Rethinking the “Cost” of Nutrition Programs

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Is food the key to solving our healthcare crisis? In this episode marking the two-year anniversary of Add Passion and Stir, Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Washington DC Chef Todd Gray (Equinox, Manna) discuss nutrition as the root cause of our spiraling healthcare costs and the role of Congress with Debbie and Billy Shore. “Food is medicine. What we eat determines our health outcomes in a whole range of areas,” says Congressman McGovern. “We are cooking and operating our restaurant in the way that we are living our lives. I have so many customers changing the way they eat for a multitude of reasons many of them health reasons,” says five-time James Beard Foundation nominee Gray of his healthy vegetable-forward menus that have established him as a leader in the DC sustainable food movement.

McGovern wants to reframe the debate over food programs like SNAP from how much they cost to how much they save. “If we can show you over a ten-year period that you could actually save money, then why would [The Congressional Budget Office] score it as a cost? Hunger and food insecurity in Massachusetts costs about $2.4B a year in avoidable health care costs,” he says. The guests agree that hunger is ultimately a political problem. “We have the food, we have the money, we have the knowledge of what we need to do, we have the infrastructure… we have everything but the political will,” explains McGovern.

Listen to these powerful anti-hunger crusaders talk about how they fight for healthier communities.

Resources and Mentions:

Rep. Jim McGovern

Jim McGovern

U.S. Representative
Congressman Jim McGovern is a Democratic member of the U.S. House, representing Massachusetts' 2nd Congressional District. He assumed office in 1997 and his current term ends in 2023. As of the 116th Congress, McGovern was Chair of the House Committee on Rules. Prior to his election to the House, McGovern worked as an aide to Rep. John Joseph Moakley (D-Mass.) from 1982 to 1996 and was appointed to lead the Moakley Commission Congressional Investigation into the murder of six Jesuit priests by the Salvadoran Army in 1989.

Todd Gray

Chef and co-owner
Chef and co-owner (with his wife, Ellen) of Equinox in Washington DC. Raised in Virginia, Chef Gray studied at the University of Richmond and graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America. He has been involved with Share Our Strength since its inception. As a five-time nominee for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic Award, Todd’s background in classical French and Italian techniques, proclivity for invention, and unflappable kitchen leadership has made him a sought-after culinary mentor and an influential leader in the world of D.C. gastronomy. In 2010, Todd was called on by First Lady Michelle Obama to kick off the nation’s first Chefs to Schools program. Todd has also garnered critical acclaim for developing innovative vegan fine-dining brunch and dinner menus. In late 2017, Todd and Ellen opened Manna in the new Museum of the Bible in Southwest Washington.

No Kid Hungry

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.

Equinox

An organic, root-to-stem, fine dining restaurant in Washington DC. Inspired by the mid-Atlantic region and crafted in accordance with the earth’s natural rhythms, Equinox Restaurant helped to pioneer the sustainable food movement in Washington, D.C. Over the course of 20 years in operation, it has received numerous awards from local, regional and national publications such as the Washington Post, Conde Nast, Bon Appetit and Wine Spectator to name a few.

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