September 30, 2022

White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health cites restaurants’ efforts to provide healthy menu options

Biden Administration also releases federal proposals on sodium, salt, and marketing that will affect the restaurant industry
Children eating
The first of its kind in 50 years, the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which took place on Wednesday, focused on ways to end hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030, so that fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.

To achieve that goal, the Biden Administration is calling for a “whole-of-government” and “whole-of-America” approach in which Congress, state, local, and federal governments, and the private sector can play a role. 

Association EVP, Public Affairs Sean Kennedy represented restaurants at the conference, promoting the industry’s commitment to improving childhood nutrition. 

“We are proud to be a part of this historic conference that brings industry and government together to discuss the future of food policy to help solve hunger and nutrition challenges in our nation,” said Kennedy. “The commitments we’ve made will positively impact communities across the country by making it easier for consumers to meet their family’s lifestyle and appetites when dining out.” 

Earlier this summer, the Association submitted recommendations to the president, ensuring that restaurants had a voice in the nation’s dialogue on hunger, nutrition, and health, and a seat at the Administration’s table to help inform the federal government’s strategy on hunger reduction, nutritional offerings, and public health improvements. 

In conjunction with the conference, the Association announced the expansion of its popular Kids LiveWell (KLW) childhood nutrition program. Specifically, the Association will:
  • Expand the reach of KLW by recruiting additional restaurant chains
  • Expand KLW to foodservice outlets operating in museums, cultural centers, and sporting arenas
  • Promote KLW to member restaurants, including the launch of a KLW resources library that incorporates healthy recipe swaps, a recipe book with pre-certified recipes and a toolkit for State Restaurant Associations
  • Develop a new healthy dining database for caregivers featuring KLW-approved meals from participating restaurants
  • Create a nutrition education and training module for use in skill development programs
  • Create a communications and education campaign to promote healthier options on children’s menus   
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff applauded the restaurant industry’s efforts. “We’ve had an amazing response. Nearly 45,000 restaurants have committed to meeting stronger nutrition standards for their kids’ meals and serving only water, milk, or juice with those meals, instead of soda. We’ve got the National Restaurant Association that’s going to support these restaurants to design healthier kids’ menus, and it’s going to create a public database that’s going to help parents find these healthier options all across participating restaurant brands. It’s big!”

Yet, in its National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, the Biden Administration proposed changes to sugar, sodium, and marketing regulations, among others, that will affect the restaurant industry. Those include:

Sodium reduction targets
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will issue revised, voluntary sodium reduction targets to facilitate continually lowering the amount of sodium in the food supply beyond the 2021 targets.
  • FDA will propose to update regulations to enable manufacturers to use salt substitutes in standardized foods to support sodium reduction. 
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will increase lower-sodium foods with regard to procurement. 
Added sugar reductions
  • FDA will begin assessing the evidence base for further strategies to reduce added sugar consumption, collaborating with other Department of Health and Human Services divisions and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to hold a public meeting regarding future steps the federal government could take to reduce intake of added sugars such as developing targets for categories of foods—similar to the voluntary targets FDA developed for sodium. 
Use of the label “healthy” 
  • FDA will propose updating the nutrition standards for when companies use the “healthy” claim on their products and develop a symbol companies may use to depict the “healthy” claim on food packages. 
School meals 
  • The USDA will continue work to reduce sodium in school meals consistent with the goals of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and FDA’s voluntary sodium targets.
  • Possible legislation in Congress to expand access to advance free school meals for 9 million more children by 2032. 
Retail/food environment recommendation 
  • The recommendations also included a section encouraging the food industry to increase the availability of and access to foods that are low in sodium and added sugars—including foods meeting or exceeding FDA’s voluntary sodium reduction targets—and high in whole grains, particularly for the K-12 market. 
Marketing to children
  • The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has indicated that it will pursue targeted law enforcement actions to prevent the deceptive advertising of foods and dietary supplements, including deceptive advertising that might be targeted to youth.
  • The U.S Department of Defense will limit marketing in military dining facilities to those that meet its Go 4 Green program nutrition standards. 
Food Recovery/Donation
  • FDA will update its Food Code—which provides state, Tribal, local, and territory regulators with a model for updating their food retail and service industry regulations—to address food donation recommendations.
  • The Department of the Treasury will clarify the enhanced charitable deduction calculation to support businesses donating food.
A complete list of pledges of support from businesses, academia, government agencies, research institutions, and advocacy, faith-based, and civic organizations can be found here. The Association’s commitment can be found in Pillar 3 – Empower Consumers to Make and Have Access to Healthy Choices.