Sep 29, 2022

President Biden Delivers Remarks at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health Transcript

President Biden Delivers Remarks at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health Transcript
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President Biden Delivers Remarks at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Welcome to the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. Please welcome the US Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack.

Speaker 2: (00:18)
Good morning. Thank you very much. Welcome. It’s my privilege to open today’s conference and thank you all who have traveled across our great country to be here and to those who are participating virtually, who played a role in bringing this conference to life. A president once wrote the following, “The conference has significant responsibilities to explore and define our nutrition problems and to map out recommendations for an immediate program of action. During these days of stress, the health problems of the military and civilian population are inseparable. The full energy of every American is necessary. In recent years, scientists have made outstanding discoveries as to the amounts and kinds of foods needed for maximum health and vigor. Yet every survey of nutrition, by whatever means conducted, showed that undernourishment is widespread and serious.” That president was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in writing in an introduction to the 1941 National Nutrition Conference for Defense.

Speaker 2: (01:23)
What was true in 1941 and in 1969 at the first White House conference on food, nutrition, and health is still true today. Food and nutrition security are central to our national security and to our economic future. The first White House conference on Food and Nutrition more than 50 years ago made significant progress towards reducing food insecurity.

Speaker 2: (01:48)
Today, USDA runs nutrition assistance programs that serve one in four Americans every year. However, food and nutrition insecurity still remains unacceptably high. We also face a rising prevalence of disease related diet related diseases like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, which disproportionately impact underserved communities. There’s been progress. Food security among households with children is at its lowest point in two decades. I’m encouraged by this, but all of us in attendance today would agree that much more needs to be done.

Speaker 2: (02:25)
This conference matters, and we should all thank Senators Booker and Bran, Chairman McGovern, and the late Congresswoman Linsky for their leadership in calling for this summit. And, of course, none of this would be possible without President Biden’s call for an all of government effort outlined in the National Strategy published yesterday, a national strategy crafted with the advice, guidelines, and input of hundreds of stakeholders from across the country.

Speaker 2: (02:50)
Today, we’ll hear from a variety of partners engaged in delivering results in the five pillars identified in that national strategy. Pillar one focuses on improving access and affordability of food to tackle this issue. One key proposal supported by the National Strategy is ensuring all Americans are economically secure, including through a child tax credit.

Speaker 2: (03:10)
Pillar two outlines how we can better integrate nutrition and healthcare. We’re elevating the role of nutrition and food security in overall healthcare, including through disease prevention and management. For example, here, the strategy supports piloting Medicare coverage of meals that are crafted to prevent or to treat diet-related diseases.

Speaker 2: (03:44)
Pillar three seeks to empower customers to make healthy choices by making those choices more accessible. One proposal supports the expansion of incentives for healthy foods in SNAP and for boosting local food systems, which can create jobs and support local economies, especially in rural America.

Speaker 2: (04:01)
Pillar four reminds us of the important role that physical activity plays in concert with the food and nutrition security to lead to better health. We’re going to make it easier for people to be more physically active and increase the awareness of the benefits of physical activity. That’s why the National Strategy supports investing in efforts to connect people to parks and other outdoor spaces.

Speaker 2: (04:22)
Pillar five centers on bolstering funding for nutrition research so we can advance evidence-based policy making, particularly on issues of equity, access, and disparities.

Speaker 2: (04:33)
Now under the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is proud to have already taken significant steps towards promoting food and nutrition security, in partnership with agencies across the federal family. Last year, USDA modernized the Thrifty Food Plan, which serves as the basis for SNAP benefits. This resulted in the first permanent increase purchasing power of SNAP benefits in 45 years. In doing so, we lifted 2.3 million people out of poverty, including nearly 1 million of our children. Earlier this month, USDA announced $2 billion in additional funding to food banks and school meal programs for purchasing American-grown foods. And just last week, we launched a new $100 million initiative called the Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative to improve the nutritional quality of our school meals. But we’re just getting started, and I want to highlight the proposed pathway to the National Strategy Meals.

Speaker 2: (05:48)
This is a core intervention to improve child health, hunger, and health. And recent research demonstrates that school meals provide the healthiest food a child eats during the day. The proposal reorients this important program as a key health tool to provide the highest quality meals and to engage children around healthy choices. And we also increase access to local and regional foods, enabling more schools to cook meals from scratch by funding, training, and equipment purchases, investing in robust school nutrition workforce, and expanding nutrition education for our children.

Speaker 2: (06:21)
These changes are crucial, however, the federal government cannot do them alone. We’re hosting this conference to bring together local governments and private businesses, including food companies, grocery stores, non-profits, researchers, and healthcare providers to unite around a vision put forward in this strategy. To jumpstart this effort today, the White House announced bold commitments from the nation’s businesses, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. It’s going to take these groups and many others to end hunger and improve nutrition.

Speaker 2: (06:51)
To compliment the Bold School meals proposal I just described, the national nonprofit FoodCorps will mobilize $250 million to impact 500,000 students per year over the next eight years to increase access to free and nourishing school meals, and to expand hands-on nutrition, education and schools through their Nourishing Futures initiative. Meijer, the Midwest Super chain store will receive USDA approval to offer a new incentive in its SNAP customers to buy nutritious foods. Starting this fall, Meijer will offer its SNAP customers discounts to purchase quality foods, fruits, and vegetables. This is personal to each of us. It touches all of us. As we embark on this conference, I want all of us to take a moment to recognize the significance of what we are about to do. Something like this hasn’t happened in more than 50 years. Let’s keep the momentum of today going in a new and meaningful, strong way so that we can fully meet this important moment for our children, for our community, and for our country. Thank you.

Speaker 3: (08:23)
Please welcome to the stage Jimmieka Mills, co-founder, Equitable Spaces.

Speaker 4: (08:38)
Great morning, all. I’m Jimmieka Mills, a researcher, writer, and mother. Originally from Oakland, California, but currently living in Houston, Texas. As a child, I experienced firsthand the impacts of poverty, hunger, and homelessness on my mind, my body and my soul, and those of my family and others in my community…QQQ

Speaker 4: (09:03)
Those of my family, and others in my community. I know what it’s like to not know where your next meal will come from, both as a child and as a parent. So I know, truly know, why programs like WIC, SNAP, P-EBT, and Universal Free School Meals are so critical to my health and wellbeing, and the health and wellbeing of my family, my community, and this country. As a parenting student attending community college, I face barriers accessing student aid, stable housing, childcare, and food. I realized they were often the result of policy solutions that were not informed by those directly impacted by them, like me. That’s what led me to found Equitable Spaces along with my friend and Co-Founder Diane Sullivan. Our mission is to create opportunities for people with lived experience to be heard and included in the design of equitable policy solutions. This conference represents an historic opportunity for us to learn directly from those most impacted, lift up programs that have helped so many people, and to create solutions that ensure that no one, in a country with the most abundant food system in the world, ever goes hungry again.

Speaker 4: (10:59)
This is why today I’m so excited to join you all in this room. Particularly those of you with lived experience, as we seek to end hunger, reduce diet related diseases, and eliminate health disparities, demonstrating what is possible when we are guided by those with lived experience. Mr. President, it is my highest, highest honor of this life, aside from giving birth to my child, David, I love you, but such an honor to share the stage with you, and to thank you personally for your leadership. It is now my esteemed honor to introduce you all to our President, Joe Biden.

President Biden: (11:53)
Hello everybody. Don’t jump. Please, sit down. Sit down. She’s awful good, isn’t she? She’s really good. Shameka, thank you for joining us for this historic conference on Hunger, Nutrition & Health. Before I began, speaking of health, you all have been reading and hearing about Hurricane Ian, and its impact it’s going to have on our fellow Americans down in Florida. Yesterday I spoke with Governor DeSantis for some time. My team has been in constant contact with him from the very beginning, and the mayors of Tampa, St. Pete’s, and Clearwater.

President Biden: (13:06)
My message has been absolutely clear. We are on the alert and in action. We’ve approved every request Florida has made for temporary assistance, emergency shipments, long-term assistance, that I’ve received. We discussed what we’ve done to prepare for the hurricane. That includes dispatching hundreds of FEMA personnel, and activating thousands of National Guard members. I’ve also developed a search and rescue team and deployed them to multiple federal agencies, and they’re already on the ground and ready to help, as we speak.

President Biden: (13:41)
FEMA prepositioned, literally, millions of liters of water, millions of meals, and hundreds of generators. We’ve a scheduled everything we can possibly do, we think, so do the mayors and governor. We have put up shelters, they’re ready. We’re not sure exactly where it’s going to hit, but it’s pretty getting pretty clear exactly where it’s going to hit. I made it clear to the governor and the mayors that the federal government is ready to help in every single way possible.

President Biden: (14:10)
Now, I want to repeat what I said yesterday to the people of Florida. This storm is incredibly dangerous, to state the obvious. It’s life-threatening. You should obey all warnings and directions from emergency officials. Don’t take anything for granted. Use their judgment, not yours. Evacuate when ordered. Be prepared. The storm warnings are real. The evacuation notices are real. The danger is real. When the storm passes, the federal governments can be there to help you recover. We’ll be there to help you clean up and rebuild, to help Florida get moving again. We’ll be there at every step of the way. That’s my absolute commitment to the people in the state of Florida. If you’ll forgive me, I want to add one more warning. That’s warning to the oil and gas industry executives. Do not, let me repeat, do not use this as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouges the America people. The price of oil has stayed relatively low. It kept going down. The price of gas should be going down, as well. My experts informed me the production of only about 190,000 barrels a day has been impacted by the storm thus far. That’s less than 2% of the United States daily production impacted for a very short period of time.

President Biden: (15:45)
This small temporary storm impact on oil production provides no excuse. No excuse for price increases at the pump, none. If gas companies try to use this storm to raise price of the pump, I will ask officials to look into whether price gouging is going on. America’s watching, the industry should do the right thing. As a matter of fact, they should move more quickly now to bring down the price at the pump, because the price of gasoline is down a great deal. There’s too much of a delay between the price of barrel of oil and the price of gasoline at the pump.

President Biden: (16:24)
Now, to why we’re all here for this on this historic day. The sector of Agriculture already said everything, so I’m leaving. You did. So I apologize to you for any repetition that may occur here. But all kidding aside, it’s been over 50 years to state the obvious, you all know it well, since President Nixon convened the original White House conference on Hunger, Nutrition, & Health. That single conference, and the laws that it inspired, led it transformational change that has helped millions of Americans live healthier lives for generations. Since that time, advances in research and medicine have taught us so much more about nutrition and health.

President Biden: (17:16)
Today I’m convening in this conference again, because I believe we can use these advances to do even more to make America a stronger and a healthier nation. So many of you know so much about this as well, and you’re committed. I want to thank all of you here, including bipartisan elected officials, like Representative of Government, Senator Braun, Senator Booker. Representative Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie? I didn’t think she was going to be here to help make this a reality. Thanks to Senator Stabenow, Representative DeLauro for their leadership. Here today, we have advocates and activists. José Andrés, you heard of him, haven’t you? Last time we hung out on the Ukrainian border in Poland, and leaders of-

President Biden: (18:03)
… out on the Ukrainian border in Poland, and leaders of business, labor, agriculture, faith, and philanthropy, and to achieve ambitious goals that I know we can do if we work together. I really do know we can do this, end hunger in this country by the year 2030 and lower the toll that diet related diseases takes on far too many Americans. This goal is within our reach. Just look at how far we’ve come on child poverty. 30 years ago, as reference, one in four children lived below the poverty line. Today, one in twenty live below the poverty line. So I know we can take tackle hunger as well, and I’ve released a national strategy to meet that bold goal, a strategy that has three key principles.

President Biden: (18:55)
First, help more Americans. So this again, help more Americans access the food that will keep their families nourished and healthy. A lot of food deserts out there. Second, give folks the option and information they need to make healthy dietary choices. Thirdly, help more Americans be physically active. People want to be. Lots of times there’s no places to go to be active from where they live. The good news is we’ve already been laying a strong foundation for this work. Soon after I came to office, I signed what was called the American Rescue Plan into law. It helped put food on the table and keep a roof over the heads of millions of American families and helped our economy create nearly 10 million new jobs, most jobs created in that timeframe in American history.

President Biden: (19:45)
A key piece of the American Rescue Plan is the expanded Childcare Tax Credit. Where is she? The gentlewoman from Connecticut. I see. Overwhelmingly, working families use the Child Tax Credit to buy food and other basic needs for their families, and it’s helped cut child poverty by nearly 50% in the United States. 50%. And it cut food insecurity for families by 26%. Look folks, people are constantly looking at federal programs to see which ones are working and which ones are ineffective. Well, during the pandemic, we had a real world example right in front of us. The expanded childcare tax cut is one of the most effective programs we’ve ever seen, and that’s why my national strategy calls on Congress to expand the child credit permanently. Permanently.

President Biden: (20:49)
You got to do it. We tried. We couldn’t get it done the first time. We’ll get it done this time. At the same time, I remain committed to protecting workers’ rights and fair wages and collective bargaining, including workers who grow, produce and process our food, who transport it to grocery stores, who stock the grocery shelves, so they too can afford to feed their families. Look, folks, my strategy would also make permanent an American Rescue Plan program that has made sure families, including over 30 million children, had money to buy groceries in the summer months, so kids don’t go hungry when school is in the session.

President Biden: (21:39)
Sounds silly for a person to hear that, don’t have a child. But the school programs, food programs do a lot. During the summer months, things change. In the next 10 years, my plan, as was already referenced, would make at least nine million more children eligible for free school meals, a major first step for free meals for every single student. And we’re also supporting schools so they can cook more meals from scratch, purchase more food from local farmers and ranchers. This will mean kids will have healthier meals, and we’ll strengthen rural economies at the same time.

President Biden: (22:22)
You heard from Senator… Secretary Vilsack. Senator. Excuse me, I promoted you. All kidding aside, he’s doing a hell of a job, earlier, and I want to thank him for leading in this. He knows a great deal about it and he cares passionately about this issue. The national strategy recognized the critical role that nutrition plays in our health and our healthcare system, and it acknowledges that we have to give families the tools to keep them healthy. How many of you here are medical people involved in research? Almost every single discipline, from cancer to heart disease on down the line, are finding out it is affected by diet and exercise. I mean, things you all knew, but it wasn’t proved before.

President Biden: (23:16)
So example, heart disease is a leading cause of death in America. In 19 states, more than 35% of adults are obese. In 19 states. 19. For seniors and millions of folks on Medicaid, our national strategy to expand access to nutrition and obesity counseling so they can get the guidance they need to stay healthy. Not only do people need to know what they should be eating, our national strategy also calls for doctors, nurses, dentists to be trained to spot the signs of hunger. The Food and Drug Administration is already using its authority around labeling so you know which food is high in trans fats and sodium, so you can figure out which food is actually good for you and what isn’t good for you, and that only is going to increase informing people.

President Biden: (24:09)
Both in too many underserved communities, urban, rural, and tribal, there’s nowhere to buy fresh food for miles, or safe places for kids to play or adults to exercise. I’ve signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It creates space to live, work and play safely. It doesn’t just build highways and build new ports and airports and the like. It also has the ability to transform systems that are already overworked right now, where families can drink clean water, breathe clean air, use public transit so they can shop at nearby grocery stores that stock fresh and healthy foods.

President Biden: (24:44)
We also know that too often, healthier foods cost more. That’s why my strategy calls for Congress to expand incentives to purchase fruits and vegetables for low income families, Rely on SNAP benefits to buy groceries so it’ll be easier to afford the food that’s good for you. Until recently, the way SNAP benefits were calculated hadn’t been… I think this was referenced already, hadn’t been updated for nearly 45 years. Actually over 45 years. So last year my administration changed the formula, and now folks are getting an average of 36 extra dollars in their pockets per month.

President Biden: (25:28)
Physical activity is part of living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding dietary related diseases. We’re going to work with Congress to increase access to the country’s parks, county, city, national, especially for Americans in low income communities who need public transit to get there. It will also give more families a chance to hike, to bike, to breathe fresh air. Through the Inflation Reduction Act we’re making historic investments in climate and public health so families can get outside and be physically active in the air that’s clean, not polluted with dirty diesel from buses and trucks, and school buses as well.

President Biden: (26:06)
The Department of Education and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, are going to help schools expand physical education classes in the summer schools and summer programs, so kids get off to a healthy start in life. In summer school, they’re also going to have physical capacity, they have gym, the equivalent of gym, and after school programs, so we get kids off to a healthy start. We should take advantage of the opportunities when we have these children.

President Biden: (26:34)
There’s so much more in our strategy, and so much more in our imagination, but one thing is clear. Meeting our bold goals requires a whole of government approach, and a whole of society effort. That’s why I’m so excited to see all of you here. You represent society in a way that touches every aspect of society, every part of the country. When I look out at all of you and the work you’re doing in your communities, I just know we can do this.

President Biden: (27:03)
… in your communities. I know. I just know we can do this. People are becoming more aware. I mean people who are getting hurt by the failure to have the access, they’re beginning to be aware, and they’re beginning to think in ways they didn’t think before, what their dietary habits should be, and how they should be feeding their children, if they can feed them.

President Biden: (27:26)
Well before, especially during the pandemic, so many of you were there to help your fellow Americans. They lost their jobs, closed their businesses, faced eviction, homelessness, hunger, lost control; maybe the worst of all, lost hope and dignity. But whether it’s been your life’s work or you’re just getting started, all of you are stepping up. You collected food donations. You served and saved baskets and lunches and breakfast foods. I mean just across the board you did everything; in school programs, and summer school programs. You found new ways to get food from farms to restaurants to dinner tables. You gave other families hope. And my church, we have an expression when someone’s doing something, they say, “You’re doing the Lord’s work.” A lot of people have been doing the Lord’s work. That’s what each of you are doing. And we’re on our way in a way that I don’t think that we have for a while.

President Biden: (28:25)
And again, science changes things; and people are realizing not only whether or not they’re “overweight or obese or not healthy,” but certain diseases are affected by what they eat, what they intake, and people are beginning… The more we can spread that word and educate people on what’s at stake, the more we’re going to see change. But we have to be ready as a government, as a people, to provide the elements of change that are going to change things for them. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan and the fact that the economy is turning around high-level food insecurity, we saw how the pandemic is down. But despite the progress, 1-in-10 American households still do not have access to enough food. 1-in-10. We’re working to deliver an economy that finally works for working families. Jobs are up. People are back to work. We’re taking on inflation seriously, enacting policies to bring down cost, but there’s always significantly more we can do. That’s why we’re here today, to harness our greatest resource: our fellow Americans. Everyone.

President Biden: (29:39)
Everyone has an important role to play. Local, state, territory, and travel governments, and the federal government as well. The private sector, civil society, agriculture, philanthropy, academia. For example, the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Heart Association are expanding research into the relationship between food health and health equity. And the Food Nutrition and Investor Coalition is investing $2.5 billion into proven technologies and startup companies, pioneering new ways for reducing hunger and improving nutrition. Today we’re announcing over $8 billion in commitments from over 100 different organizations to help reach our goals. $8 billion.

President Biden: (30:29)
And I also firmly believe the work ahead should be bipartisan. There shouldn’t be anything partisan about any of this. Just as it was when President Nixon first convened this conference, and when Senator George McGovern and Bob Dole transformed America’s role in reducing hunger in America around the world.

President Biden: (30:51)
And this work on hunger and nutrition and physical health is critical to addressing our mental health and wellness as well, which is a key pillar to my unity agenda that I call for in my State of the Union Address. Again, bipartisan. This is something that we should be all rallying the whole country to work on together.

President Biden: (31:11)
And thinking internationally, global inflation and Putin’s war on Ukraine have sparked global food crisis. Just last week at the United Nations, I talked about commitments we were making to tackle food insecurity worldwide. Because in every country in the world, in every state in this country, no matter what else divide us: if a parent cannot feed a child, there’s nothing else that matters to that parent. If you look at your child and you can’t feed your child, what the hell else matters? I really mean it, worldwide.

President Biden: (31:47)
So folks, let me close with this: I believe America, and you’re tired of hearing hear me say it I’m sure as an inflection point. It happens every six or eight generations where so much changes in the world that everything that comes after it is different than it was before.

President Biden: (32:09)
You’ve also heard me talk about the need for us to restore the soul of America. All I’m talking about is just restore a state of decency, treating people with respect, treating people in a way that you’d expect you want to be treated. And by the way, some of you were around long enough to remember we used to be that way in politics. We fought like hell. No, I’m serious, we fought like hell, but ultimately the vast majority were decent. One of my best friends was a guy who was like a brother I always fought with. We’d shout at each other on the floor of the Senate, and then go have lunch together. His name was John McCain. The point is every Senator Convention can acknowledge that. This should be an organizing element of how we start to talk to one another again dealing with food insecurity. The task before this conference is the important work of fellows, and meeting this inflection point, by nourishing the soul of America.

President Biden: (33:18)
In America, no child… no child… should go to bed hungry. No parent should die of disease that can be prevented. This has always been a country, at our best, when we’re at our best, we think big. It’s almost like we don’t think anymore that we can do big things, and I mean it sincerely. Think about it. I realize this is not directly related, but one of the things that I say to my team, my friends, “If I could wave a wand and change one thing that would change America’s attitude about all we’re able to do and remember who we were, I’d wave a wand and say, ‘cure cancer.'” Why cancer? Everybody is scared to death of cancer and most people don’t think we can do much about it. We can. But imagine if we did that. People would say, “My God. We’re back.” Well, this could be a gigantic step, a gigantic step to remind us who the hell we are.

President Biden: (34:31)
This is the United States of America. There is nothing, nothing, nothing… I really mean it… there’s nothing beyond our capacity when we work together, so let’s work together.

President Biden: (34:48)
God bless you all and may God protect our troops. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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