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Hey! Where’s our invite?

Food security is national security, and a nation that cannot feed its people is truly not free.

Food insecurity is not just a human injustice, it is a huge gaping wound that leaves a nation vulnerable to foreign intrusion on the lives of its citizens.

Without question, food insecurity is a growing trend in the United States with nearly 40 million Americans going to bed hungry at night.

I pointed this statistic out in a recent speech I gave at a Farm Bureau meeting in Northern Minnesota, to which a farmer said, “I have a hard time believing there is food scarcity in this country when there are so many overweight kids in our schools.”

A harsh assessment of a valid reality. According to the CDC, 19.7% of all children (that’s 14.7 million) are obese or overweight. Even more concerning that body weight is the rates of obesity-related conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, joint problems and breathing problems such as asthma continue to grow in numbers.

Perhaps one could argue that our nation’s children are overfed and undernourished. I would contend this would link directly back to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which have pushed for a low-fat, plant-based diet, while shaming the American public to believe that animal fats and proteins are bad for human health.

Of course, these guidelines ignore the fact that foods like meat, dairy, and eggs provide the essential nutrients and building blocks for strong bodies, sound minds, and healthy immune systems. Yet, the narrative continues to beat the drum strongly that plants are king, and animal products are to be avoided.

These types of discussions need to continue to be had in the public square. With the growing rates of both obesity-related diseases in children, as well as food insecurity and starvation, nutritional policies and guidances need to evaluate and discuss all of the available science to formulate the best possible advice for Americans to consider.

Yet, quite notably, there are some who are not being given a seat at the table to have these conversations.

The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition & Health — the first event of its kind since President Nixon held the first one in 1969 — was slated for the end of September. The event featured speakers including President Joseph Biden, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhof, White House Domestic Policy Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, and Chef José Andrés.

Topics included food affordability, food as medicine, public/private partnerships in the locally-grown movement, fitness activities, using research to guide nutrition policies, serving underserved communities, bridging the gap between nutrition and health, and advancing equitable food research.

In a letter to President Biden dated Sept. 8, production agricultural groups essentially asked if their invitation to the event had been lost in the mail.

Groups signing the letter included — the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cattlemens’ Beef Association, National Sorghum Producers, The Peanut Institute, U.S. Canola Association, American Soybean Association, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Sunflower Association, United Egg Producers, and USA Rice.

The groups wrote, “As the White House makes its final preparations for the upcoming Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, the below agricultural organizations urge your Administration to ensure America’s farmers and ranchers have a seat at the table for this discussion. The agriculture production sector should be invited to the Conference to share our experience with the attendees. Our members form the literal base of the food chain, supplying the grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and dairy necessary to provide Americans of all backgrounds with a healthy diet.

Among other goals for the Conference, Congress directed the organizers and attendees to examine why hunger and nutrition insecurity persist, as well as explore approaches to improve health by improvingaccess to and consumption of nutritious foods. There is no better example than the supply chain disruptions at the start of the COVID-19 public health emergency—and the steps our members took to mitigate them—to show how essential farmers and ranchers are to food security and meeting Americans’ nutrition needs.”

It’s troubling to know that food producers were not immediately invited to a seat at this very important table; however, this is a good sign that it’s time to take our message direct to the consumers we aim to serve. Our voices need to become louder, stronger, more passionate, and more unified. It’s time to get off the bench and get engaged, lest we get forgotten altogether.

Again I state — food security is national security. May our country never forget that reality.

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