President Joe Biden has a lofty long-term goal for Americans: End hunger by 2030. While the ideal is admirable, the food insecurity issues that millions of our fellow Americans face every day need to be immediately addressed.
The tension between meeting short- and long-term needs is a policy tightrope Biden must walk, particularly as soaring food costs and overall inflation wallop Americans.
In August, food prices shot up a shocking 13% from the previous year. That has left many people struggling to put enough food on the table and forced them to turn to food pantries to meet their families' needs.
Conference to unveil national strategy on hunger
During the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, scheduled for Wednesday, officials are expected to unveil new national strategies for medically tailored meals, including a pilot program that will provide food delivery for those with health challenges as part of Medicare Advantage plans.
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The conference's overall goal is to "end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases and disparities." For months, the Biden administration has hosted listening sessions with hunger and nutrition groups, nonprofits, corporations and federal agencies to find ways to end hunger by 2030.
The last such conference, held more than a half-century ago during the Nixon administration, led to the expansion of food stamps and other assistance that dramatically reduced hunger in America.
"This important conference and the commitment to a national strategy on ending hunger and healthier eating will build on the research and knowledge we now have to make America truly a stronger, healthier nation," Biden said in a statement.
The conference agenda includes discussions about ensuring affordable food for children and families. That has to be the biggest priority now. I'm not discounting the importance of nutritious food, particularly for those with health challenges such as diabetes.
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Many lack access to healthy, affordable food
But we know that those who live in food deserts or are poverty-stricken often must rely on corner and discount stores to buy groceries. Fruit and vegetables often aren't available or are inordinately expensive at convenience stores; instead, they offer an abundance of processed, salty and sugary snacks.
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It's a vicious cycle for those who live in areas where affordable and healthy options are difficult to find. That's especially true for Black and Latino families, a disproportionate number of whom live in poverty.
If the White House is considering bolstering the financial support of food banks, now is the time. Yes, it's important to think about long-term strategies to make America healthier.
But for now, we have to help hard-pressed Americans simply put food on the table.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden's plan to end hunger should address food insecurity, prices