Recommendations for White House Nutrition Strategy: 10 Executive Actions For A Secure Food System
The Biden administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, issued with the recent White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, lays out a critical pathway to address food and nutrition security. Although the strategy acknowledges the intersection of climate change, food security and nutrition, the urgency of the climate crisis and its threat to our ability to continue providing adequate nutrition demands more than research — it requires immediate action across federal programs and policies.
As noted in the administration’s strategy, climate-related emergencies including drought, extreme heat, flooding and severe storms — along with biodiversity loss and agricultural pollution — are threatening food production, water security and environmental justice. Meanwhile, longstanding epidemics of chronic disease and food insecurity, compounded by an infectious disease pandemic, undermine the ability of our communities to face these concurrent crises. We cannot effectively address hunger, nutrition and health without fully addressing the role of the climate crisis, environmental risks and community resilience.
President Biden should follow the conference with urgent policy action to meet the goals of ending hunger and increasing healthy eating. These efforts must also embody the administration’s stated priorities of fighting climate change and advancing equity. As a next step, the president can use existing executive authority to take the following actions to begin to meaningfully address hunger, nutrition and health:
1. Immediately declare a national climate emergency to unlock key executive powers to combat the climate crisis. This should include moratoria on exports of emissions-intensive agricultural commodities such as meat, dairy and feed crops and imports of commodities responsible for high greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation like beef and palm products.
2. Immediately issue a call for nominations to create an advisory committee to provide guidance to agencies on development and implementation of the strategy discussed at the conference.
3. Issue an executive order directing all agencies to assess the climate-related risks and impacts of their food and nutrition-related programs and policies on food security and nutrition, in accordance with EO 14008 (Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad).
4. Direct the Department of Agriculture to end financial bailouts for resource- and climate-intensive meat, dairy, and feed crop production; instead prioritize funding agricultural solutions that reduce emissions, improve availability of nutrientdense foods and support Black, Indigenous and other farmers of color.
5. Update the Federal Food Service Guidelines to recommend that all federal facilities adopt plant-based menus as the standard default option.
6. Direct the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to fully integrate sustainability and climate concerns into the development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including within the scope of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. They should ensure that the guidelines developed by the committee support food and nutrition security, are based solely on the best available nutritional science, and are free from industry influence.
7. Direct the Food and Nutrition Service of the Department of Agriculture to implement administrative action to expand access to healthy school meals with plant-based options, including more inclusive regulations around plant protein foods and non-dairy milks.
8. Direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a culturally appropriate public health education campaign to increase awareness of the connection between climate and diet and promote healthy plant-based eating patterns. Such a campaign would recognize the benefits of these diets in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing nutrition security and aiding in the treatment and prevention of certain chronic diseases across demographics.
9. Request the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Agriculture to conduct a review of USDA-administered commodity research and promotion (aka “check-off”) programs authorized by the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996. It should report the impacts of these programs on small and mid-sized farms, domestic food security, chronic disease risk, and environmental measures related to sustainability and the climate emergency.
10. Direct the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency to improve regulatory programs and policies to provide consistent oversight and accountability across the agriculture industry. This should include applying science-based metrics to reduce pollution and address public health impacts related to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs.