Fifty-two years ago, then-President Richard M. Nixon convened the first White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health that brought academics, scientists, business and civic leaders, activists and politicians together to find ways to meet his pledge “to put an end to hunger in America … for all time.”

As a result of the three-day conference, 1,800 recommendations were made, and 1,400 of them were eventually implemented to launch or improve existing programs that helped alleviate hunger among America’s poor.

That was also the last White House conference on the issue, but members of Congress are collecting testimonies from assistance programs across the nation for a report aimed at convincing President Joe Biden to convene another one.

As part of that effort, Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, visited programs in the 24th Congressional District and held a roundtable discussion last week to gather success stories and ideas about improving the effort to reduce hunger.

Carbajal made two stops in Santa Maria, in addition to visiting programs in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, on his “Hunger Tour” Sept. 16.

One stop in Santa Maria was to see the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s new Agricultores con Buena Salud, or Healthy Farmworkers, program that provides groceries, fresh produce, community resources and nutrition education to farmworkers.

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Afterward, he convened a “Hunger Holistically” roundtable at the Foodbank’s Santa Maria warehouse on West Foster Road to discuss equity and access needs in the food system and ways local programs are helping fill gaps.

Roundtable participants included Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, chairman of the House Rules Committee, who is collecting stories gathered by other members of Congress to compile in the report to Biden.

Other roundtable participants included Erik Talkin, chief executive officer of the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County; Susan Liles, director of nutrition for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department; and Alexis Villanea, administrator of the Salvation Army Santa Barbara Corps.

Also on the roundtable were representatives of UC Cooperative Extension, Cal Poly Department of Kinesiology and Public Health, Food Action Network, CommUnify, CenCal Health, Food Bank of San Luis Obispo County, and San Luis Obispo County’s Health Agency and Department of Social Services.

Carbajal also visited the UCSB Associated Students Food Bank to learn more about student hunger and had lunch at Laguna Middle School in San Luis Obispo to find out how switching to locally sourced products dramatically decreased costs.

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