1969 Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health

Pictured: Senator Bob Dole and Senator George McGovern, during a meeting of the Select Committee On Nutrition and Human Needs, a major catalyst of the 1969 White House Conference.

In early December 1969, President Richard M. Nixon convened the first and (at the time) only White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health to “put an end to hunger in America for all time” and improve the nutritional well-being of all Americans at a time when malnutrition was of urgent national concern. The agenda of the Conference was to draft recommendations that could be implemented by a bipartisan coalition into national nutrition policy.

Pictured: Dr. Jean Mayer presents President Nixon with the final report on the Conference.

President Nixon appointed Dr. Jean Mayer as Special Consultant to the President, and in that role, Dr. Mayer planned and led the Conference. Some 3,000 participants from diverse interest groups were organized into 20 working groups that met simultaneously over three days (December 2-4), and more than 5,000 attendees voted on the final recommendations. The final report, delivered to President Nixon by Dr. Jean Mayer on December 24, 1969, contained over 1,800 recommendations that spurred tremendous progress in federal food and nutrition policy.

Impact of the 1969 Conference

The 1969 Conference brought the nation together to address widespread hunger in America and was chaired and organized by Dr. Jean Mayer—a leading nutrition scientist, the tenth president of Tufts University, and the namesake of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts. The insights and recommendations of the 1969 conference established nearly all of the major U.S. food and nutrition programs that are in place today. This included:

  • Major expansion and harmonization of the National School Lunch Program
  • Major expansion and harmonization of the Food Stamp program (now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP))
  • Creation of the School Breakfast Program
  • Creation of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
  • Development of a new focus on food-based dietary guidelines
  • Development of new consumer protections such as nutrition facts labeling

Hungry: How the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health Changed the Course of U.S. Food Policy

Read the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health final report

The historic success of the 1969 White House Conference was largely the result of several elements in place prior to its opening remarks. They included:

  • Substantial and broad support for the Conference from the executive and legislative branches of government
  • Deep engagement with an inclusive range of public and private stakeholders at all levels
  • A robust mix of sector experts who provided authoritative content with well-framed potential solutions for attendees ahead of the conference.

This advance work empowered the attendees to engage in a robust discussion of the pertinent issues, reflecting a keen understanding and thoughtful insight into the problems and potential solutions. The agreed-upon recommendations that arose from the 1969 Conference have forever changed the national food policy and nutritional landscape. But, with no further coordinated national attention on food, our policies and systems had been sorely outdated.

50th Anniversary Events

History and Key Accomplishments of the 1969 White House Conference

2019 marked the 50th Anniversary of the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health. To honor the 50th Anniversary of the White House Conference, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University and the Nutrition Department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health co-hosted anniversary events in Boston and Washington DC in October 2019.

To learn more about the 50th Anniversary events and final report, visit this site.

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