Sens. John Kerry and Elizabeth Dole today introduced a bill requiring a White House Conference on Food and Nutrition. On National Hunger Awareness Day, both Kerry and Dole called for a refocused effort to end hunger in the United States, stressing the importance of presidential leadership as key to achieving that goal.
Today, over 35 million Americans are struggling with hunger, and almost half of these are children, seniors, the critically ill, or disabled. The Kerry-Dole bill requires a White House Conference on Food and Nutrition to be held by December 31, 2010. The conference will bring together experts in food, health, nutrition, and economic security to develop a plan to end hunger once and for all in the United States and improve the nutrition of all Americans. Critical issues associated with hunger including the rising cost of food and health care, increased obesity rates, and the health problems associated with poor nutrition and hunger will also be addressed.
"Forty years ago Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign drew the nation's attention to hunger from Appalachia to Harlem, and the President even convened experts in the White House to get serious about the issue. Today too many forget that hunger and malnutrition aren't just issues facing developing countries overseas, they're still right in our backyard and not nearly enough attention has been focused on ending hunger in the United States," said Sen. Kerry. "Inadequate food supplies not only leave Americans hungry, but escalate health care costs to devastating levels. An executive conference on food and nutrition will help push the White House to take real steps to aid the millions of Americans that go hungry every day."
"It has been nearly 40 years since the first and only White House summit reviewed national nutrition policy," said Sen. Dole. "Positive developments and effective policies came out of those discussions. With more than 35 million Americans today facing food insecurity issues, it is high time that we make ending hunger and improving health and nutrition national priorities."
The White House Conference on Food and Nutrition would:
* Convene a committee of experts, for the first time in 40 years, to make policy recommendations to end hunger and improve nutrition for every American. This committee would include governmental and non-governmental experts.
* Explore the possibility of creating an office within the Department of Agriculture to oversee the fight against hunger.
* Make public the policy committee's proposed agenda in order to solicit comment.
* Mandate that the committee release a comprehensive report to the President and Congress on, and release to the public, its findings. This would occur no later than 6 months after the conference's conclusion.