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Retailers seek to bring fresh, nutritious foods close to home

Stores to open, expand in low-income areas

WASHINGTON — The Partnership for a Healthier America, together with First Lady Michelle Obama, on Wednesday afternoon hosted a press conference announcing that leading grocery retailers have committed to bring healthy, affordable food to nearly 10 million people over the next five years in the form of new and expanded stores in areas that desperately need them.

Brown’s Super Stores, Calhoun Enterprises, Klein’s Family Markets, Supervalu, Walgreens and Walmart have committed to open or expand more than 1,500 locations combined over the next five years in low-income areas that lack stores likely to sell affordable and nutritious foods.

“Make no mistake about it — this is a really big deal,” First Lady Michelle Obama said. “The commitments we’re announcing today have the potential to be a game-changer for kids and communities all across this country.” Studies show that people who lie in communities with greater access to supermarkets eat better and are healthier for it, she added.

(Click here to read DSN's earlier story about the campaign.)

“It’s one thing to know you have to eat your greens to maintain health; it’s another thing entirely to be able to afford them,” noted James Gavin, chairman of the PHA’s board of directors.

“By opening stores where customers need them most, Walmart will help build healthier families and stronger communities,” Walmart EVP corporate affairs Leslie Dach said in a PHA press release issued after the announcement. “First Lady Michelle Obama is helping millions of Americans lead healthier lives, and Walmart is proud to partner with her in this work.”

Supervalu has pledged to build 250 Save-A-Lot stores in food deserts in the next five years. Supervalu president and CEO Craig Herkert said, "We applaud the work the First Lady and the Partnership for a Healthier America are doing to raise awareness and address the issue of childhood obesity, and we are honored to be a part of the solution. Through our Save-A-Lot format, we can help to bring the healthier, high-quality food options and value pricing currently needed to many communities across America."

“With more than 45% 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 added. “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.”

Though they did not speak at the announcement, Wasson and others appeared at the White House Wednesday with Michelle Obama and others to support the goals of Let's Move! and the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity.

The California Endowment, through their FreshWorks Fund, has pledged to make $200 million in financing available to new, independent retail channels and innovative food distribution programs in California through financing and grants. The Obama administration has an additional $330 million budgeted in fiscal 2012 to help the Partnership for a Healthier America, the First Lady told attendees.

Currently, 23.5 million Americans live in low-income areas that lack stores likely to sell affordable and nutritious foods. Of these 23.5 million, approximately 11.5 million are individuals living in households with incomes at or below the 200% poverty line, and 6.5 million are children. These new and expanded stores will provide nearly 10 million Americans with the ability to purchase fresh, nutritious foods close to home.

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