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Nutrition Security: Building on Our Work to Date and Accelerating Progress

Posted by Caree Jackson Cotwright, PhD, RDN, Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity, USDA Food and Nutrition Service in Food and Nutrition Nutrition Security
Jul 20, 2023

Almost a year and a half ago, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack outlined USDA’s focus on nutrition security, which builds on food security by emphasizing the co-existence of food insecurity and diet-related diseases and disparities. Put simply, nutrition security means having consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, affordable foods essential to optimal health and well-being. It’s my honor and privilege to join this effort as the second director of nutrition security and health equity at the Food and Nutrition Service within USDA and lead the department’s approach to advancing food and nutrition security.

In this role, I will work to elevate the administration of USDA’s 16 nutrition assistance programs. These programs reach one in four Americans over the course of a year, and they are some of the most far-reaching, powerful tools in the federal government to help ensure that everyone — of all demographic groups and life stages—experiences nutrition security. Every day, USDA works hard (PDF, 792 KB) to connect nutritious foods to those most in need. Part of this work includes leveraging the momentum (PDF, 10.0 MB) of the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and the corresponding National Strategy, which set ambitious goals to end hunger, improve nutrition and physical activity, and reduce diet-related diseases and disparities. We are also working to better integrate nutrition and health. Since hosting a National Summit this past fall, USDA has participated in three regional summits hosted by ProMedica and The Root Cause Coalition. We look forward to participating in their four remaining summits. We have learned so much about the power of integrating nutrition and health and the power of our partners in healthcare.

I am excited to work across our department and with our partners in government, non-government organizations, and people working in communities across America to continue building awareness of our efforts and identify opportunities for collaboration. This work includes building new and enhancing collaborative activities with our National MyPlate Strategic Partners, SNAP-Ed implementing agencies, and everyone committed to advancing food and nutrition security. I know these programs are key ingredients to our work ahead. I know this firsthand through my experience as a community engaged researcher, like when a parent told me their child requested broccoli and kiwi after participating in our SNAP-Ed supported programming. That’s the power of USDA programs!

Building on the momentum of this past year and half, we are excited to release a new video explaining USDA’s efforts to promote nutrition security. Please share this video to help spread the word about ways we are partnering to connect individuals, families, and communities across this country with foods that support optimal health and well-being. Everyone in this country deserves the opportunity the thrive. Let’s work together to reach the goals in our National Strategy and provide meaningful nutrition support for all.