To the newly elected officials, members of the Biden-Harris Transition Team, and other stakeholders of the food system –
At a time when our nation faces simultaneous health, economic, and hunger crises, we united our voices to convey five key points around the U.S. food system. Together, we ask that you:
- Recognize that the food system is critical to the administration’s goal of a more equitable, sustainable, resilient, and healthy recovery from Covid-19. The food system is a huge engine for the U.S. economy. Yet as the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed, the food system is broken. It is failing to deliver affordable, healthy diets for all. Food insecurity rates, which were high before the pandemic, have since increased dramatically, particularly among communities of color and households with children. Wages are so low that food system workers rely on SNAP at double the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce, and many farmers are struggling to break even under crippling debt. The food system – from production to consumption – is rampant with systemic inequality, starting from access to the land itself through the implementation of programs. It is also a major contributor to climate change.
Transforming the food system provides a critical opportunity to address the four priorities outlined by the Biden-Harris Transition Team: Covid-19, racial justice, economic recovery, and climate change. Diet quality is an important factor to resilience to pandemics like Covid-19. Agriculture provides opportunities to create equitable economic growth, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We urge you to make food system transformation a priority cross-cutting issue. We believe it is essential that all transition teams, agency review teams, and task forces have a member who can represent the food system perspective.
- Seize the opportunity of food to heal and connect. Our food system touches and impacts every American and can be a powerful bridge between rural and urban communities, which is one of the starkest divides in the 2016 and 2020 elections. Strong, local food systems can strengthen both rural and urban economies and help make them more resilient, while reinforcing the links and interdependencies between the two.
- Elevate and invest in the contributions of those previously left out. Now is the moment to change food system structures and leaders to be inclusive of small and mid-sized producers, Black, Indigenous, and people of color, women, new and beginning farmers, and food sector workers, including immigrants. This is not just morally right but the practical way to create more localized and resilient production and distribution, which will spur economic growth, improve nutrition, and reduce the food shortages we have seen during the pandemic.
- Appoint systems leaders and establish the backbone processes to enable a holistic approach. To realize the opportunity of food system transformation, public sector leaders in the White House, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Labor, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Transportation, the Small Business Administration, and the Department of Justice need to see and understand the entire food system, and actively seek to collaborate and integrate the different disciplines and sectors (e.g., nutrition, agriculture, natural resources/environment, transportation, technology, health, education, civil rights) to create a holistic strategy for food. This coordination must include representatives from Tribal governments as an integral part of process and strategy. The right interagency processes and individuals, such as a Deputy Assistant to the President for Food and Nutrition Policy with an office or council and an interagency working group, will provide the essential backbone for this holistic approach.
- Identify and act on the quick wins. We applaud the President-elect’s commitments to increase benefits under SNAP by 15 percent; temporarily provide low income families with $100 per month in extra nutritional support; and take administrative actions such as reversing the public charge rule. There are other significant changes that are possible in the first days of a new Administration to ensure that families and children have access to nutritious food and that our country’s food producers are supported. These changes include ensuring that food sector workers are safe and able to earn a living wage; small and mid-sized farmers, fishers, and ranchers are provided the tools and opportunities they need to prosper; healthy, sustainable, and locally-sourced food is incentivized; and economic recovery funds are building resilient and equitable prosperity, including local food system infrastructure and access to finance. Many of the signatories to this letter have specific examples of policies and executive actions they would like to see implemented and stand ready to assist.
We look forward to working with you to realize the transformative potential of our food system. The moment is now.
American Farmland Trust
American Heart Association
Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina Foundation
Bread for the World
Capital Impact Partners
Center for Community Resilience
Center for Ecoliteracy
Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Ceres Community Project
Rev. Eugene Cho, President and CEO, Bread for the World/Bread for the World Institute
The Common Market
Council for a Strong America & Mission: Readiness
Paula Daniels, Co-Founder and Chief of What’s Next, Center for Good Food Purchasing
Danone North America PBC
Dariush Mozaffarian, Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy
Duke University World Food Policy Center
Environmental Defense Fund
Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.)
Feed the Truth
Food for Climate League
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Department of Nutrition
Health Care Without Harm
Intertribal Agriculture Council
Jessica Fanzo, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
The Kresge Foundation
Katherine Miller, founding Executive Director, Chef Action Network
NATIFS (North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems)
National Farm to School Network
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Urban League
Native Farm Bill Coalition
Natural Resources Defense Council
Danielle Nierenberg/Food Tank
Quest Loves Food LLC
Rethink Food Fund
Richard Pates, Bishop Emeritus of the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines
Project Angel Food
The Rockefeller Foundation
The Root Cause Coalition
Save the Children
Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida
Ryan Shadrick Wilson, Milken Institute
Share Our Strength
Bren Smith, Executive Director, GreenWave
Socially Determined, Inc
Mary Story, Global Health Institute, Duke University
Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders
Timothy Childs, Founder & Co-CEO, Treasure8
Union of Concerned Scientists
Urban School Food Alliance
Wallace Center at Winrock International
World Wildlife Fund
Additional signatories will be added on a rolling basis through December 3, 2020.