How the White House nutrition conference may tackle Americans’ unhealthy diets : Shots – Health News – NPR

The way many Americans eat is fueling chronic disease. Here are seven big ideas from the White House’s upcoming nutrition conference for how to improve Americans’ diets.

The U.S. food system makes junk food plentiful and cheap. Eating a diet based on whole foods like fresh fruit and vegetables can promote health – but can also strain a tight grocery budget. Food leaders are looking for ways to improve how Americans eat.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

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The U.S. food system makes junk food plentiful and cheap. Eating a diet based on whole foods like fresh fruit and vegetables can promote health – but can also strain a tight grocery budget. Food leaders are looking for ways to improve how Americans eat.

The data are stark: the typical American diet is shortening the lives of many Americans. Diet-related deaths outrank deaths from smoking, and about half of U.S. deaths from heart disease – nearly 900 deaths a day – are linked to poor diet. The pandemic highlighted the problem, with much worse outcomes for people with obesity and other diet-related diseases.

“We’re really in a nutrition crisis in this country.” says Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University

Now, there’s growing momentum to tackle this problem. The Biden administration will hold the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on September 28th, and will announce a new national strategy. This comes more than 50 years after a landmark White House conference which helped launch today’s major federal food assistance programs.

“The 1969 conference was transformative,” Mozaffarian says. The programs it ushered in, like the WIC program, have helped feed millions of low-income families.

But this hasn’t been enough to solve the dual problems of food insecurity and diet-related disease. Food policy leaders say it’s time to think anew and build on what we’ve learned. The U.S. can’t “fix” hunger by just feeding people cheap, high-calorie, processed foods – the food that’s so abundant in our food supply, they say. Instead, it’s got to find ways to nourish people with healthy, nutrient-dense foods.