Omaha praises White House hunger initiative

OMAHA, Nebraska – Ending hunger is such a vast concept that it could be termed a delusion. Nevertheless, the White House has a strategy, beginning with $8 billion in promises from private firms, philanthropic organizations, and industry associations.

“I know, if we work together, we can accomplish it. President Joe Biden stated at the opening of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on Wednesday, “I truly believe we can end hunger in this nation by the year 2030 and reduce the burden of diet-related diseases on too many Americans.”

Locally and nationally, the numbers are alarming. In 2021, ten percent of U.S. households were food insecure, and in Douglas County, the rate was over twelve percent. More than 100,000 people in the Omaha metropolitan area are unable to afford their next meal.

Dr. Deb Carlson, president of Nebraska Methodist College, remarked, “It’s difficult to provide students with the resources they need, such as food and gas cards, so that they can concentrate and focus on their studies.” She looked forward to reading the White House’s proposal in full.

Carlson stated, “I began speaking with other presidents and learned that they were having the same talks and recognizing the same needs of their students.” “It became very clear that it’s not just an Omaha problem or a Nebraska Methodist problem; it’s a societal issue; you know, food insecurity is increasing across the country and the world, and if we don’t solve it, who will?”

The Nebraska Methodist Health System was among those from throughout the country who participated in brainstorming workshops to provide public input for this national approach. Students in need of food was only one finding of their investigation.

Participants suggested addressing food insecurity among young people and working families, food waste, and the need for nutrition education and consumer choices.

Julie Juddi, a clinical nutritionist at Methodist Healthy System, stated, “Just having the talks is the first step, and recognizing the need to conduct this conference, which has not been held in over 50 years, is a start in the right direction.” According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the last one was held in 1969, and it contributed to the formation and extension of programs such as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the national school breakfast and lunch programs.

Lindsay Huse, director of health for Douglas County, states that existing programs such as SNAP and WIC are life-changing. The new approach promises to build upon these achievements. Huse emphasizes that any effective long-term approach must also target the underlying issues.

“Your socioeconomic level, your educational status, whether or not you have access to safe and cheap housing, and whether or not you have transportation are all social infrastructure issues,” Huse explained. “There must first be an understanding that all of those things that don’t sound like health have a significant impact on health, and that understanding must support efforts to ensure that people in our community have access to those things, that they are able to earn a livable wage, and that they are able to do what is necessary so that they can afford healthy and nutritious food.”

As part of the initiatives detailed by the White House, innovations in the management of food pantries and the distribution of fresh food are also included.

Dr. Jeffrey Fischer aided in the construction of Kountze Commons in Omaha and supports any and all efforts to combat hunger, regardless of size. While the long-term plan will hopefully achieve the high objectives, he sees one thing that can still make a difference on a daily basis.

Fischer stated, “If you ask me if there is a simple solution, the answer is yes: give, simply give.” “If you purchase one bottle of ketchup, buy two; it doesn’t cost that much more. We need everyone to pitch in and say, ‘This is my obligation; the Lord has given us this task, and we must complete it.'”

Sessions from the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health can be found on the website of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

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