Rep. Jim McGovern has been pushing for a nationwide focus on ending hunger for a long time and in his role as Rules Committee Chairman, he included funding for a White House conference on the subject. Now, the new government funding package President Joe Biden recently signed into law contains $2.5 million to make a White House conference on food, nutrition and hunger a reality.

The last time the White House convened a similar conference was in 1969 when Richard Nixon was president. That meeting led to an expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the National School Lunch Program, as well as the establishment of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

McGovern, D-Mass., says there are lots of programs now to manage hunger. “I would like a comprehensive plan to end hunger, to end food insecurity and to end nutrition insecurity in this country.”

Speaking on Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, he says hunger started to increase during the pandemic. And even though it’s come down a bit, “close to 40 million Americans don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.  

“This is a big problem. It's a costly problem. And it's a solvable problem. And that's what this White House Conference is going to be all about”

McGovern says the administration will need an “all of government approach” – as well as involvement by the private sector and the nonprofit sector – to develop a plan with benchmarks to figure out how to solve the problem.

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While McGovern has been perhaps the most vocal in his calls for the conference to take place, he isn’t alone. Anne MacMillan, a principal at lobbying shop Invariant, said the event could “provide a convening that is unable to happen in Congress right now.”

“When you have the farm bill coming up only every five years and you have multiple food systems and agriculture issues spread out across various committees on Capitol Hill, you don’t often get the fulsome view of what needs to take place to take us into the future,” she said during a Newsmakers panel discussion.  

Also on that panel was Brandon Lipps, who oversaw USDA’s nutrition programs during the Trump administration. He argued a holistic view of the government’s nutrition efforts is sorely needed.

“Even back since the early ‘90s when USDA started officially measuring food insecurity, it has gone up and down but really at no point in time has it dropped below 10%, which means that one out of 10 families out there in this country are food insecure no matter how much money we spend,” Lipps said.  

The inverview with McGovern – as well as the panel discussion with MacMillan, Lipps and National Farmers Union President Rob Larew – can be viewed in full on Agri-Pulse Newsmakers and can be listened to as a podcast on, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Apple Podcasts.

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