Sign In


Latest News

Empowering Eaters: Access, Affordability, and Healthy Choices Summit in Support of the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health August 2, 2023 Chicago, IL Presented By: Food Tank Farmer’s Fridge UNGC Local Network Food and Agriculture Initiative

A full replay of the mainstage program is available here:

I. Summit Overview (pg. 3)
II. Introduction (pg. 5)
III. Progress Toward Pillar 1 of the National Strategy: (pg. 7)
a. Federal Policy
b. Local, State, and Territory Policy
c. Community Organizations and Nonprofits
d. Food Businesses
IV. Progress Toward Pillar 3 of the National Strategy: (pg. 11)
a. Federal Policy
b. Local, State, and Territory Policy. Community Organizations and Nonprofits
d. Food Businesses
IV. Conclusion: (pg. 14

Summit Overview
This report summarizes the key takeaways from a Summit in Chicago, IL, held on
August 2, 2023, in support of the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy on
Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The goals of the event were to:
I. Identify the gaps and barriers that hinder the implementation of Pillars 1
and 3 of the National Strategy and discuss opportunities to address them
through new policies, partnerships, and innovations.
II. Raise awareness of work underway and engender new ideas for efforts
and collaborations that will improve food access and affordability (Pillar 1) and
empower all consumers to make and have access to healthier choices (Pillar 3).
III. Encourage stakeholders to come forward with new commitments to
support the implementation of the National Strategy.
The listening session was made up of both main stage and breakout conversations.
The event hosted 387 attendees, including community members working to address
food access issues on the ground, lawmakers, entrepreneurs, farmers and producers,
grassroots leaders, academics, corporate executives, and more.

Many Americans lack access to nutritious, diverse, culturally relevant, and
delicious foods, as well as the resources they need to make healthy choices.
Participants unanimously agreed that access to healthy and diverse food must be
considered a basic human right. They discussed approaches to end food apartheid, or
systemic segregation and policies that have led to inequitable access to affordable,
nutritious foods.
Food injustice disproportionately impacts black, Indigenous, and people of color in
the United States and afflicts both urban and rural areas communities. As noted by
the U.S. Department of Agriculture, roughly 18.8 million people—more than 1 in 6
Americans—live in low-income areas located between one and ten miles from a
supermarket. However, this statistic only takes into account proximity to retailers and
does not account for the quality of food purchased. Only 10 percent of people eat
enough fruits and vegetables and poor nutrition is a leading cause of illness, associated
with more than half a million deaths each year.

Panelists agreed that blame is erroneously placed on communities for failing to make
healthy food choices when, in reality, historical disinvestment in local food systems
has ingrained generations of unhealthy habits. For that reason, bringing more grocery
stores into these regions will not address the root cause or create lasting change.
Instead, we must focus on creating entire ecosystems around healthy food, including
education, infrastructure, mutual aid, and capital that supports every step of the food

Participants discussed the need for decision-makers to bring people from underserved
communities to the table to reach resolutions rooted in lived experience—because
those who are most impacted are most likely to drive creative, innovative, and lasting

solutions. Lawmakers should also get to the block level to better understand how
nuanced the issue can be from neighborhood to neighborhood.
We have to start by defining what “healthy” looks like.
Attendees emphasized the need for a comprehensive and holistic definition of
“healthy food” that takes environmental factors into account. They recommended
prioritizing minimally processed foods made with whole ingredients and incorporating
sourcing standards into dialogue around healthy eating.

Participants agreed that we should know where food comes from, and that it should
be both seasonal and organic. In one breakout panel, attendees discussed how
community environments have to support healthy choices and that many Americans’
lifestyles are not set up to nourish them in a balanced way. For every fast food joint,
there should also be a farmer’s market—so that community members can enjoy
healthy treats without being harmed over time.

Progress Toward Pillar 1 of the National Strategy:
Improving Food Access and Affordability
The Role of Federal Policy
Nutrition Assistance: Many panelists emphasized the need to bolster federal nutrition
programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women,
Infants, and Children (WIC), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
They urged the federal government to fund free school lunches and summer
programs, including onsite pickup for parents, which increases the likelihood of
children receiving the meals they need.
Food Safety and Quality: Beyond guaranteeing that Americans have access to food,
the Food and Drug Administration has a responsibility to ensure that food is both
safe to consume and nutritious. Therefore the agency needs to help curb foodborne
illnesses by preventing contamination along the supply chain and continue to drive
forward a new definition of “healthy.”
Subsidies and Incentives: Participants called on the USDA to make grants more
equitable by supporting small, BIPOC-run businesses and organizations. They
suggested that the government invest in helping small farmers scale their practices to
make it easier for community members to buy food directly from local growers.
The federal government can also play a powerful role in incentivizing businesses to
better support those in need. Participants suggested offering tax incentives to farmers
who donate a certain percentage of their yield to the food insecure.
They also recommended subsidies for smaller, community-run retailers. In terms of
creating incentives for larger retailers to remain in communities with limited access to
nutritious food, subsidies and tax breaks must be sustained or require long-term
contracts so that businesses do not pull out of those areas.

Checks and Balances: Attendees also called on the federal government to check
corporate greed, including price gouging, and put pressure on food companies to
prioritize nutritious ingredients.
Worker Welfare: Finally, participants advocated for policies that enforce fair wages and
raise worker welfare and nutrition standards, since workers cannot afford healthy food
if they are not adequately compensated and/or do not have access to nutritious
choices in public institutions, like hospitals or detention centers.
The Role of Local, State, and Territory Policy
Local Infrastructure Investments: Local governments play an important role in
building equitable food ecosystems. Panelists called for direct public funding for food
businesses in underserved communities, such as co-ops, grocers, farms, processing
facilities, and restaurants. In addition to increasing the availability of culturally
appropriate foods, these investments will also build compounding community wealth
and create more self-sufficient local food economies.
Participants also noted the need to invest in surrounding infrastructure, such as
housing, sidewalks, parking lots, and other retailers that will help sustain food
businesses, as well as health care and education that supports a healthy and skilled

Finally, attendees urged local governments to cooperate with good businesses by
accelerating approval processes—since it should not be easier to open a liquor store
than a farmer’s market. In the same vein, local legislators should provide additional
regulatory support to businesses that give back to the community.
Nutrition Assistance: Attendees emphasized the importance of SNAP match
programs, like Double Up Food Bucks, which simultaneously provide fresh, nutritious
food to recipients and increase income for local farmers.
1915 Bank St., Baltimore, MD 21231 ☎ (202) 590-1037 📧 EIN 46-0970124

Public Procurement: Breakout participants urged local governments to amend
procurement contract language to hold contractors to Good Food Purchasing
standards. Instead of simply choosing the cheapest bid, they should prioritize the best
quality food at a good price. They can also consider hosting vendor fairs that connect
farmers to public institutions.
The Role of Community Organizations and Nonprofits
Local Infrastructure Investments: In tandem with public funding, there is a need for
philanthropic funding for food businesses in underserved communities like co-ops,
grocers, and farms.
Supply Chain Management: Panelists also called for the creation of more
organizations that connect regional farmers to institutional markets and/or reroute
surplus food from farms and restaurants to those in need.
Pay What You Can: Other participants applauded pay-what-you-can restaurant and
grocery store models that allow community members to access fresh, nourishing food
regardless of their budget, while accepting donations from those who can afford it.

The Role of Food Businesses
Supply Chain Transparency: Attendees pressed businesses to shift away from
prioritizing profits over people. Panelists discussed the need for more transparency,
which can help bring more efficiency to the supply chain, thereby lowering costs and
curbing food waste. Transparency also means more visibility into sourcing standards
and wages, which helps to foster a more equitable food system. In a breakout
conversation, attendees also discussed the need for more businesses that connect
buyers to growers and fishers, while also providing traceability technology.

Buyer Contracts: Participants advocated for more cooperative models. They also
encouraged buyers to commit to longer-term contracts with farmers, which provides
more market certainty and enables farmers to shoulder more risk. Additionally, they
urged buyers, like restaurants, to source locally and prioritize fresh, seasonal
ingredients. Doing so not only supports local farmers, but also increases patrons’
access to nutritious ingredients.
Certifications: In multiple conversations, participants spoke about the need for
businesses to establish and adopt more meaningful certifications for produce beyond
USDA Organic, Fair Trade™, and Rainforest Alliance Certified™.
Employee Welfare: Panelists also voiced strong support for unions and for livable
wages that allow workers to afford healthy food.

Progress Toward Pillar 3 of the National Strategy:
Empowering all consumers to make and have access to healthier choices
The Role of Federal Policy
Food Labeling: Panelists noted that the Food and Drug Administration and Federal
Trade Commission can play a role in empowering good choices with front-of-package
labeling that prioritizes whole foods, stricter regulation of additives, and restrictions
on advertising to children. They pointed to recent food labeling overhauls in Mexico,
which have effectively promoted healthier choices by flagging foods with excess sugar
and salt, for instance.
Subsidies and Incentives: Attendees suggested giving farmers greater incentives to
grow more diverse specialty crops, which will help Americans access a richer array of
produce. They also encourage the offering of crop insurance to help share the risk
with farmers willing to grow these crops. Furthermore, they called for streamlined
certifications that incentivize responsible growing practices without overburdening
farmers. Participants also called on policymakers to incentivize corporations to make
healthier food, for example, by eliminating pesticides or additives.
The Role of Local, State, and Territory Policy
Education: Food literacy is a major barrier to the adoption of healthy eating. Panelists
suggested investing in community members and teachers—as trusted experts—to
create nutrition curricula that expose children to different foods and cultures, while
encouraging balanced lifestyle choices. Beyond national education programs, there
should be a renewed emphasis on local, community-based education in collaboration
with private and nonprofit sectors.
Urban Agriculture: Panelists suggested writing urban agriculture into city zoning laws
to give people the agency to grow their own food, as well as reducing barriers for

urban farmers who can provide fresh, local produce. They noted that land and water
access, as well as business licensing, have not been adequately established for urban
growers and urged local governments to prioritize the industry.
The Role of Community Organizations and Nonprofits
Community Gardens and Culinary Programs: Multiple panelists spoke to the need for
more community and school gardens, which can serve as both food sources and
educational tools, as well as culinary programs that teach children and adults how to
cook with local, seasonal, whole foods.

The Role of Food Businesses
Scaling Small Brands: Venture capital and mentorship programs should prioritize
investing in small, local, and healthy brands off the ground and into stores where
consumers can make healthy, sustainable choices.

Public Interest: Participants urged businesses to end shareholder primacy and change
their business incentives to feeding people, rather than simply extracting wealth.

Doing so will enable them to more creatively de-silo their interests.
Guaranteed Markets: Restaurants and retailers should offer contracts that guarantee
markets for different sizes and types of farmers, both urban and rural, so that growers
are more likely to shoulder the risk of growing diverse specialty crops.

Better Ingredients: Corporations have the power to shift consumer choices by
utilizing healthier ingredients. Food companies, for example, can consider reducing
sugar, replacing additives, and eliminating the use of pesticides. Breakout participants
also discussed the need for companies to stop intentionally creating addictive food.

Corporate Advocacy: Participants called on large companies to leverage their
platforms to educate their customers—especially children. If they sell indulgent

By creating healthy, vibrant local food systems, we can provide more equitable
access to nutritious food that improves overall well-being, curbs diet-related
disease, and brings greater wealth into underserved communities.
We need to align on a holistic definition of the word healthy. Increasing access to
fresh and minimally processed food will only be made possible through simultaneous
public, nonprofit, and private-sector collaboration—and these efforts must focus
heavily on regions afflicted by historical disinvestment.
As another overall theme, we must invest in infrastructure that creates healthy food
ecosystems and helps local businesses thrive. This includes better-supporting food
businesses like co-ops, grocery stores, processing facilities, and farms.
On the whole, policymakers also need to prioritize better assisting farmers,
particularly small and underrepresented farmers, in both rural and urban
environments, to bring more diverse specialty crops to local communities. Federal and
local governments can also leverage public procurement to support local growers and
provide more nourishing food to communities.
Consumer education through a combination of school curricula, community
programs, food packaging, and corporate advocacy will also help promote and sustain
healthy choices.

Michael Garahan

Michael Garahan

View all posts by Michael Garahan

Chef Michael Garahan, CEC aka Chef Mikey (c) (r) advocates for the increased consumption of healthier choice foods, in an effort to reduce diet-related diseases.
Chef Mikey, LLC is a Social Benefit Business, 90% of profits are used for the purchase of healthier choice foods for those in need.

Related Posts