Burke County, Ga (WJBF)- Wednesday, the Biden Administration will host the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.
It’s the first time in 50 years the conference has taken place. The last conference resulted in programs like WIC and SNAP. Leaders are expecting significant programs like that to come out of this one.
A local school nutritionist is speaking at the conference. She hopes her platform results in a program that will have a significant impact on students across the nation.
“So this conference, that’s what they’re hoping. They’re hoping for some moon shot ideas that will improve the health of Americans,” said Donna Martin, Burke County Schools Nutrition Director.
The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health was last held in 1969. Aside from programs like WIC and SNAP the conference changed the way we label foods.
Martin was asked to speak at this year’s event.
“So what I got invited to speak on was school meal access and how can we improve school meals around the country, ensuring that every child has access to healthy meals. So, what I’m going to be pushing for is that we have free meals for all children, all around the country.”
Martin doesn’t think there is any reason that free meals shouldn’t be provided for every single student.
“And we know that school meals are the healthiest meals in America. Healthier more often than even what parents bring from home,” she explained. “So we want to stop the stigma of a free meal, that a child that is allowed to get a free meal is embarrassed to eat it because they’re labeled as free.”
She said there is an ultimate financial gain to free meals for all students.
“And I think that if we got healthy school meals for all, then we would decrease all that debt that we have to deal with where kids have their meals taken away from them and they have to get the alternate meal, and things like then. Then maybe we can do more nutrition education which is something that I feel is really important. So you can’t just provide the healthy meals. The kids need to know why they need to eat the healthy meal.”
Martin was instrumental in creating a unique healthy food program for Burke County Schools– something she says makes kids more inclined to eat foods they may not otherwise.
“And we do have a big, huge farm to school program. And so when it’s locally grown produce, the kids eat it so much better. And they’ve gotten to know our farmers. They know when the collards came out on the tray, they know that they’re Pete’s collards,” Martin said.
Martin also said she is excited to share her thoughts with the Biden Administration and hopes her platform will be the next big program for health and nutrition in the nation.
“I’m humbled and honored to be getting to speak and do this.”
If you are interested in watching the conference and seeing what else Martin has to say, the conference will be live streamed starting at 9 a.m.
Photojournalist: Will Baker.