A $250 million research initiative on using food as medicine is among $8 billion in private-sector commitments being announced Wednesday in conjunction with the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.

The food as medicine research initiative is led by the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Heart Association, with Kroger as an inaugural partner.

The initiative is in line with proposals in the White House's national food strategy that call for testing the use of medically tailored meals through the Medicare program, an initiative that would require congressional action. The idea behind the food-as-medicine concept is that improvements in diets can prevent or address conditions such as diabetes.

“This research initiative will generate the tools and definitive evidence necessary to help the health sector design and scale ‘food is medicine’ programs to improve both health and health equity and reduce overall health care costs,” a White House fact sheet says.

Meanwhile, S2G Ventures and Food Systems for the Future are announcing the creation of the Food, Nutrition and Health Investor Coalition, which has a goal of directing $2.5 billion in private investment over the next three years toward reducing hunger and improving Americans' health.

The coalition's founding members include a mix of corporate and institutional venture capital entities, including ACON Investments, Astanor Ventures, Beyond Impact Advisors, Bluestein Ventures, Boardwalk Collective, Cleveland Avenue, iSelect Fund, KdT Ventures, Khosla Ventures, L Catteron, Leaps by Bayer, Mayfield Fund, Middleland Capital, PowerPlant Partners, Rethink Food, Rich Products Ventures, Supply Change Capital, Synthesis Capital and Tyson Ventures.

Senior administration officials who spoke to reporters ahead of the conference emphasized that the White House strategy calls for both a “whole of government” and a “whole of society” approach. The strategy – and how to achieve its goals of ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases by 2030 – was designed to be a focus at the all-day conference, 

The conference agenda “highlights the bipartisan nature of this work,” one of those officials said, mentioning the involvement in the conference of Senate Agriculture Committee member Mike Braun of Indiana, and the late Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski, also of Indiana.

Democrats were well represented on the conference agenda, which includes Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and conference advocates Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts.

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The White House strategy includes dozens of executive actions or initiatives on the government side as well as a number of goals that will require congressional legislation. But in the planning for the conference, administration officials have been meeting with industry to secure commitments to address hunger, nutrition and exercise.

Among the other public and private commitments announced Wednesday:

  • “The International Fresh Produce Association will launch a new public database in 2023 called Produce in the Public Interest to house and disseminate research about national fruit and vegetable consumption with a focus on identifying and mitigating barriers to improving eating habits.”
  • “The National Restaurant Association will expand its Kids Live Well (KLW) program to 45,000 additional restaurants and food service locations as well as create educational resources for restaurants to support healthier food options. KLW is a voluntary initiative to help restaurants craft healthier kids’ meal options that meet added sugar, sodium, saturated and trans fat, and calorie thresholds established by the latest nutrition science.”
  • “Washington State’s Department of Health will launch an online ordering pilot for [the Women, Infants and Children feeding program] that, for the first time, enables WIC participants statewide to both purchase and select pick-up or delivery of their WIC foods online.”
  • “Sysco will provide $500 million through its Global Good initiative over the next five years to improve healthy eating for the communities it serves.”
  • “Nayak Farms, a 200-acre farm in Illinois, will work to combat food insecurity in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Iowa. This includes donating over [1 million] pounds of sweet corn to food-insecure families in those four states by 2026; donating 50,000 pounds of green beans to food-insecure families in 2023 and 2024; and championing local and state policies that can support farmers in combating food insecurity.”
  • “Nonprofit organization Hunger Free Oklahoma will increase access to fresh produce by expanding its SNAP incentive program from 19 to all 77 counties in Oklahoma by 2030. This expanded program will serve 10 times the number of SNAP households it does now, ultimately reaching 100,000 households total per month.”
  • “Over the next eight years, national nonprofit FoodCorps will invest $250 million to increase access to free and nourishing school meals and to expand hands-on nutrition education in schools.”
  • “The Food Industry Association will mobilize its membership to donate 2 billion meals in 2023 to food banks and other anti-hunger organizations.”

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