The White House is having a conference on hunger for the first time in 50 years
September 28, 2022
Yes, you read that right!
Today September 28th, the White House will gather with hundreds of advocates, educators, health care professionals, lawmakers, cabinet officials and everyday Americans to discuss the state of hunger and food security in the U.S. This conference aims to identify the solutions to hunger and nutrition-related diseases and create clear courses of action on a systemic level and an individual level.
The hope is that the focus on these issues will be transformational for the systems in place currently, and can lead to the addition of entirely new programs. The first conference that took place over 50 years ago led to the creation of the first major underpinnings of hunger-relief programs that still run today, including:
- Significant expansion of the National School Lunch Program and the Food Stamp Program (known today as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP),
- Permanent authorization of the School Breakfast Program,
- Launch of a pilot program that would later become the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and
- The first ever Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
These programs quickly became integral resources for Americans. Over the last 50 years, our federal nutrition assistance programs have grown to serve about one in four Americans each year. For so many Americans, balancing the increasing costs of food, rent (we’re looking at you, Colorado) and utilities leave little room for savings or emergencies when wages remain slower to grow.
This conference comes after one of the biggest jumps for food costs in one month, with food prices rising 13.5% year-over-year in August according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the largest 12-month increase since 1979, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Recently, the free school lunch program ended across the country, leaving millions of families scrambling to rearrange their budget to cover their children’s additional meals each week. Some 330,000 students, or 37% of total enrollment, were eligible for free or reduced school meals in 2021 across the state.
This November, the Healthy School Meals For All policy goes up for vote in Colorado. This would reinstate the free school lunch program, and make nutritious meals available to every growing child in our state. Ashley Wheeland, public policy director for Hunger Free Colorado, estimates the program would save struggling Colorado families $78 million a year. Those savings in turn can help them keep up with bills and other needs. With the expiration of the child tax credit and other pandemic-era help, the help is even more desperately needed, she said.
Hunger rates also rose this summer when supply chain interruptions began to impact local grocers. Food insecurity for families with children climbed to 16.21% by July 11, when nearly 1 in 6 families reported sometimes or often not having enough to eat, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, the highest since December 2020.
Escalating food prices are eroding the reach of SNAP dollars, which average around $231 per person per month in 2022, according to USDA data, sending more people to food pantries, which are in turn receiving less food from the government. In August 2022, the agency announced a cost-of-living adjustment beginning Oct. 1, increasing maximum monthly SNAP allotments for a family of four from $835 to $939 a month.
So there are a lot of moving pieces, but where does this leave food banks, food recovery agencies, and more? Supply chain issues are still causing issues in stocking our grocery stores, leaving costs inflated and less food available for recovery. And it’s not just individuals who are feeling the squeeze, as food pantries and other hunger-fighting organizations are also spending more on their grocery bill each week.
If you would like to help, please consider supporting We Don’t Waste. Our vision is that nutritious food will be accessible to all, and with your support, we can make it happen. Let’s do this!