Food insecurity, hunger, and food waste are not new to the policy ecosystem, and progress has increasingly been made to advance these issues. That being said, the landscape today may provide for significant opportunities to transform this policy space and pass historic legislation and funding.
Since the COVID pandemic began, food insecurity and hunger have been in greater focus. Not only have more people relied on food assistance programs (most notably through long lines at local food banks and distribution centers), but the complexities of the food supply chain, food pricing, and food production have become more apparent. From lower commercial demand putting farmers at risk to the economic realities placing families at risk, food insecurity became very real and very apparent in virtually every community across the country. The interconnectivity between food supply and seemingly unrelated issues, like the war in Ukraine, only added to the complexity of food policy.
The policy landscape is quickly evolving, and food insecurity is likely to rapidly move up the policy agenda this year. Three core issues are driving this important trend:
Congress and the White House Have Prioritized Solutions to Food Insecurity: Despite historic levels of partisanship, policymakers from both sides of the aisle in Congress are prioritizing policy related to food insecurity, hunger, and food waste. The Hunger Caucus in the House of Representatives is very active – a rarity among caucuses in Congress. The White House hosted the Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health last year, which brought together industry, government leaders, and nonprofits that were all committed to various solutions within the food policy space. Unlike many issues that have been sidelined, food insecurity is getting support from all corners of the policy ecosystem.
The Farm Bill Should be Reauthorized in 2023: The Farm Bill is scheduled to be reauthorized during the 118th Congress. There is no larger legislative vehicle dedicated to food, farming, and food supply, which makes it the best opportunity to advance policies related to food insecurity, hunger, and food waste. While efforts to include provisions in the Farm Bill will become a crowded space, current momentum around food insecurity solutions will likely have an advantage. Furthermore, food insecurity and food waste solutions align with other policy spaces that will lend their support – from climate change and animal welfare to health and wellness.
Industry is Taking a Lead to End Hunger: Food insecurity will never be resolved through a government-only response. Industries from across the supply chain, from manufacturing to retail, are making an unprecedented impact on food insecurity. Not only are many of them connecting food to those in need directly, but they are also developing and promoting innovative solutions to ending food waste, securing the supply chain, and supporting nonprofits that are distributing food within local communities.
The list of policy solutions that are facing risk is growing every day – food insecurity policy and the issues around it remain well-positioned this Congress.