On November 2, 2021, Senator Booker and Senator Braun invited experts to testify on problems of and solutions for the nation’s nutrition crisis. These are excerpts from Senator Booker’s opening statements.
All of our witnesses agree on the following facts – that we are facing a massive, broad-based nutrition crisis. Where diet-related diseases pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of our country:
- 1 in 3 dollars in federal budget goes to healthcare spending.
- With 80% of it paying for treatment of preventable diseases.
- Half of the US population is pre-diabetic or has type 2 diabetes.
- In 1960, 3% were obese, today it’s 40% and 70% are overweight
- 1/4 teenagers are pre-diabetic or have type 2 diabetes
- Risk of diabetes is 77% higher for Black people and we are twice as likely to die from diabetes. The statistics are even more grim in indigenous communities
- For COVID-19, we’ve seen higher hospitalization and death rates for peole with these conditions.
The majority of our food system is controlled by a handful of big multinational corporations.
They carefully formulate and market nutrient-poor addictive ultra-processed foods that comprise 2/3 of calories in children and teens and they want us to believe that such as obesity and d are somehow a moral failing, that they represent a lack of willpower. Or a failure to get enough exercise.
That’s just a lie. It’s a lie.
The problem isn’t individualizing moral failing, it’s our collective policy failure.Cory Booker, Opening Statements, Senate Hearing on the State of Nutrition November 2, 2021
It is a policy failure because the fed gov’t is subsidizing easy access to foods that are high in calories but have min nutritional value. While too many communities lack access to healthy foods they need to thrive. While the fed gov’t tells us our plates should consist of fruit & veg, fewer than 2% of our federal agricultural subsidies go to these healthy foods.
It’s a policy failure while other countries have begun to take on this crisis, banning marketing of junk food to children.
In Aug the GAO issued a report that said the fed gov’t lacks a coordinated overarching strategy aimed at reducing risks.Cory Booker, Opening Statements, Senate Hearing on the State of Nutrition November 2, 2021
In 1969, the White House conference on food and nutrition resulted in an unprecedented expansion of programs like WIC.
While we’ve addressed hunger, we now grapple with nutrition insecurity where Americans are overfed but undernourished.
Despite being the wealthiest nation in the world, we have created a food system that relentlessly encourages the overeating of empty calories literally making us sick and causing us to spend an ever-increasing amount of taxpayer dollars – literally trillions – to treat diet-related diseases like type2 diabetes heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney, which are among the leading causes of preventable, premature death in our country.
This is why we introduced legislation to convene a second White House panel on nutrition.
This nutrition crisis we face is a threat – the greatest threat to our nation’s wellbeing right now. It’s also a threat to economic and national security.Cory Booker, Opening Statements, Senate Hearing on the State of Nutrition November 2, 2021
In this nutrition panel, lawmakers like Senator Booker identified the most urgent problems associated with America’s food system, and rightly connected these problems to policy failures.
Solutions suggested by the panelists largely consisted of aspirations like increasing research, improving education, and listening to underserved groups. These are all laudable goals. Missing, however, was a specific and actionable agency-wide proxy goal that, if pursued, would lead the department to solve the nation’s nutrition crisis in a timely and meaningful way.
The USDA should prioritize naturally fiber-rich foods across all USDA programs and policies from production to distribution, with special attention to making these foods accessible, desirable, and affordable in underserved communities.