Food may be best medicine to improve the nation’s health

It has been more than 50 years since the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health was held in 1969, which led to the establishment and expansion of our country’s foundational food support systems–the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the National School Lunch Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Our understanding of the role nutrition and food security play in overall health has grown significantly in those intervening years.

With the second Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health set for Sept. 28 in Washington, D.C., the healthcare sector has a chance to meaningfully contribute to the conversation and positively impact the health of the more than 42 million Americans facing food insecurity today.

When people are hungry or cannot access nutritious food, they are less likely to get or stay healthy. Food insecurity is directly correlated with poor health, including higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. The wide-ranging chronic health issues driven by hunger are estimated to increase the cost of healthcare by $160 billion each year and, because of the racial inequities associated with hunger and nutrition, food insecurity is also a driver of health disparities that are so persistent in our country.

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