WASHINGTON – The first lady and representatives from six grocery retailers announced a commitment Wednesday to open or expand grocery stores in areas across the country that lack access to fresh food.
Michelle Obama said national outlets such as Walgreens and regional stores such as Klein’s Family Markets plan to build or expand produce offerings at 1,500 stores in the next five years.
“We can talk all we want about calorie counts and recipes and how to serve balanced meals,” Obama said at the White House event. “But if parents can’t buy the food they need to prepare those meals,if their only options for groceries are in the corner gas station or the local minimart,then all that is just talk.”
More than 23 million Americans,including 6.5 million children,live in areas without stores that sell affordable nutritious food,called “food deserts.”
“It’s one thing to know you have to eat your greens to be healthy. It’s another thing entirely to be able to buy them,” said James Gavin,chairman of the board for the Partnership for a Healthier America.
Residents in such regions are at higher risk of obesity and other diet-related diseases. Nationally,one in three children is overweight or obese. Obama said the added stores will help fulfill the goals of her Let’s Move campaign that emphasizes good diets and exercise
“We’re currently raising the first generation of kids who could have a shorter lifespan than the generation before,” Gavin said.
The initiative is projected to bring more fresh produce to 9.5 million people and create thousands of jobs. Walgreens alone has committed to offering more whole fruits and vegetables in at least 1,000 stores. Klein’s Family Markets,which is headquartered in Forest Hill,Md.,and owns seven ShopRite supermarkets,will open a new store in Baltimore.
The other participating stores are Walmart,Supervalu,Brown’s Super Store and Calhoun Grocer.
Partnership for a Healthier America will monitor the progress of businesses that pledge to establish “food oasis” stores.
“While we know the fight is far from over,today we move closer to ending childhood obesity,” Gavin said.
Obama discussed the Healthy Food Financing Initiative,which supports better access to healthy food in food deserts.
“At the end of the day,these are local decisions that need to be made by communities,for communities,” Obama said. “And together,with these commitments,we are happily taking the first important step forward to helping to create the kind of future that we want for all of our kids.”
Reach reporter Nadia Tamez-Robledo at [email protected] or 202-326-9865
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