First Lady Michelle Obama’s drive to improve national nutrition got a big boost July 20 as major food retailers agreed to help eliminate what many call the “food deserts” that surround poor people.
Several firms including Walmart and Walgreens have agreed to open stores that will serve millions of residents in underserved communities.
“By opening stores where customers need them most, we will help build healthier families and stronger communities,” Leslie Dach, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Walmart said in a statement. “We believe every single person should have access to an abundant selection of fresh fruits and vegetables at an affordable price. First Lady Michelle Obama is helping millions of Americans lead healthier lives, and Walmart is proud to partner with her in this work.”
The firms have committed to place more than 1,500 stores across the country in the next five years to serve communities who lack fresh and healthy foods. According to a White House release, 23.5 million Americans live in low-income areas that lack establishments that sell affordable and healthy foods. As a result, in these communities, there are much higher rates of obesity, and other diet-related diseases.
“With more than 45 percent of our stores located in areas that don’t have access to fresh food, Walgreens is uniquely positioned to bring more food options to Americans and also provide needed pharmacy, health and wellness services directly in those communities,” Walgreens President and CEO Greg Wasson said in a statement. “Joining with the partnership for a Healthier America, we plan to convert or open at least 1,000 food oasis stores across the country over the next five years.”
In addition, SUPERVALU is to open 250 new Save-A-Lot stores by 2016 and Walmart says it plans to open or expand 275 to 300 food retail centers in the next five years.
Their commitments are part of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign that seeks to combat childhood obesity. A White House statement said that the latest move is a historic step towards addressing the primary goal of the campaign, which is solving childhood obesity within a generation.
“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 gas station or the local minimart, than all that is just talk,” Obama said in a statement. “Let’s Move is about giving parents real choices about the foods their kids are eating.”