White House announces multi-billion dollar plan to attack obesity, hunger

US President Joe Biden

US President Joe Biden. The White House says that poor diets are behind ever-rising cases of diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension.

Photo credit: AFP

The White House announced Wednesday billions of dollars in pledges from major corporations -- including the likes of fast food behemoth Burger King -- to craft a national strategy on ending the twin US challenges of hunger and obesity.

The private sector pledges were unveiled as President Joe Biden was hosting what the administration touted as the first big White House summit on food and diet since Richard Nixon was in office more than half a century ago.

Nearly 42 percent of American adults are technically obese and about 10 percent of US households suffer food insecurity, according to latest government statistics.

Biden will tell the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health that government, Congress, private companies and society must work together "to achieve the goal of ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases in the United States by 2030," a senior administration official told reporters.

Because Congress is unlikely to fund major federal dietary programs, Biden finds his hands largely tied. However, officials said he was using the power of the presidency to get major companies involved and that the response has been strong.

"We know that we can only achieve the goals... if we rally a whole of society response," an official said.

Officials briefing reporters said that $8 billion in public and private sector commitments already made include pledges from more than 100 organizations, ranging from hospitals to tech companies and food industry players.

"All have committed to bold and in some cases, paradigm shifting commitments that will meaningfully improve nutrition, promote physical activity, and reduce hunger and diet related disease over the next seven years," an official said.

GE, the multinational energy, aerospace and healthcare company, and food industry innovation specialists Food Systems for the Future are set to launch a $2.5 billion private investor coalition over the next three years.

The National Restaurant Association will expand a project aimed at getting children to eat healthier food at 45,000 more outlets, including at chains like Burger King.

IT and communications giant Cisco will contribute $500 million over five years for healthier meals and food production in areas where it does business.

Officials acknowledged that there is no enforcement mechanism for the spending programs but "we will continue to certainly work closely with these partners to ensure they execute on the actions committed to."

The White House says that poor diets are behind ever-rising cases of diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and certain cancers, warning that "there is no silver bullet to address these complex issues, and there is no overnight fix."

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