On Jan. 19, 2023, USDA participated in the first of seven regional summits focused on strengthening the intersections between healthcare and nutrition security hosted by ProMedica and The Root Cause Coalition at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
These regional summits build on USDA’s first-ever National Nutrition Security and Healthcare Summit held in Washington, D.C., in October 2022, a few weeks after the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. By bringing more than 200 key stakeholders together, including several Congressional members and their staff, the national summit showcased relevant White House Conference commitments across the healthcare sector aiming to integrate nutrition and health. Together, the national and regional summits are leveraging the momentum of the White House Conference’s corresponding National Strategy that aims to end hunger, improve nutrition and physical activity, and reduce diet-related diseases and disparities.
As Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in his opening recorded remarks at the recent Atlanta summit, “Hunger and diet-related diseases are almost entirely preventable. And USDA administers some of the most effective tools to help address these problems … but the USDA can’t fight this battle alone.”
Likewise, House Agriculture Ranking Member Congressman David Scott’s (GA-13) recognized the importance of examining hunger as a health issue. He challenged participants to work together to end hunger in America, while addressing diet-related diseases. Ranking Member Scott emphasized strengthening important programs, like the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will be part of this work. In addition to Ranking Member Scott, Congressional staff from D.C. and the Southeast Region participated in the summit, demonstrating the important role Congressional leaders play in connecting the dots between healthcare and nutrition security. Ranking Member Scott underscored his participation in the summit and the importance of this work in a tweet the following day.
During the half-day Atlanta summit, more than 100 participants heard about and shared several successful ways the healthcare sector and community organizations help their communities address a key social determinant of health – access to healthy food.
One of many highlighted models included the Food as Medicine partnership between Grady Health System, Open Hand Atlanta and the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Bringing a focus on health and healing within the Atlanta community, this unique partnership screens patients for food insecurity and connects them to resources such as food prescriptions for healthy foods and cooking classes where patients can learn how to prepare tasty, healthy meals.
At the summit, USDA provided an overview of its actions to advance food and nutrition security. The Veterans Health Administration shared how it recently established a dedicated Office of Food Security that focuses on screening and referrals to the Federal nutrition safety net. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services, along with a state official from North Carolina, reflected on the positive impacts of Medicaid Section 1115 demonstration waivers that grant states autonomy in delivering innovations to better address food and housing insecurity issues among Medicaid recipients.
Collectively, Deputy Under Secretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean believes “these summits will catalyze and inspire those who are already engaged to do more and provide a collaborative learning opportunity for those who are new to the space to come to the table to learn how they can better intersect with the vast Federal nutrition safety net.”
The Southeast Regional Summit provided a tremendous foundation for other upcoming regional summits that will take place at Ypsilanti, Michigan, on March 24, 2023, and Worcester, Massachusetts, on June 1, 2023. Four more will occur through spring 2024. As we build on these critical conversations across nutrition security and healthcare sectors, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra stresses that “our work may not be easy, and results may not come overnight but the work that we are putting in will harvest real change and results that last. Let’s get to it.”
For more information on USDA’s work in this area or upcoming regional summits, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.