Celebrity Chef José Andrés says giving Americans access to the right food is the answer to the nation's twin problems with hunger and diet-related diseases.

Interviewed on this week's Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, Andrés that it will take bringing together the government, the private sector, faith organizations, and NGOs to start seeing a difference in U.S. food security.

“If we put all these mechanisms working together, we can transform the problem … then food becomes really the solution,” said Andrés. He also discussed the importance of investing in today’s youth to prevent health complications in the future.

Earlier this week the White House held its first Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in more than 50 years.

Andrés — also the founder of World Central Kitchen, an organization that delivers meals to victims of natural disasters and the conflict in Ukraine — was a speaker at the conference, and this week’s Newsmakers guests also were in attendance: Mollie Van Lieu, vice president of nutrition and health with the International Fresh Produce Association; Marshall Matz, chairman and government relations head of OFW Law; and Vince Hall, chief government relations officer of Feeding America.

Van Lieu said the IFPA was excited to see more discussion take place around incorporating fruit and vegetable incentives into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. However, Van Lieu said the conference highlighted a new theme around “produce prescription” and how to expand access.

“If we can start to shift some of this conversation on access by embedding it into health care, I think that takes some of the pressure off of the farm bill,” said Van Lieu. Adding, “we put so much pressure on SNAP to kind of solve a lot of our health care problems.”

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If the nation doesn't begin to “treat fruits and vegetables and healthy foods as the preventative and treatment tools that they are, we are going to continue to have challenges” with access and incorporating produce into American diets, Van Lieu said.

Hall said a theme he took away from the conference was that hunger is a “solvable problem.”

“The truth is that we produce enough agricultural bounty in this country to feed everybody in this country — we just throw away more food every day than is necessary to solve hunger,” said Hall.

Matz discussed the legacy of the first hunger conference and all of the nutrition legislation that followed it in the 1970s. However, Matz said budget concerns were not an obstacle to policy changes in the 1970s. Things will be different this time around, he said.

“No one asked how much a good idea was going to cost. We're going to be up against significant financial constraints … but I anticipate that the heavy emphasis of this conference and the legacy will be diet and nutrition and health,” said Matz.

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