The other two pillars focus on supporting exercise for all and bolstering nutrition and food security research funding. They include items like expanding access to parks and advancing research around treatment and prevention of diet-related diseases, like oral diseases and type 2 diabetes.

These goals are wide-ranging, so it may be a while before you see the fruits of this strategy. But plenty of consumer-facing policies are included in this master plan. For instance, the Federal Trade Commission will work more aggressively to tone down the way unhealthy foods and drinks are marketed to kids, and the Department of Transportation will improve public transit, bicycling and pedestrian options to make it easier for people to access their nearest supermarket. You might even notice a new garden, farmers' market or grocery store in your area, since the Department of Housing and Urban Development will work to make food hubs a central, accessible part of public housing areas.

Eliminating hunger in just eight years is a pretty exciting goal—but a lot of the supporting goals around health and nutrition in the new plan are just as interesting. You can read more about the total strategy, including making more school lunches from scratch and making traditional indigenous foods more accessible on reservations, in the White House's strategy document.