Major Grocery Stores Commit to Bringing Healthy and Affordable Produce to “Food Deserts”

Michelle Obama annouces expantion of grocery retailers in impoverished areasFirst lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America announced yesterday that they are working with a number of major grocery retailers to bring affordable, healthy food to areas that desperately need them. “Make no mistake about it, this is a big deal,” said Obama during yesterday’s press conference. The partnering companies have agreed to open or expand over 1,500 stores combined, according to PR Newswire.

Stores participating in the initiative include Walmart, Walgreens, Brown’s Super Stores, Calhoun Enterprises, Klein’s Family Markets and Supervalu. Walmart has been an early supporter of Obama’s initiative to fight childhood obesity. Earlier this year, they announced plans to reduce the sugar and sodium content of their in-house brands and is now committing to building or expanding 300 stores. Additionally, the California Endowment has pledged to give $200 million through the FreshWorks Fund for new, independent retail channels and food distribution programs in California.

According to Partnership for a Healthier America, these efforts will provide nearly 10 million Americans with the ability to buy fresh produce close to their homes. An estimated 23.5 million Americans currently live in low-income “food deserts” where there are no stores likely to sell nutritious foods at a reasonable cost. Michelle Obama has explained that getting businesses to take this kind of active role is key to the success of programs like Let Move!

“The commitments we’re announcing today have the potential to be a game-changer for kids and communities all across this country,” said Obama. “We can give people all the information and advice in the world about healthy eating and exercise…but if parents can’t buy the food they need to prepare those meals because their only options for groceries are the corner gas station or the local minimart, then all that is just talk. Let’s Move is about giving parents real choices about the food their kids are eating, and today’s announcement means that more parents will have a fresh food retailer right in their community – a place that sells healthy food, at reasonable prices, so they can feed their families the way they want.”

Both regional and national stores are stepping up the challenge, which Obama emphasized is about much more than the bottom line. On a smaller scale, Brown’s Super Stores committed to opening a new store in Philadelphia and expanding another in Chelthenham, PA. Klein’s Family Markets committed to opening a new store in Baltimore. On a national scale, Walgreens will be expanding their food section to include fresh fruits and vegetables and Supervalu is going to build 250 new stores.

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