New York City Mayor Adams traveled to Washington on Wednesday to pitch healthier foods and better nutrition at President Biden’s landmark White House conference to end hunger in the U.S. by 2030.
Speaking at a panel alongside congressional sponsors of the conference, including Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Adams Insisted food assistance should always aim to make people healthy, and offer plant-based and nutritious options.
“We have to make sure that everywhere we are feeding people with taxpayer dollars, we are feeding them with healthy food,” Adams said. “We must shift our focus from caloric consumption to nutritional consumption.”
Nutrition became uniquely personal for Adams after he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2016, forcing him to revisit his food choices and lifestyle. With the help of a physician, he significantly reduced his meat and dairy consumption. “Within three months, I lost significant weight, lowered my cholesterol, restored my vision and reversed my diabetes,” said the mayor.
“It was never in my DNA; it was in my dinner,” Adams said. “It’s time to liberate ourselves.”
Biden said his administration’s goal of ending hunger in the U.S. by the end of the decade is ambitious but doable, if only the nation would work together toward achieving it.
“In every country in the world, in every state in this country, no matter what else divides us, if a parent cannot feed a child, there’s nothing else that matters to that parent,” Biden said in an address to the conference.
The 1969 conference, hosted by President Richard Nixon, was a pivotal moment that influenced the U.S. food policy agenda for 50 years. It led to a major expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, and gave rise to the Women, Infants and Children program, which serves half the babies born in the U.S. by providing their mothers with parenting advice, breastfeeding support and food assistance.
And yet, 10% of U.S. households in 2021 suffered food insecurity, meaning they were uncertain they could get enough food to feed themselves or their families because they lacked money or resources for food, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Sen. Cory Booker (D.-N.J.), one of the congressional sponsors of the conference, said the key is to address food insecurity while also steering away from the “massively processed foods” that are often a dietary staple of low-income Americans.
“Eighty percent of our health care problems are preventable,” he said.
Some of the conference attendees have known hunger. Jimmieka Mills, co-founder of Equitable Spaces, a nonprofit that connects those working on hunger solutions with people who have experienced hunger, said it was “an historic opportunity for us to learn directly from those impacted.”
She spoke of growing up and experiencing first-hand the impact of poverty, hunger and homelessness.
“I know what it’s like to not know where your next meal will come from,” she said, adding she wanted solutions so that no one in the “country with the most abundant food system in the world ever goes hungry again.”
Biden drew applause by calling for the permanent return of the expanded child tax credit, saying the number of children in America living in poverty jumped dramatically after just one month following its expiration. The issue came up multiple times in different sessions and speeches throughout the day.
“It accomplished so much in such a short amount of time,” said DeLauro, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. “It has to be made permanent.”