Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) is working to transform the United States food system to achieve health equity and ensure that everyone can access nutritious, high-quality, and culturally relevant food.
To advance their mission, PHA delivers fresh foods to those in need through their Good Food For All program, establishes partnerships with U.S. cities to expand nutrition programs, and is helping local convenience stores offer healthier options.
The organization’s new Food Equity Opportunity Map helps to guide their work, identifying areas around the U.S. where improvements to good food access would have the greatest impact.
PHA was founded more than 10 years ago as the nonprofit extension of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign. While always committed to improving the health and nutrition of eaters around the country, Noreen Springstead, President and CEO of PHA, says that the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the deep inequities in the U.S. food system.
“Coming through the pandemic, we saw how many disparities there were around health and wellness in communities of color, low-income communities, people without access to healthy foods,” Springstead tells Food Tank. “So those connections around food insecurity and health equity are a big part of where partnership for healthier America is putting its energy and focus for a long time.”
PHA is also helping to support the implementation of the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy to end hunger and improve health. Together with The Boys & Girls Club of Central Mississippi, the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, and Dole Packaged Foods, they committed to help launch a pilot program to increase access to fruits and vegetables in Jackson, MS that will reach up to 24,000 families.
Last year’s Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and ongoing efforts to roll out the Strategy are bringing conversations about food and nutrition to the national stage. And while these are positive steps, Springstead worries that the Conference “didn’t illuminate the structural and systemic reasons why people don’t have access in the first place.”
“I think we need to have a national conversation about not just reflexively going to the individual, but really looking at the lack of investment and the structural reasons why,” Springstead tells Food Tank. “Economic injustice, racism, health equity, and where our food comes from — that’s all part of the analysis,”
But, Springstead notes, the “massive consumer demand” for healthier food is growing across the country. “So that pillar of health equity feels like a good rallying point to make some forward progress on overall food systems to end hunger and to ensure that right to nutritious food.”
Listen to the full conversation with Noreen Springstead on Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg to hear more about the partnerships needed to overcome structural barriers to healthy, nutritious meals, the role the cities and local governments can play in this work, and the investments that can drive a sea change at the nexus of food and health equity.
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Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture