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White House Takes Aim at Hunger Eradication and Health Improvement

Grocers and CPGs respond with programs and solutions amid new guidance for food labels and sodium content
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
IC produce
In collaboration with the new White House Challenge, Instacart announced a new advertising capability for weighted produce.

The Biden Administration is escalating its efforts to address food insecurity and bolster health and wellness through food. On March 24, the Administration introduced its White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities, an initiative that involves and impacts food retailers, food suppliers, e-commerce platforms and others throughout the food chain.

The newly announced government Challenge follows last September’s White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. That historic event, the first of its kind to be held in more than 50 years, included a call to action to grocers and CPGs to help improve food access and affordability and empower consumers to make healthy choices. At the time, several grocery players, including Hy-Vee, Publix, Walgreens, Albertsons Cos., Meijer and Instacart, shared their respective measures to achieve those and other goals centered on hunger and health.

“More than 600 public and private organizations made general and impactful commitments totaling more than $8 billion. Many in the audience today represented those organizations and we thank them very much,” said Ambassador Susan E. Rice, Domestic Policy Advisor, in her opening remarks on March 24. “Since September, organizations that have made commitments have reported serving over 9.4 million meals, raised nearly $40 million to support their commitment and helped underserved communities.” She spotlighted Michigan-based Meijer for enabling more than 820,000 SNAP beneficiaries to buy fruits and vegetables at a 10% discount and the National Grocers Association for its grant-funded effort to help grocers participate in SNAP online.

Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI - The Food Industry Association, attended the White House event and shared ways in which the food and grocery industries have responded in the last six months, including increased donations to food banks, hunger summits and the introduction of health and wellness platforms as part of digital experiences for shoppers. “The food industry has a critical role to play in addressing hunger and helping to improve the nutrition and health of all Americans. Grocery stores serve as accessible, convenient, community-based destinations for feeding assistance, preventive care, nutrition guidance, and nourishing, practical meal solutions,” Sarasin said. "I’m proud of the work our members are doing to support the goals of the White House Conference as well as meet and exceed our own industry’s goals for combating hunger and improving the health of our fellow Americans.”

Challenge, Accepted

Grocery and food businesses have already stepped up to the latest White House Challenge. For example, Instacart developed a suite of digital solutions available to providers around the country. The tools are designed to enhance collaborative care, promote healthy choices, and, circling back to Instacart’s mission and model, deliver nutritious foods to patients and their families.

Instacart’s provider partners in this endeavor include hospitals, health systems and other health care and medical organizations that offer or intend to offer food as medicine programs. Boston Children's Hospital is one of the first health systems to include Instacart health products to ensure proper nourishment of patients.

Looping in food suppliers, Instacart has also created a feature that allows produce brands to advertise weighted fresh fruits and vegetables, like carrots, grapes, onions and sweet potatoes, across the platform. The new ad capability will be available for all random weight foods found in Instacart's grocery partners' aisles, including fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, cheeses, nuts and deli items.

"It's essential that consumers have access to fresh, nutritious produce – whether they shop online or in-store," remarked Ali Miller, VP of ads product at Instacart. "Online grocery offers a unique experience, helping brands deeply connect with and engage consumers as they explore new products or their usual staples across the digital aisles. With today's launch, millions of consumers will now discover more fresh and nutritious options as they shop on Instacart, leveling the playing field for produce and making sure everything from fresh citrus to sweet potatoes are just as discoverable as packaged goods."

Meanwhile, DoorDash pledged to increase the availability of produce in its marketplace by 2025 by partnering with grocers around the United States and by expanding the availability of healthy products in its DashMarts. Also by 2025, DoorDash will offer access to SNAP EBT grocery delivery in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

New Federal Regulations for Food

As it unveiled the Challenge, the Biden Administration also issued draft guidance for food manufacturers with recommendations on how and when they can use Dietary Guidance Statements on food labels to help educate consumers about their products and nutritional contribution. In addition, the federal government is issuing a proposed rule that aims to reduce sodium in the food supply, giving manufacturers the flexibility to use what it deems “safe and suitable” salt substitutes in foods like cheese and canned vegetables.

"In addition to the Dietary Guidance Statements draft guidance, reducing sodium intake and updating the definition of 'healthy' are two other examples of how the agency is showing its commitment to fostering a healthier food supply for all and empowering consumers with more informative and accessible labeling to choose healthier diets," said Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "We are making great strides in our nutrition initiatives in order to improve the health and wellness of our nation." 

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