Today was the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. President Biden committed to end hunger in the United States by 2030. In advance of the conference, his administration released the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, the first comprehensive roadmap to combat food insecurity in fifty years.
Project Bread is proud that our combined efforts with the Feed Kids Coalition, our delegation in Massachusetts, and our anti-hunger champion in Congress, Chairman Jim McGovern, has not only brought the crisis of hunger to national attention, but is yielding the solutions to benefit people now and for generations beyond.
The first - and only other - Conference in 1969 brought massive progress: the National School Breakfast Program became permanent, SNAP was expanded, and the Women, Infants, and Children’s Nutrition program (WIC) was formed.
Erin McAleer, President and CEO of Project Bread attended the conference in Washington, DC. “As of last month, 1 in 4 households with children in Massachusetts were food insecure,” she said. “This roadmap is a critical step on the federal level and, here in Massachusetts, we must continue to lead on the innovative solutions that will drive us forward in this fight.”
Project Bread applauds the Biden Administration for its commitment to end hunger in the United States by 2030.
Project Bread’s work on long-term solutions to food insecurity has yielded immense benefits throughout Massachusetts. We are encouraged that several of Project Bread’s recommendations to the White House were incorporated into the National Strategy, including:
School Meals for All - In 2021, Project Bread filed legislation to make Universal Free School Meals to become permanent in Massachusetts. Our bold policy initiative directly led to the 1 year extension of free school meals for the 2022-23 school year. We are encouraged that the administration named the need to provide school meals at no cost to all students in their report and encourage the White House and Congress to pursue opportunities to more quickly meet the urgency of this goal.
Summer EBT - A permanent Summer EBT program would allow more families to afford groceries to offset the "meal gap” for students on summer break.
Access for Federal Assistance Programs - Earlier this year, Project Bread worked with partners to successfully lay the groundwork for a common application for clients applying to federal assistance programs, such as SNAP, WIC, and Medicaid. The National Strategy addresses the difficulty in applying for these programs, though Project Bread hopes the federal government will lead on supporting states to create a common application as well.
Addressing Food Insecurity as Part of Health Care - Since April 2020, Project Bread is leading an innovative Healthcare Partnerships program with MassHealth to integrate food security into health care. Our program provides food resources, kitchen equipment, cooking classes, and other supports to address food insecurity. Our preliminary findings show increased food security and point to health cost savings. The White House understands the ties between food security and health and plans to lift up vehicles to better connect the dots, like the Medicaid 1115 waiver, which is what our Healthcare Partnership program utilizes.Our robust and innovative program pilot can serve as a national model.
While Project Bread is excited that key recommendations are included in the roadmap, we will advocate at the state and federal levels to include these additional critical policies:
Increase Benefit Levels and Expand Access to SNAP - While in 2021 SNAP received a historic increase in the amount of benefits given to clients, further increase in benefits is needed to meet the needs of low-income individuals. Eligibility criteria should also be updated to make even more food-insecure people eligible, including lawfully present immigrants who currently have to wait 5 years before accessing critical food resources.
Continued Improvements to School and Summer Meals - We advocate for more funds to go to schools and summer sponsors so they have the resources they need to provide healthy, high-quality meals for our children. Area eligibility for Summer Meals should be expanded to food-insecure families in more areas of the state can get access to free meals during summer break. Due to pandemic waivers, the Summer Eats program operating by Project Bread in partnership with the Department of Early and Secondary Education (DESE) has had great success in offering easy pickup of multiple meals for children, and we hope encourage the federal government will to make these changes permanent.
We know that systemic solutions are the most effective way to make permanent progress against food insecurity. As a leader in this approach, we look forward to sharing our solutions and lessons we have learned here in Massachusetts with the rest of the country to end hunger permanently. As we see in the conference today, our work with our partners and legislative champions here in Massachusetts can help to drive the national strategy forward.