Wednesday, July 20, 2011

First Lady Michelle Obama announces new food desert initiative

Continuing this week's coverage of food deserts, the First Lady, several leading retail chains, and the Partnership for a Healthier America today announced a new initiative to increase food access in low-income areas.

Obama Foodorama reports:
At the White House this afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama will be joined by corporate chiefs from Walmart, Walgreens and SuperValu, and smaller regional market chains as she announces a new initiative to support the Let's Move! campaign, an East Wing official tells Obama Foodorama. The corporate giants have agreed to open or expand 1,500 stores in underserved communities--identified as food deserts--to make affordable, healthier food options more accessible to more than 9.5 million customers. The First Lady will speak about not only the health benefits of combating food deserts, but the jobs that these new projects will create in their communities. Leaders from foundations and small businesses will also join Mrs. Obama in the East Room for the 2:00 PM announcement.

Mrs. Obama in 2010 announced a Let's Move! goal of completely eliminating food deserts in the US over the next seven years, and the new initiative is designed to meet that goal, and comes as the US unemployment rate hovers at 9.2%. USDA defines a food desert as a Census tract where 33% or 500 people, whichever is less, live more than a mile from a grocery store in an urban area, or more than ten miles away in a rural area.

Partnership for a Healthier America, the foundation set up to monitor and continue Mrs. Obama's work, arranged the corporate partnerships for the campaign, an East Wing official says. They will select locations for where the stores are built. There is no federal financial commitment to the partner corporations, although in 2010 Mrs. Obama established the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, a $400 million fund to combat food deserts, financed by Treasury, USDA, and HHS. It was not funded in the President's 2011 budget.
As somewhat of a counterpoint, the Obama Foodorama blog also points out the same study that our U.S. Food Policy commenters noticed.
The First Lady's announcement comes on the heels of a major study on food deserts and food access published on July 11 in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study tracked the food purchasing habits of thousands of people in Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland for fifteen years, and found that "greater supermarket availability was generally unrelated to diet quality and fruit and vegetable intake, and relationships between grocery store availability and diet outcomes were mixed."


Anonymous said...

This is appalling. Since when are Walmart and those others sources of healthy food? And why is Michelle ignoring the research?
Michelle, support local farmer's markets, pour money into local organic growers, and forget the mega-corporations!

Anonymous said...

Lovely, another program the middle class taxpayer will be paying for! You ask how, by higher prices in the stores to cover the costs of having stores in "desert" poor areas. Yup, The oBamas love to put their hands in our wallets!!