'top of the mind'
President Biden on Wednesday hosted a White House summit on combating hunger, only the second such conference since 1969. He announced $8 billion in public and private funds for improving food access and nutrition by 2030 and laid out proposed and planned poles to decrease food insecurity. "This goal is within our reach — just look at how far we've come on child poverty," Biden said. "If you look at your child and you can't feed your child, what the hell else matters?"
"First, help more Americans access the food that will keep their families nourished and healthy — a lot of food deserts out there," Biden said at the summit. "Second, give folks the option and information they need to make healthy dietary choices. Thirdly, help more Americans be physically active." He proposed making school lunches free for 9 million more children, reducing sugar and sodium in U.S. foods, and other initiatives.
Biden also thanked several members of Congress who helped make the summit happen, including Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), and he also appeared to look around to thank Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), who died in an August car crash. "I want to thank all of you here, including bipartisan elected officials like Rep. McGovern, Sen. Braun, Sen. Booker, Rep. ... Jackie are you here?" he asked. "Where's Jackie? I don't think she was going to be here."
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Walorski was at the "top of the mind for the president" because of her role in pushing for the summit and because he is welcoming her family to the White House on Friday to sign legislation naming a Veterans Affairs clinic in Indiana in her honor. White House reporters kept returning to the question, and Jean-Pierre kept repeating her answer.
"I have John Lennon top of mind just about every day but I'm not looking around for him anywhere," one reporter protested. "When you sign a bill for John Lennon as president, then we can have this conversation," Jean-Pierre replied.
The first White House conference on hunger, hosted by President Richard Nixon, led to enduring public policy changes like a large expansion of food stamps and other government nutrition programs.