Michelle Obama Announces Initiative to Aid Food Deserts

A group of retailers, foundations and small businesses are bringing healthy food options and jobs to urban and rural areas where supermarkets are scarce.

Millions of Americans in urban and rural parts of the nation have limited and sometimes no access to a conveniently located grocery store where they can buy fresh produce and other healthy food options. Living in food deserts, as these areas are called, forces people to have to either travel unusually long distances to buy their groceries, and many must do so via public transportation.


As part of her “Let’s Move” initiative, which aims to fight childhood obesity and promote a healthy lifestyle, first lady Michelle Obama announced on Wednesday that several major retailers, foundations and small businesses have made a commitment to bring healthier food to neighborhoods where supermarkets are few and far between.


“If a parent wants to pack a piece of fruit in a child’s lunch, if a parent wants to add some lettuce for a salad at dinner, they shouldn’t have to take three city buses, or pay some expensive taxi to go to another community to make that possible,” Obama said. “Instead, they should have fresh food retailers right in their communities-–places that sell healthy food at reasonable prices, so that they can feed their families in the way that they see fit, because when they have those choices, that can have a real, measurable impact on a family’s health, and we all know that.” 


Walmart, Walgreens and Supervalu have agreed to open several hundred stores in food deserts that will provide thousands of jobs in addition to healthier food choices. Supervalu, for example, will create more than 6,000 new jobs. The California FreshWorks, a $200 million public-private partnership, plans to provide financing to grocery stores and other food retailers and distributors. It estimates that the fund will create or retain approximately 6,000 jobs.


“Think about the numbers of people who will find jobs. Think about the neighborhoods that can potentially be transformed,” Obama said. “But more important, think about the impact that we can have on our children and their futures--on their health, their well-being, their ability to succeed in school and more important, in life. Because that’s really what this is about in the end. This is about our kids.”




(Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Landov)

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