The White House on Wednesday plans to unveil $8 billion in new private sector spending to combat hunger, including hundreds of millions of dollars for meals after lawmakers failed to further extend pandemic-era nutrition supports like universal school meals and increased aid to food banks.
The pledges will be announced as part of a White House summit on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, the first in over 50 years, with participation from President Joe Biden, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Health Secretary Xavier Becerra, as well as several lawmakers and New York city Mayor Eric Adams.
Biden aims to end U.S. hunger and reduce diet-related diseases in a majority of Americans by 2030, but is turning to the private sector to underwrite some of the spending, after Congress failed to further extend school lunch aid.
Pandemic assistance helped quell hunger rates for U.S. families in recent years, but hunger again climbed following the expiration of child tax credit payments in January, while soaring food prices stretch family budgets.
Congress's decision earlier this year to extend only through September, 2022 aid that helped schools feed millions of U.S. children over the last two years is likely to further hammer families in need.
Key contributions to be announced Wednesday include a pledge by nonprofit FoodCorps to invest $250 million for free, healthy school meals and to expand nutrition education in schools. The Food Industry Association will also promise to get its members to donate 2 billion meals to food banks and other organizations next year while making it easier to use food stamp benefits online.
Meanwhile, Wholesale food distributor Sysco will donate 200 million meals to national hunger-related charities and food banks, worth about $400 million, over the next five years.
Senior administration officials briefing reporters ahead of the summit, the first of its kind since 1969, declined to offer a timeline for the new aid, but said details would be forthcoming.
The private sector commitments also come after recent revelations of hundreds of millions of stolen federal dollars that were supposed to be spent on food aid during the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked about mechanisms to ensure companies and organizations follow through on their pledged donations, the officials said the administration would work closely with the donors to ensure compliance.
"We are exploring what our next steps look like in terms of accountability," the officials said, speaking to reporters on condition of anonomity. (Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Christopher Walljasper; Editing by Stephen Coates)