Dispatch from DC: MAZON at USDA’s Nutrition Security and Healthcare Conference
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to represent MAZON at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Nutrition Security and Healthcare Conference in Washington, DC. The conference, which followed last month’s White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, began the conversations needed to put ideas into action and achieve the Administration’s goal to end hunger and diet-related diseases by 2030. By bringing together leaders from USDA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), health care providers, insurers, logistics companies, agency staff, congressional staff, and nonprofits, the conference aimed to share best practices and find solutions in our work that can be emulated across industries.
The day began with remarks from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who stressed that “right now, we have an opportunity” to build off of the excitement from last month’s conference and with national attention on hunger to direct that engagement into action. Chairman Jim McGovern followed the Secretary and emphasized the intersectional approach needed to end hunger in the U.S., while calling for those in attendance to put solutions into action. HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine spoke to the efforts underway at HHS to ensure that nutrition security is an integral part of healthcare in the U.S. Dr. Sara Bleich, Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity at USDA, reiterated USDA’s commitment to addressing the long term effects of structural racism in the U.S. and its efforts to ensure greater equity in USDA’s programs as a way to address the decades of inequity. The day closed with remarks from Deputy Under Secretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean and Administrator Cindy Long, who shared reflections from their conversations on best practices as well as a closing address on the need to continue the hard work ahead from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Between keynote speakers, attendees had the opportunity to gather in smaller groups, sharing our knowledge and experience and brainstorming over our shared goals. It was a privilege to share MAZON’s long history of work in conversations with business leaders, healthcare professionals, and government staff, and to offer our expertise as a national anti-hunger organization focused on addressing the needs of communities disproportionately impacted by food insecurity who are too often left out of the conversation to ensure equitable outcomes where they are needed most.