A coalition of more than 150 organizations registered complaints against President Joe Biden, alleging that his administration’s food purchases are largely financing the status quo industrial food system, which harms human, animal, and planetary health.
The Biden administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health included a commitment to expand healthy and sustainable food options at federal food facilities, but 160 non-governmental organizations called out the president for failing to follow through with its implementation.
The complaints are the latest in a series of challenges facing the Biden administration on food policy. In recent months, the administration has also faced criticism for its handling of the baby formula shortage and the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed rule to reduce sodium in the food supply.
“Currently, the federal government’s annual expenditure of approximately $8.8 billion in food purchases largely supports the status quo industrial food system, which compromises human, animal, and planetary health through the exploitation of farm and food workers, concentration of corporate wealth, degradation of natural resources, and overproduction of highly processed foods with low nutrition value,” said the letter.
The Congressional Research Service estimates that the federal government spends approximately $8.8 billion on food each year, and the organizations advocate for federal food purchasing to align with prior executive actions that intend to utilize federal procurement as a means to mitigate climate change, advance racial equity and increase protections for workers.
That values-based approach has already been adopted by 25 cities and counties through the Good Food Purchasing Program, a framework designed to promote local economies, sustainability, and community health and nutrition by leveraging public food dollars, CSPI pointed out.
Biden has refused to debate his two rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination but that has not prevented them from expressing ideas to improve the nutritional quality of America’s diet.
“Over the past century, the advent of modern farming techniques, the corporatization of agriculture, the use of petrochemical-based fertilizers, and the subsidizing and encouragement of Big Ag have collectively created a poisonous brew that is now affecting our health and well-being in critical ways,” said Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. “The function of protecting America’s food supply was given in 1930 to an agency called The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most of us have grown up believing the FDA to be a watchdog on the lookout for threats to our health and well-being.”
“Regulatory agencies have been captured by those they are supposed to regulate: Wall Street controls the SEC. Polluters and extractive industries dominate the EPA and BLM. Pharma controls the CDC, NIH, and FDA. Big Ag controls the USDA,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., another Democratic presidential candidate who is challenging incumbent President Joe Biden. “No wonder trust in government is at all-time lows. It’s time to earn it back.”
Kennedy, the son of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, has charted a course for the revitalization of farming in America to ensure the safety of our food supply.
In a June 29 letter to Biden, the organizations, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Earthjustice, and the American Heart Association, asked that the administration formalize the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities described in the strategy.
The organizations say the $8.8 billion spent each year by the federal government on food presently supports the status quo industrial food system, which compromises human, animal, and planetary health through exploitation of farm and food workers, concentration of corporate wealth, degradation of natural resources, and overproduction of highly processed foods with low nutrition valuer.
“The federal government has an important opportunity to support more nutritious diets and more sustainable food systems at the same time, by using their guidelines and their formidable purchasing power to support those production practices that are better for people and planet,” said Paula Daniels, co-founder of the Center for Good Food Purchasing.
Good purchasing transforms the way public institutions buy food by creating a transparent and equitable nutrition system built on five core values: local economies, health, valued workforce, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability.
The complaints specifically cite the administration’s purchases of processed foods, meat, and dairy products, which the groups say are major contributors to climate change, animal welfare problems, and diet-related diseases.
The groups also criticize the administration’s failure to set clear standards for sustainable food purchases and its lack of transparency about its food procurement practices.