First Lady and Grocers to Bring Healthy Food to Millions Living in Food Deserts

Jul 20, 2011 4:01pm

ABC News' Tahman Bradley Reports:

First Lady Michelle Obama announced today that she has recruited major national retail giants to join her campaign to provide fresh fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods to areas of the nation with little access to healthy food.

Walmart, Walgreens, SuperValu and other regional retailers have agreed to open or expand more than 1,500 stores over the next 5 years to bring fresh foods to the country’s food deserts.  

Executives from some of the companies involved in the partnership were on hand for remarks made by the first lady in the East Room of the White House. 

"The commitments you all are making today have the potential to be a game changer for our kids and for our communities all across this country," said Mrs. Obama.

The first lady said that she knows conventional wisdom suggests that retailers might not want to make investments in low income communities, but that in order to end childhood obesity something has to be done about access to healthy foods. 

She said part of her "Let’s Move" campaign is to give parents a healthy choice for their kids.  "We can talk all we want about calorie counts and recipes and how to serve balanced meals, but if parents can't buy the food they need to prepare those meals — if their only option for groceries is at the corner gas station or the local mini mart — then all of that is just talk."   

The government defines a food desert as an area in which 33 percent or 500 people live more than a mile from a grocery store in an urban area or more than 10 miles in the suburbs.  The White House says the partnership with grocers will serve millions of people. 

"Studies have shown that people who live in communities with greater access to supermarkets eat more fruits and vegetables, and they have lower rates of obesity," Mrs. Obama said.    

The government estimates that about 23.5 million Americans – including 6.5 million children – live in areas without stores likely to sell affordable and nutritious foods.  The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity identified access to healthy, affordable foods as a key pillar to solving childhood obesity, the first lady said. 

There was a light moment at Mrs. Obama's event.  She told those on hand, "This is a big deal. It is a really big deal.  I think our vice president put it better, but I’m not gonna…" 

The audience laughed loudly realizing she was referring to when Vice President Biden was caught by a hot mic dropping the F-bomb when congratulating President Obama on the passing of health care reform.  "This is a big f—-ing deal," the vice president said. 

Mrs. Obama kept things G-rated.

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