Dear friend,

A few weeks ago I was invited to serve on the Strategy Group to help inform the upcoming White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Must admit, I have a great deal of skepticism about such processes as they often are about the show. The end results don’t always mesh with our hopes and dreams, but the organizers can say “we consulted with folks and had a process.”

The other reason for my skepticism is that I believe hunger isn’t about availability of food; it’s about the right to food. I could take up a lot of space talking about the difference, but that’s for another day. For now, I encourage you to read this primer on the right to food from our friends at WhyHunger.

Despite my hesitations, I accepted the invitation because many in my circles believed there is an opportunity here and we should step up to it. So here I go… But as with any other political process, this is not about what I can do. It’s about what we can do. More on that below. 

First, since most of you reading this are focused on fisheries and marine food systems, I want to encourage you to submit your thoughts, comments, and policy ideas to this process to ensure that seaFOOD is included in these conversations and final recommendations. 

Second, a bit of history for those, who like me, may not have known that the first conference was held by the Nixon Administration in 1969. It ushered in programs such as helping expand the National School Lunch Program and the Food Stamp program (now SNAP). And, it led to the creation of the School Breakfast Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) as well as concepts such as nutrition labeling. 

Although the first conference ushered in a new era where public institutions were given authority to address food insecurity in the U.S. But ever since, those public food assistance programs have been completely dependent on contentious political negotiations in Congress for funding, funding that routinely falls short and does not provide dignified livelihoods for those in need. The Right to Food takes the challenge of addressing food insecurity to a new level - by mandating that access to food is a human right that our public institutions must fulfill, and in-turn freeing those that go hungry from political marginalization.

Now the Biden Administration is aiming to hold a conference on this topic in September 2022. Like the last one, this one is preceded by multiple processes that can hopefully bring in public input to inform the ultimate policies that might emerge from this. That’s where the Strategy Group on which I serve comes into the picture. There will be convenings, public input portals on the White House and other websites, and formal listening sessions being held by the White House (see below for the schedule).

All this is fine except - EXCEPT - as I mentioned earlier this conversation must be rooted in the right to food. We have to recognize that hunger is about more than calories and perception of food shortages. In a recent conversation with those working to address hunger on state levels or through operating food banks, the sentiments are clear: we can feed the people standing in line. The goal should be to shorten that line. 

We can’t shorten the lines to food banks without addressing the economic structures that don't value people enough to provide for a living wage that ensures lives with dignity and enables us all to afford good food and pursue healthy lives. Our society isn’t designed to ensure the right the food. It’s high time we changed that if we are serious about ending hunger and good health.

Please keep an eye out as together with our allies we will work to bring our points of views to this process and ensure that we strive toward truly ending hunger by addressing the root causes and not just treating its symptoms.

In solidarity,

Niaz Dorry
Coordinating Director


Schedule of virtual listening sessions being held by the White House and open to the public. Please register using the links below, and we encourage you to register for the region you live in.

  • South: June 1, 2022, 11am-1pm EDT/10am-12pm CDT/9am-11am MDT. Register here.*
  • Midwest & Mountains: June 3, 2022, 1-3pm EDT/12pm-2pm CDT/11am-1pm MDT. Register here.*
  • Northeast, MidAtlantic, Puerto Rico, & U.S. Virgin Islands: June 7, 2022, 10am-12pm EDT. Register here.*
  • West Coast & Pacific: June 9, 3pm-5pm PDT. Register here.*
  • Spanish-only (all regions): June 13, 2022, 1pm-3pm EDT. Register here.
*Language interpreters offered in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean.

Schedule of in person listening sessions being held by the Strategy Group. These are invitations only, so if you are interested in attending one, please let Niaz know so she can recommend you.

New York City (June 21)
Oakland, CA (June 27)
Washington, DC (July 14)
Louisville, KY (TBD)
Auburn, AL (TBD)
Chicago, IL (TBD)

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