The White House Doubles Down On Active Transportation
Last week, the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health came out with some strong recommendations. The last White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health in 1969 resulted in the creation of the food program for Women Infants and Children (WIC).
This year’s conference report makes recommendations under five pillars, and pillar four notes the importance of making “it easier for people to be more physically active—in part by ensuring that everyone has access to safe places to be active.” Key to this? The strategy notes the first way to do this is to “build environments that promote physical activity.”
This new national strategy is great news not just for millions of Americans suffering from hunger or who lack access to nutritious meals, it’s also a major step forward for advocates of increasing physical activity through active transportation.
In the strategy, the White House is using its bully pulpit to support existing programs and promote new policy changes at the federal level in order to encourage Americans to be more active. Several of these are in line with the League’s own policy goals.
Among the commitments to improve opportunities for physical activity, the report included three that directly relate to goals the League has been lobbying for on Capitol Hill, including:
Expanding the CDC’s State Physical Activity and Nutrition (SPAN) grants.
Through SPAN, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works with states to reduce chronic disease by improving physical activity and nutrition. In particular, through SPAN, the Active People, Healthy Nation initiative has supported adoption of complete streets policies, Bicycle Friendly Communities and Safe Routes to School programs. These grants flow through the state health department. However, currently there is only enough funding for 16 states to receive them.
This fits in with the League’s goals of building Bicycle Friendly Communities and States. The SPAN grants provide technical assistance for communities on how to be more physical activity (including bicycle) friendly! It’s great news that the report notes, “The Biden-Harris Administration will work with Congress to provide additional funding to expand SPAN nationwide.”
Promote active transportation and land use policies to support physical activity.
This section notes the Department of Transportation will continue to promote building complete streets and supporting active transportation through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including developing guidance and/or process changes to help small towns and rural areas prioritize the safety of all people using the streets, in transportation network planning, design, construction, and operations.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides the funding to build the actual bikeways and walkways necessary to make biking and walking safe, comfortable and accessible for all. By promoting complete streets and active transportation in communities of all sizes and all types of communities it helps us meet our goal of a Bicycle Friendly America.
Support physical activity among children in and out of schools.
The Education Department will provide guidance to states and school districts on which federal funds are available to support physical activity for children. The Education Department will also work through the existing Engage Every Student Initiative, to promote strategies for increasing participation in physical fitness programs inside school, after school and throughout the summer.
The League is committed to promoting bicycling to all kids, especially through school-based bicycle education. Learning to bike helps kids develop a sense of independence, and can start them on a lifelong love of biking for fun, fitness and transportation.
Finally, the top call to action for the “whole of society” is:
- State, local, and territory governments should adopt jurisdiction-wide plans and proclamations to promote CDC’s Active People, Healthy Nation as well as adopt and implement Complete Streets policies and Safe Routes to School programs.
The last hunger, nutrition and health conference led to substantial changes in how our country approaches building a society that supports everyone. We hope this conference is equally as impactful. The League looks forward to working with the Biden- Harris administration to fulfill our mutual goals of a fit and healthy Bicycle Friendly America.