By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc


WASHINGTON, July 20--First Lady Michelle Obama announced a commitment by WalMart, Walgreens and SUPERVALU to build or expand more than 1,500 stores in “food deserts” over the next five years. The commitment is launched as an effort to end childhood obesity and provide all communities access to healthy, affordable foods through the First Lady’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative and “Let’s Move” campaign.

“Studies have shown that people who live in communities with greater access to supermarkets eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and they have lower rates of obesity,” she said.

She also announced commitments by independent retailers Brown’s Super Store in Pennsylvania, Klein’s Family Markets in Maryland and Calhoun Grocer in Alabama and Tennessee. 

“‘Let’s Move’ is about giving parents real choices about the food their kids are eating,” she said. “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.”

The Obama Administration is committing $35 million to the initiative this year. The Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Treasury are proposing $330 million in the 2012 budget for financing businesses, public agencies, nonprofits and financial institutions providing strategies that coincide with the initiative. 

“We know that we can’t just throw money at this problem, especially not at this time. And we know that it won’t be solved by government alone or by businesses alone or by communities alone. If we want to make a difference in this issue, we all are going to have to step up -- all of us. We all have to find a way to do our part.”

Although businesses are notably wary of developing in lower income communities, the businesses participating in this year’s initiative communicated confidence in their ability to be profitable. The First Lady praised their commitment during her announcement, while also recognizing the overall challenge of her campaign’s goals. 

“They decided to take that risk,” she said. “They decided to make that investment, because what they knew was how big that payoff could be. Not just in terms of dollars, but in the lives of our children, the lives that we can save.”

The stores participating in the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign estimate that they will create tens of thousands of jobs and serve more than nine million people. 

 “Every community has different needs and challenges that call for different approaches. A fresh food section in a Walgreens might be a good solution for one community, while a farmers market or maybe even a veggie truck might be the answer in another community.”

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