First Lady Michelle Obama Announces 'Game Changer' For Affordable Healthy Food Access
But how does it square with recent study that says access to healthy food doesn't matter?
While a study says more grocery stores in poor neighborhoods don’t always add up to healthier eating, First Lady Michelle Obama announced today that major grocers, such as Wal-Mart and Walgreens, will increase efforts to supply affordable, healthy food in thousands of low-income communities across the nation.
“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 gas station or the local minimart, then all that is just talk.”
SUPERVALU, Brown’s Super Store in Pennsylvania, the black-owned Calhoun Grocer in Tennessee and Alabama, and Klein’s Family Markets (SuperRite) in Baltimore have pledged with Wal-Mart and Walgreens to open or expand over 1,500 stores in underserved communities in efforts to address obesity and produce jobs. Leslie Dach, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Walmart, said in a conference call that over half of the stores under Walmart’s pledge will be brand new stores while the others will be expansions of other stores -- for example, adding food sections to Walmarts that don’t have them.
“We believe that the importance of today’s announcement can’t be underscored enough,” said White House Domestic Policy advisor Melody Barnes on the call. “It’s about addressing childhood obesity and we wanted to bring everyone to the table. In every case we continue to strongly encourage employers to work with their communities to create good jobs, but we think this will spur economic activity and create healthier communities.”
Barnes cited statistics to justify the program: 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese, and 23.5 million Americans live in low-income areas that lack access to affordable, healthy foods. In a fact sheet from Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, studies are quoted that find for every additional grocery store in a neighborhood, produce consumption increases -- 32% for African Americans.
But as The Loop 21 recently reported, another study said that placing grocery stores in poor neighborhoods don’t increase healthy food eating, especially if fast food alternatives are also within reach.
Barnes addressed that study saying, “Certainly access is one of the primary focuses of the ‘Let’s Move’ campaign, but we know that access includes affordability, and also issues of transportation, and whether people can get to healthy foods. All of that comes together and we have to look at all of them, but today is a giant step forward. And these stores are making promises to provide better access to affordable and healthy foods.”