WASHINGTON DC. – Ahead of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) outlined his key policy goals that could dramatically improve nutrition and reduce hunger and related disease to food in the United States. The conference will be held on September 28, 2022 and is the largest whole-of-government initiative to improve the national food system in over 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 health care. “Our health system largely ignores nutrition as a targeted opportunity to improve health and reduce health expenditures, despite it being the leading cause of poor health. New, innovative strategies can integrate nutrition and a healthy eating for both treatment and prevention in federal health programs,” wrote Senator Booker in a letter to Ambassador Susan Rice. “Programs such as medically-appropriate meals and prescription-filling should become benefits covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration in order to prevent and manage chronic disease.”
Additionally, Booker lobbied for the Food and Drug Administration to use its existing legal authority to protect consumers. “Front-of-package labeling, such as warning labels or red lights that alert consumers if the food product is too high in salt, added sugar or saturated fat, can promote more equitable access to nutritional information, encourage companies to reformulate their products to be healthier and encourage healthier eating”, Booker noted.
“Most of the sodium and added sugars in our diets come from ultra-processed foods. Very little progress will be made to improve our diets and reduce diet-related illnesses if ultra-processed foods are not controlled,” Booker continued. “To significantly reduce diet-related illnesses, the FDA should require mandatory reductions in excess sodium and added sweeteners, including sugars.”
Booker also called on President Biden to issue an executive order requiring the use of the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Institutions (FSG) for food and beverages sold and served in federally owned and operated facilities, which would ensure the availability of safe food on federal property. “Millions of people depend on federal restoration operations, including federal employees, veterans in veterans hospitals, members of the armed forces, and those incarcerated in federal prisons,” Booker explained. “An executive order requiring the use of FSG would change our government purchases to improve health and reduce long-term health care costs. FSG-compliant sourcing would also support healthy food purchases from independent family farmers and help to combat climate change.Additionally, all federal agencies should offer a vegetarian entree wherever federal government cafeterias serve meals.
Senator Booker worked with Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) and U.S. Representatives James P. McGovern (D-MA) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) on bipartisan, bicameral legislation (S.3064/HR5724) to help establish the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. In August, he hosts a listening session with New Jersey hunger advocates, state officials and agricultural stakeholders ahead of the White House conference on hunger, nutrition and health scheduled for September.
The full text of the letter is available here.